You made a bit too much food for dinner and now you’ve got leftovers. Instead of throwing them away, you should consider saving them.
Every year, one third of the edible food that’s produced globally goes to waste, as One Planet Network reports, which is quite shocking considering that nearly 800 billion people in the world don’t have enough food to eat.
Can you freeze your leftovers?
You can definitely put your leftover food in the freezer as it’s safe to do this with most foods. Best of all, the next time you’re not in the mood to cook, you’ll have food that’s already prepared and just needs to be defrosted!
Of course, you want to be sure that the food you freeze will be safe and hygienic.
Let’s look at different types of foods and how to freeze them. Your freezer is your friend and it could save you money on your grocery bill!
- 1 How To Freeze Meat Products
- 2 How To Freeze Dairy
- 3 How To Freeze Bread And Grains
- 4 How To Freeze Cooked And Uncooked Vegetables
- 5 How To Freeze Soups And Stews
- 6 What About Casseroles?
- 7 Five Leftover Foods You Should Never Freeze
- 8 How To Freeze Your Leftovers Properly
- 9 Related Questions
- 10 Conclusion
How To Freeze Meat Products
Maybe you have some beef or chicken that’s left over after a potluck and you don’t want to throw it out.
You can put it in the freezer, but make sure you don’t leave it in there for longer than is considered safe to consume.
Now, if your beef is uncooked, you can store it in the freezer for many months without compromising its quality.
Meat like roasts can be kept for between four and 12 months, while steaks can be safely frozen for six to 12 months.
If you have ground beef, you should freeze it for only three to four months, as Healthline reports.
If your beef has been cooked, you should freeze it for a maximum of three months.
If you have chicken you want to freeze, it’s good to know you can freeze chicken parts (such as thighs and breasts) for four to six months. Cooked chicken can be kept in the freezer for up to six months.
As for fish, how long you can safely store it in the freezer depends on its type, such as whether it’s fatty or lean.
Fatty fish, such as salmon, can be kept in the freezer for a maximum of three months, while lean fish, such as haddock, can be kept for six to eight months.
If you have shellfish, you can freeze it for between three and six months. Cooked fish, on the other hand, should only be in the freezer for between four and six months.
Finally, if you want to freeze pork leftovers, stick to the rule that you do so for a maximum of three months.
If the pork is uncooked, you can safely freeze it for up to a year without a problem, unless you’re freezing pork chops – these should only be frozen for a maximum of six months.
What about processed and smoked pork?
If you want to freeze lunch meats, bacon, and other types of processed or smoked pork, you should only freeze them for a maximum of two months.
Make sure you follow these extra precautions when storing meat in the freezer:
- You can keep your meat in its original packaging but wrap it in a second layer of plastic wrap so that moisture won’t affect the quality of the meat.
- Never freeze meat that you’ve kept out of the fridge for more than two hours. This can cause it to become contaminated with bacteria.
- When you defrost meat, you should always take care to do so in the following way to prevent bacteria from setting in: put the meat in a leakproof plastic bag and submerge it in cold water.
How To Freeze Dairy
You might want to freeze that delicious cheese you grated or that bottle of cream you never used when preparing dinner.
Here’s what you need to know about putting dairy products in the freezer.
- Butter: You can freeze bars of butter for up to a year, but the catch is that they have to be wrapped in their original packaging.
- Cheese: Hard cheeses, such as cheddar cheese, can be wrapped in plastic and kept in the freezer for six months. If you’ve shredded it for dinner and didn’t finish it, you can still freeze it in this state – just make sure that you keep it in an airtight container. As for soft cheese, like ricotta, you shouldn’t freeze them as they contain too much moisture.
- Milk and cream: You can freeze both of these products, but they should be put in containers that have some space at the top. This is because they will expand when frozen. Milk can be frozen for up to six months, while cream should be consumed within two months.
How To Freeze Bread And Grains
If you have some leftover bread you want to freeze, you’ll be glad to know that you can freeze bread for up to six months.
That said, bread tends to start losing its flavor after being frozen for approximately a month, so you should try to use it within that time frame.
When it comes to freezing grains, any whole grain can be cooked and later frozen, such as rice, quinoa, or buckwheat. You can freeze grains for up to three months.
How To Freeze Cooked And Uncooked Vegetables
You can safely freeze both cooked and uncooked vegetables, which is great news if you’ve got both that you don’t want to let go to waste.
Simply put your vegetables in airtight containers or freezer bags, and then make sure you consume your cooked vegetables within nine months.
As for uncooked veggies, such as the ones you bought at the store and didn’t use, these can be frozen for between eight and 12 months!
A note on freezing vegetables raw: If you’re going to freeze uncooked veggies, it’s always a good idea to blanch them quickly before you pop them into the freezer.
This helps to prevent their enzymes from causing the produce to become soft or discoloured.
The only exceptions to this rule are peppers and onions that can be frozen raw.
What To Know About Freezing Fruit
You can freeze fruits for up to eight or nine months, but the only exception is citrus fruits that can only be frozen for a maximum of six months.
Some delicate fruits need a bit more TLC, such as delicate berries. To keep them in a good state, you should arrange them on a baking sheet when putting them in the freezer.
When they are frozen, you can transfer them into freezer bags, as All Recipes reports.
When freezing fruit, make sure you remove their peels. It’s also good to remove any bruises or discoloration.
Can you freeze fruit salad?
If you’ve made a delicious fruit salad for dinner but you haven’t finished it, you can certainly freeze it.
Make sure you put it in an airtight container and it’s probably best to consume it within a few months.
What fruits should you never freeze?
While you can freeze most fruits, it’s important to bear in mind that some fruits’ textures will change when they’re exposed to freezing temperatures.
