Freezer Surprises: Surprising Foods That Freeze Well

Here are a few ideas of everyday, practical foods that just might surprise you how well they freeze. I don't mean the frozen vegetables or frozen chicken breasts many cooks stock in freezers. I do mean useful foods (lemons?! limes?!) that freeze surprisingly well, a great way to save money, avoid food waste and special trips to the grocery and, best of all, cook (or bake!) on a whim.

Freezer Surprises ♥ KitchenParade.com, a peek inside my freezer at surprising foods that freeze surprisingly well.

Practical Kitchen Organization Ideas, the Latest Addition to How to Save Money on Groceries.

When millions of Texas families lost power for days on end last week, my first thoughts focused on basic human safety. How would people stay warm without electricity (and water!) in record-breaking cold and snow across an entire state?

YIKES.

My second thought was, I wonder what's in their freezers?

My third thought was, duh, the meat and other foods in freezers are probably just fine. It's not a summer power outage, AK, it's f-r-e-e-z-i-n-g.

My fourth thought was, hmmm, I wonder what's in my own freezer. What would we lose if the power were to go out here?

Inventory time! No surprise, I suppose but the big reveal revealed that my fridge contains ordinary foods that are out-of-the-ordinary in a freezer, way beyond the usual ice cubes and ice cream.

So here's a peek into my freezer, a look at some surprising foods that freeze surprisingly well. Might it inspire a look into the contents of your own freezer?!


And hey, let's have a little fun, shall we? I'm showing you mine, you show me yours. :-) I'd love to know what's interesting in your freezer! Or maybe you organize your freezer in a way that's especially effective? Hit me with a comment or an email via recipes@kitchen-parade.com works too.


And hey, if your fridge is home to little more than some barely identifiable leftovers, no judgment. Maybe throw in a box of butter? or bacon? We all start somewhere.



First, Let's Get Organized

The freezer acts a private mini mart, my aim is to never run out of the basics. Over the years, I've honed a system that really works for us, no expensive storage containers or organization systems required.


REPACKAGING Some just-purchased foods need re-packaging to break them down into manageable sizes for a small household. Other times, repackaging simply makes these frozen foods more convenient to dole out.

A supply of quart- and gallon-size freezer bags is useful, so is a box of waxed paper.


CANNING JARS But mostly I rely on glass canning jars in three sizes. Now I'm not "canning" anything for the freezer, I'm just using easily available, relatively inexpensive food-safe glass jars for food storage in the freezer.

I only buy wide-mouth jars, the wide openings are super-convenient to use both for storage and small, portable servings.


PLASTIC LIDS But the pro tip here is that once you have jars of the same width, you only need lids for one width, one size fits all! If you prefer the regular mouth, that works too, the point is to end up with one or the other, not both.

Instead of using the two-piece metal lids that come with canning jars, I buy these wonderful one-piece plastic lids. They store easily, they're dishwasher safe, they fit all three jar sizes. Again, I use the wide-mouth lids but they're also available in the smaller size.


LABELS! Who can remember what's in that random jar? Not me, that's for sure. But nothing fancy here ... I use simple masking tape and Sharpies to label containers for the freezer.

Don't forget to include the date! And if it's something that needs reheating or baking, include the oven temperature and the timing!

Pro Tip: If the jars are going to be stored right-side up, put the masking tape label on the lid. If the jars will be stored on their sides (mini jars fit better on their sides in my kitchen freezer), put the labels on the side of the container, not the lid. This makes it so easy to find what you're after without digging through.


FREEZER RE-ORGANIZATION I also re-purpose various cardboard boxes to contain otherwise awkward foods, cutting off the tops so what's inside is easily visible. These work well in our kitchen freezer which is a two-level pull-out drawer.

I don't really have a good system for a side-by-side fridge since I don't have one. Maybe someone else can chime in???



Basic Foods That Freeze Surprisingly Well

Lemons & Limes Who knew, right? Whole lemons and limes freeze surprisingly well!

