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Freezing Your Scraps

Brent and LeAnna Alderman StersteI guess I have a huge thrifty streak, but I just hate seeing food go to waste. So I have been scheming with my freezer to find ways to save more of our food. Here are some of my tricks.

1. Scrap bags

Since we have toddlers, we always seem to have a collection of half-eaten bananas in our house. To combat this, we started the banana bag. I break the leftover bananas into pieces and tuck it in a bag in the freezer. Then we can use the frozen bananas for banana bread or smoothies. Once I started the banana bag, I became inspired to see what else I can save. I now have the stock bag: old carrots, onion skins, pieces of celery to toss in when we make our own broth. I also have the stuffing bag. In it, I crumble up leftover cornbread, and also add diced, stale bread. I then can use this to make stuffing. My mom has what she calls the soup bowl. She puts little bits of leftover veggies like peas, green beans, and corn in the bowl, then makes a big pot of vegetable soup when there is enough.

2. Cookie Sheet

If there is one thing I learned from watching Top Chef, it's that if you want to freeze anything and have it be edible later and not one big frozen chunk, you freeze it on a cookie sheet first. We froze all of the blueberries we picked this way last year. After spreading them out on the cookie sheet and freezing for an hour or so, I put them all into quart size freezer bags. Now I can get out berries for pancakes or muffins by the cupful instead of defrosting first. This also works great for other fruits and berries or vegetables like broccoli or spinach. Just blanche the veggies in boiling water for a few minutes, spread out on the cookie sheet, freeze for an hour, then put them in a bag.

This also works really well for dough. I sometimes make a triple batch of biscuit dough. I cut the biscuits out and freeze on the cookie sheet until firm. Then put them all in a bag and take out and bake as needed. You can also prescoop your cookie dough and freeze like this. I also sometimes make a double batch of pizza dough. I freeze one ball on a plate until it's firm and then store it in a bag.

3. Muffin Pan or Ice Cube Tray

If you want to freeze anything liquid like broth, soup, lemon juice, or small amounts of spices like pesto, or lemongrass, muffin pans and ice cube trays work great. You can use the 1 cup jumbo muffin tin or the 1/2 cup regular muffin tin or the ice cube tray if you want very small amounts. Freeze your broth or soup in the muffin pan or tray. Let it freeze solid. Then run some warm water over the back of the tray to pop out the contents. Add the cups to a large freezer bag and take out as you need a cup of broth.

4. Bulk items

We do a lot of our grocery shopping at a bulk warehouse store so I am often coming home with giant bags of cheese. Fortunately, cheese freezes really well. I split the shredded cheese into sandwich size bags or cut the giant bar of cheese into smaller bars. Then I can take out a pound or so at a time and don't have to worry about the cheese going bad before I use it. One time we got inspired by a jumbo bag of lemons. When we saw they were going to go bad, we juiced them all and zested them all. We froze the juice in an ice cube tray and the zest in a small bag.

Lately, I've been using my freezer to combat the large amount of food coming in from our farm share. Last week when I knew I wasn't going to be able to cook the broccoli before it went bad, I chopped it up, blanched it, froze it on a cookie sheet. Now I have a bagful of broccoli for whenever we're ready for it.

Do you have any other freezer tricks?