For example, you should avoid freezing melons because they’ll lose their juice after being frozen.
A way around this, however, is to put the frozen melon pieces straight into your blender and make a smoothie with them so that they don’t go to waste!
What about those moisture-rich fruits and vegetables?
You love buying cucumbers and watermelons because they’re delicious to eat while also being filled with high amounts of water.
But that’s bad news if you want to freeze them!
Generally, any fruit or vegetable that has a lot of water in it should not be frozen otherwise it will become soggy when you thaw it at a later stage.
These water-rich veggies and fruits include watermelons, cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, oranges, apples, and spinach.
How To Freeze Soups And Stews
You can go ahead and freeze leftover soups and stews, but just make sure you follow the correct tips.
Stews can be a little difficult to freeze and you should avoid freezing them if you used a thickening agent when cooking them.
This is because it can cause vegetables in the stew to break down, which will result in a soggy mess.
If you haven’t used a thickening agent, make sure you let the stew cool down properly, then put it in an airtight container before putting it in the freezer.
Make sure you have enough stew to fill the container as much as possible as this will prevent air from getting into the stew.
You can also put your stew in a freezer bag but, again, make sure that it’s filled at least three-quarters of the way to the top to prevent air.
You should follow the same tips as above for freezing soups.
However, there is an extra tip to bear in mind: if you want to freeze a soup that contains noodles in it, it’s wise to prepare the noodles separately because their dough might not do well in the freezer.
You can freeze stews and soups for up to six months.
What About Casseroles?
That delicious casserole can be frozen, but make sure you par-bake it before freezing it, then thaw it and reheat it.
By baking it a bit less than what you would normally will prevent it from being overcooked when you later take it out of the freezer and cook it.
You can keep a casserole in the freezer for up to six months, but maintain its quality by sealing it and wrapping it directly in its container.
Make sure you use two layers of plastic wrap and a third layer of foil to keep it protected.
Five Leftover Foods You Should Never Freeze
While you can safely freeze the leftover foods we’ve outlined in this article, it’s important to avoid putting the following foods in the freezer.
It’s probably best to try to use leftover pasta in another dish because freezing it isn’t a good idea.
Its soft texture is to blame – when exposed to cold temperatures, it won’t be able to maintain its structure and will become too squishy.
Had some yogurt and don’t want to throw out the rest?
Avoid freezing it. The moisture content of yogurt will turn to ice crystals in the freezer, which will result in it curdling and separating.
Foods like French fries and onion rings should never be frozen because the icy temperatures of your freezer will cause them to lose their greasy, crunchy nature, making for unappetizing leftover meals.
Eggs can explode in the freezer due to how the icy temperatures can make them expand!
If you want to freeze eggs, make sure that you remove their shells and put their yolks and whites in freezer bags.
Foods Containing Mayonnaise
Mayonnaise might be creamy and delicious, but when frozen it takes on a totally different nature.
Its ingredients separate under extreme temperatures, meaning that your food will lack consistency.
That said, there are some exceptions to this rule.
If you’ve baked something with mayo instead of shortening in it, the baking process will have changed the emulsifier’s structure, so thawing it after it’s been frozen won’t be a problem, as Livestrong explains.
Similarly, if you’ve got a meal with whipped cream or cream cheese and you’ve only used a little bit of mayo, then it won’t be adversely affected by freezing.
How To Freeze Your Leftovers Properly
Now that you know how long you can keep your leftovers in the freezer, it’s important to learn some freezer hacks so that you maintain the quality and deliciousness of your food.
Here are some general tips and tricks to bear in mind when freezing leftovers.
- You should always give your leftovers a chance to cool down before you put them in the freezer, otherwise they’ll lower the temperature in the freezer and this could cause other foods in it to thaw and spoil!
- Only freeze your leftovers in airtight containers to prevent moisture and air from entering them and causing them to lose their quality. It’s also a good idea to put a double layer of plastic wrap around the containers if you want to freeze them for longer than a week, as this will provide them with more protection against freezer burn.
- If you know you’re going to want to freeze some foods you’re busy cooking, here’s a good tip: leave your veggies, grains, and meats a little undercooked before they go into the freezer. This is because when you cook them at a later stage to eat them, you don’t want them to be overcooked.
- It’s a bad idea to freeze large quantities of your leftovers in one container as this might be too much to eat. So, make sure you store foods in smaller containers so that you can defrost just what you need and leave the rest in the freezer for a bit longer.
- Although not directly linked to ensuring safe freezing, it’s a good idea to mark your containers to be sure that you don’t lose track of what’s in them or how long they’ve been frozen. This will make it easier to remember to use them in your cooking.
Can you store foods in plastic containers when freezing them?
Yes, but make sure they’re moisture-vapor-resistant and have a lid so that they prevent problems such as freezer burn from affecting your food.
What, exactly, is freezer burn?
Freezer burn is basically when frozen products dry out, and it’s caused by them having been incorrectly wrapped before placed in the freezer. The foods are still safe to eat, but they won’t have much quality.
Can you use glass jars to freeze food?
Regular glass can break at freezing temperatures, so make sure you choose dual-purpose containers that are especially made for freezing foods as they will be able to tolerate cold temperatures.
If you own a freezer, you can put an end to all the leftover food that ends up in the bin.
By knowing how to freeze different types of food, whether cooked or uncooked, you can prevent waste but also save more money because you’ll have food on hand to prepare delicious meals.
How long does food last in the freezer?
In this article, we’ve looked at some of the most common food leftovers, such as meat, grains, and vegetables, and what to know about freezing them.
By getting into the healthy habit of freezing your leftovers, you’ll see just how far all those delicious meals you prepare in your kitchen can go!