A couple of summers ago, I started tossing whole lemons and limes into the freezer, straight into a cardboard box that keeps the fruit contained. Often, they're past their prime, still good for juice though maybe not for zest. They freeze just beautifully, no splitting, no drying out, nothing.

When it comes time to use lemon or lime, cut it in half with a knife and it'll thaw in 15 minutes. Or if you're in a rush just put one in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time until the skin softens a bit.


Lemon Recipes ♥ KitchenParade.com, from lemonade to lemon curd and so much more.

Garlic Cloves Anyone else who gets impatient peeling garlic cloves? No more. A nearby grocery sells pre-peeled garlic cloves! They only come in quart containers so I repackage them in mini mason jars, then pull out only what I need. There seems to be no need to pre-freeze before re-packaging, the cloves don't stick together.


Butter When butter goes on sale, grab an extra pound or two destined straight for the freezer. When you're ready to bake? No running to the store just for butter. You can even pull out a stick at a time.


Bacon Fat & Good Lard Some times, a certain grandfather gets kinda carried away making PopPop's Best Bacon for the grandkids, leaving us with an oversupply of bacon grease. It freezes beautifully! Every so often, I buy rendered lard at the butchers, it makes great pie crusts.


Bacon! Someday soon we hope to be cooking "PopPop's Famous Bacon" for grandchildren again but in the mean time, we still buy big packages of bacon, repackage it by cutting the package in half crossways for half slices, then breaking up the layers into more manageable units. I wrap each unit in waxed paper, then stack them in a freezer container for removal one at a time.

It takes about 24 hours for a unit to thaw in the meat drawer of the refrigerator . Then we cook it! Actually, more technically, we bake it! See Baked Bacon.

Baked Bacon ♥ KitchenParade.com, how to cook bacon in the oven, so easy, soon you'll be bakin' bacon too!

Tomato Paste You know how so many recipes call for a tablespoon or two of tomato paste but the can holds so much more? Don't let it go to waste, tomato paste freezes really well! Just wrap leftover tomato paste in plastic wrap in one or two tablespoon increments, then toss the little guys into a mini mason jar. Want more information? How to Freeze Tomato Paste.


Frozen Orange Juice Concentrate I don't use frozen concentrate for orange juice but as a flavor booster for salad dressings, cakes, etc. Scroll down to the end of the orange recipes for ideas, especially my favorite version of Chicken Sybil.

Since orange juice concentrate comes in a container that doesn't store well, I move the concentrate into a mini mason jar so it's easy to scoop out only what's needed.

Frozen Orange Juice Concentrate, another magic ingredient ♥ KitchenParade.com, for intense, undiluted orange flavor for baking, salads, even savory dishes.

Sliced Cheese The price of sliced cheese is just too tempting at Sam's Club, so home it comes.

A big package is more than we can use right away so half goes into the freezer. I cut the original packaging in half, wrap it with waxed paper, secure it with a rubber band and tuck the unit into a quart-size freezer bag. With double-triple wrapping, there's zero freezer burn.

The cheese slices separated by thin papers thaw especially well. Those without don't strip away slice by slice as usual. But! If you slice through the layers, you get a slice of sorts. This isn't as pretty but nine times out of ten, appearances don't matter once the cheese is tossed into eggs, onto a sandwich, etc.


Tortillas There's no keeping this household in tortillas. So I separate a big package of flour tortillas into smaller stacks, wrap the stacks in waxed paper and tuck them into a gallon-size freezer bag to be used, later, one smaller stack at a time.


Black Walnuts Did you know that nuts freeze well? I freeze only the ones that are coveted but hard to come by, in Missouri that means black walnuts.



Cooked Foods That Freeze Surprisingly Well

Rice Does anyone else share a kitchen with a cook who wants rice added to the menu about five minutes before dinner? Now you know know why I always cook a 1.5x batch of white rice and freeze much of it in dinner-for-two size portions.

Much to my surprise, rice freezes really well!

Just let it cool, pack it into a small container, press waxed paper onto the top of the rice to keep air away from the food to prevent ice crystals from forming (aka freezer burn) and then seal the container.

