Thinking about tossing those wilted herbs in the trash? Stop! They have a lot more life to give. Herbs, along with a multitude of other ingredients, can get an extension on their shelf life thanks to your trusty freezer. The appliance can help you tackle food waste, save you money, and help you be a smarter cook. Here are 10 food you probably didn’t think you could freeze but absolutely can.
Why buttermilk isn’t sold in smaller cartons, I'm not sure, but we’ve all been faced with an almost-full carton after using only a cup or so for weekend pancakes or waffles. Luckily, buttermilk can be frozen for up to three months. If you don’t think you’ll use it before it expires, pour it into freezer-safe airtight containers in 1/2 or 1 cup portions, depending on the quantity you most frequently use in recipes. Let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight or place the sealed jar in a bowl of warm—not hot—water, where it will thaw in 20 to 30 minutes.
While eggs have a fairly long shelf life in the refrigerator, they can be frozen if needed. This is especially helpful if a recipe calls for just the egg yolk or egg white and you don’t have plans for the other portion of the egg.
To freeze egg whites, simply drop each into the individual wells of an ice cube tray, for easy portioning, or freeze a larger quantity in a freezer-safe airtight container. Just don’t forget to label the container with the quantity of whites. If frozen as cubes, pop them out into a zip-top freezer bag once solid. Egg whites can be frozen for up to a year and should be defrosted in the refrigerator overnight before using for meringue or French macarons.
Egg yolks will thicken and become gummy unless you beat them with either a big pinch of salt or sugar, depending on what you plan to use them for in the future. Once beaten, freeze them in individual ice cube trays or a labeled airtight container for up to a year. Defrost in the refrigerator before using in ice cream or Hollandaise sauce.
To freeze whole eggs, crack them into a bowl first, and beat them lightly, to prevent the yolks from thickening. Pour the beaten eggs into the wells of an ice cube tray or a labeled airtight container and freeze for up to a year. Again, defrost in the refrigerator before using for scrambles or in a frittata.
If you’re not in the mood to make banana bread or smoothies with those overripe bananas, you can freeze and bake with them later. If using for future smoothies, peel and slice them, place the slices on a wax paper or parchment paper-lined baking sheet, freeze until solid, then transfer to a zip-top bag. For baking, simply peel and freeze them whole or broken in half. Bananas can be frozen for up to three months. Slices can be tossed straight from the freezer into the blender for smoothies, while whole bananas can be thawed in a bowl at room temperature for an hour or two before using them for baking.
Before you toss the carrot peels, onion roots, celery tops, and fennel fronds you trimmed away while prepping dinner in the trash or compost, consider holding onto them. Place vegetable scraps in a freezer-safe airtight container or zip-top bag and keep adding to it as you collect scraps. They can be stored in the freezer for up to three months or until you have a little time to make your own vegetable stock. Toss the scraps into a pot filled with water, simmer for an hour, and strain. Use the stock in soups and stews, and to make risotto.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
Fresh bread quickly goes stale, so freezing it is truly one of the best ways to preserve it. Slice your loaf, tuck the slices into a zip-top bag, and freeze for up to six months. You can take individual slices out as you need them and either defrost at room temperature for 20 minutes or so, depending on size and thickness, or pop them directly into the toaster.
Freezing tofu not only extends its shelf life, it makes it firmer and more absorbent, which can be a great thing if you’re looking to marinate it before grilling, toss cubes into a stir-fry, or bake slices for salads. Simply remove the tofu from its packaging, drain and pat it dry, and freeze it whole or in slices or cubes. Note that the tofu might take on a pale yellow hue but it does not alter its flavor. Thaw the tofu in the refrigerator overnight and drain and press out any excess liquid.
Avocados have a way of going from unripe to overripe quite quickly. To freeze ripe avocados before they go bad, peel and cut them into quarters, slices, or cubes and freeze on a wax paper or parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Once frozen, transfer the avocado to a zip-top bag for up to six months. While frozen avocado isn’t the best contender for guacamole, it can be tossed into smoothies (no need to thaw!) to lend creamy richness.
Whether you bought wine to cook with and don’t plan on sipping it, or have a few too many extra bottles leftover from a party, know it can be frozen. While we don’t recommend thawing it to pour into a glass and pair with dinner, it’s perfect for cooking. Pour the excess into the wells of ice cube trays in 1 tablespoon portions, freeze until solid, then transfer to a freezer-safe airtight container or zip-top bag. Take out as many cubes as you need for a recipe and let them thaw in a bowl in the refrigerator overnight or on the counter for a couple of hours.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
Despite our best intentions, fresh herbs inevitably wilt before we’ve had a chance to use them up. That’s why freezing is a great solution. Chop up the fresh herbs and divide them among the wells of an ice cube tray. Top off each well with a glug of olive oil, freeze until solid, then transfer to a freezer-safe airtight container or zip-top bag for up to two months. You can use the herb oil cubes straight from the freezer in place of olive oil for sautéing or tossed with hot pasta for an instant sauce. Or let one or two thaw in a bowl at room temperature for about 30 minutes and use in marinades or salad dressings.
If you break open a package of bacon and don’t plan on cooking it all at once, freezing the remainder is a great option. Lay the slices out on a wax paper or parchment paper-line baking sheet, freeze until solid, and transfer to a zip-top bag for up to three months. The individual slices will thaw at room temperature in about 10 minutes and can be fried, baked, or candied just like fresh bacon.