When you come home from work after a long day, sometimes it’s all you can do to muster up the energy to cook. And when you do finally rally and get something started, if you notice you’re missing an ingredient, it can thwart the whole endeavor. Because who really wants to make another trip out in the cold to go retrieve one tiny ingredient from the grocery store? Nobody, that’s who. Which is why we wanted to remind you of a handy appliance sitting right in your kitchen, waiting to make your life easier: the freezer.
You’re probably already familiar with the winter trick of making a big pot of stew, soup, or hearty chili and freezing the leftovers to reheat down the road, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg (pun intended) when it comes to getting the most out of your freezer. It turns out there are tons of ingredients that hold up so well to freezing, you’ll be shocked you never thought to chill them down before.
So here’s your final warning: Only read on if you’re ready to save yourself time and effort, to stop wasting ingredients, and put the cold to work for you.
If you let ginger languish in your fridge for more than a few days, it’s likely to turn into a withered knob before you use all of it. Instead, peel a whole piece of ginger, then wrap it tightly and stick it into the freezer. When you’re ready to use it, just grate the still-frozen ginger into whatever dish you’re working on!
This rule applies to pretty much any baked good, from muffins to vegetable breads to uncooked pizza dough, but we particularly like it for breakfast foods like pancakes or waffles, because you don’t have to stress about making too much batter and having it go to waste. Just make up the extra servings, place wax paper in between them, and freeze them to your heart’s content.
3. Cooked Rice
Freezing already-cooked rice and other grains is the ultimate time-saver. Just remember to let them cool before freezing, and when you need ready-made rice in the future, just throw it in the microwave for a minute, and there it is.
4. Fresh Herbs
Fresh herbs are another ingredient that it’s hard to purchase the right amount of, because the store usually sells more than you need for just one recipe and the bulk of it goes bad before you can use it. Instead of trashing the extra rosemary or basil, why not freeze it? Delicate herbs tend to get freezer burn when put directly in the cold, but if you place your herbs in oil or butter before placing them into an airtight plastic bag (or even in an ice cube tray, as pictured above), they preserve amazingly well. The defrosted herbs won’t come out ready to serve as a garnish, but they will be perfect for incorporating into a recipe.
It’s counterintuitive, because there are so many other vegetables that don’t take well to freezing, but garlic isn’t one of them. You can freeze it as a whole bulb, separate cloves, or in crushed or sliced form.
6. Tomato Paste
Instead of buying a new can of tomato paste every time you need it for a recipe, using half, and then watching it discolor in your fridge until you throw it out, why not freeze the excess in ice cube trays and then transfer them to freezer bags for future use?
7. Citrus Rinds
How many times have you purchased a whole lemon or lime just for the zest when a recipe called for it and then never used the fruit itself? Probably too many, but no more! The fruit of a citrus itself doesn’t freeze well, but if you save and freeze your citrus rinds, you’ll have zest at your fingertips whenever you need it.
Nuts have high oil content, so if you don’t use them right away, they can go bad. But if you freeze them in a resealable bag, you extend their shelf life by up to three months. What’s not to love?
This holds-up-well-to-freezing rule really applies to all fruit, but we’re particularly fond of grapes. They freeze individually, and although they don’t defrost well, frozen grapes are a delicious snack all on their own, or used as unique ice cubes in a cold drink.
When was the last time you used an entire carton of buttermilk for a recipe? Probably never—you just put it in the fridge and hoped you’d come up with another use for it soon. Buttermilk and other dairy products do tend to separate slightly when frozen, but they’re still perfectly good for incorporating into recipes, and will taste exactly the same as if you’d gone with fresh.
It sounds crazy, we know, but hear us out! You can’t freeze eggs in the shell, because liquid expands when you freeze it, but they keep perfectly well outside of them. Just crack them, whisk them slightly, and freeze in a resealable container that can stay good for up to a year.
We’re not suggesting that you drink wine after it’s been frozen, because it doesn’t hold up quite well enough for that, but you can freeze it in ice cube trays and just plop it into sauces and soups that you want to liven up without opening a whole new bottle.
It’s amazing the time and resources you can save yourself if you freeze the right things, so make sure you’re putting your freezer to work for you and your leftovers!