To thaw, just put the container in the microwave for a minute or two. Perfect. "Yes, dear. We do have rice, let me warm it up."

How to Cook White Rice ♥ KitchenParade.com, it turns out perfectly every time without special equipment.

Cooked Lentils My Best-Ever Lentil Salad makes too much to eat within a few days so I freeze the rest in small containers. Yes, lentils freeze well!


Best-Ever Lentil Salad with an unusual cooking technique ♥ A Veggie Venture

Mac 'n' Cheese Sauce In the same vein, I make extra sauce for Mac n Chicken and freeze it. (I use the same technique as for the rice, above.)

Now an impromptu pot of mac 'n' cheese for the grandkids is just a pot of pasta away.

Oh! And word to the wise? Try mixing cooked rice with Mac 'n' Cheese sauce. So good!

Mac n Chicken, just your best Mac n Cheese with chicken, with protein ♥ KitchenParade.com. One-Pot Comfort Food. Weeknight Easy, Weekend Special. Long-Time Family Favorite. High Protein. Great for Meal Prep. Recipe, insider tips, nutrition and Weight Watchers points included.

Pork & Beans This recipe is coming some time soon, it's my version of Busch's Baked Beans, the beans that kids love so much. Again, I keep it in the freezer in small containers so that when the grandkids are here, there's something for even the pickiest eater.


Homemade Marmalade We find store-bought jams way too sweet, especially marmalade. So I've taken to making it from scratch using this lovely recipe from Leite's Culinaria. Oh! And I cut the sugar in half. It's so so SO good. And yes, it freezes well!


Homemade Applesauce When the apples fall off the tree into my biggest pot in the fall, it's easy to end up with more Homemade Applesauce than we can go through. Yes, applesauce freezes well!

How to Make Homemade Applesauce, another simple seasonal recipe ♥ KitchenParade.com. No added sugar!

Frosting I don't suppose all frostings freeze well but cream cheese frosting freezes well, so does the royal-style icing I use for my favorite No-Chill Cutout Sugar Cookies.

Just spoon the frosting into a freezer bag, press out all the air you can, flatten the bag so it can be stored either flat or upright, label and freeze. That's it!

Impromptu cupcakes coming up, no need to make frosting!

No-Chill Cutout Sugar Cookies ♥ KitchenParade.com, just mix and roll, no need to wait. Mix and bake in under an hour.

Pie Crusts This half-butter + half-shortening Flaky Tender Pie Crust freezes well but my favorite crusting for freezing is the Crisco crust in Perfect All-Rhubarb Pie. Just form a disk with the pastry dough, wrap it tightly in waxed paper, then insert into a freezer bag, squeezing out as much air as possible.


Stock So so many jars of No-Big-Deal Homemade Chicken Stock! I actually fill the door of a stand-up meat freezer in the basement with chicken stock, beef stock, even seafood stock. And yes, I really do use Glass Canning Jars to Freeze Stock. No more leaky freezer bags!

How to Freeze Stock in Canning Jars ♥ KitchenParade.com



That's Mine, Now What's In Your Freezer?

Share your good ideas with other Kitchen Parade readers! Just leave a comment or send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com.

Freezer Surprises ♥ KitchenParade.com, a peek inside my freezer at surprising foods that freeze surprisingly well.

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, for more scratch cooking recipes using whole, healthful ingredients, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

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Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.

Comments

  1. I have parrots, & the key to healthy birds is very little seeds, and plenty of healthy foods, with a pretty good variety. I have a rotating schedule of plain popcorn, brown rice, pasta with a little sauce, & veggies for their daily breakfasts. They used to get quinoa, but they never really warmed up to it.
    Because at my busiest, I had 18 birds, I learned to batch cook, so my spare freezer has mostly flat baggies with a day's worth of their breakfasts stacked in it. Not the popcorn, of course
    Plus an extra turkey, because I love it, & bags of frozen veggies. The occasional ice cream too, because ice cream

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna