Grit Blogs > Rural Legend

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?

5/18/2012 6:21:19 PM


joyce hill
5/24/2011 11:12:07 AM

I freeze in plastic bags flat in freezer and then put inbetween legs of upside down extender shelves (the ones you get in the dollar store to make two shelves out of one) they act like bookends and my bags don"t go skidding all over.

8/8/2010 3:56:16 PM

May I suggest you use reuseable containers instead of plastic bags? Plastic doesn't biodegrade, and it will stay in landfulls - or the ocean if you live where they tote trash out on barges - until Jesus comes back. Reuseable containers are far more responsible and respectful of a planet in need of some TLC. I save our extra food and treat the chickens with it. They love a mix of whatever little amounts of veggies are left in the freezer.

7/13/2010 2:36:59 PM

Around our house, most little food scraps go to the hens or the compost piles. We do the cookie tray trick, too, only we wash berries, cooked sweet corn, etc. first, put them into freezer bags and then lay the bags on the trays to freeze. Not much difference really. When it comes to sweet corn and squash, folks tell me that theirs get soggy, too. For sweet corn-on-the-cob, we blanch first, then immediately cool down in an ice bath, (*very important*) PAT or wipe DRY and wrap each ear in cling wrap, THEN place in freezer bags. Works every year. For squash, make multiple casseroles and freeze them that way. My wife has frozen for the first time her delicious, cooked crunchy squash fritters, but we haven't tasted them yet...squash is still coming in! Someone suggested just freezing the fritter batter before cooking, too.

gail erman
7/10/2010 12:44:27 AM

I dont like freezing liquids in plastic bags so i use glass jars. But to keep them from breaking from the expanded liquid, leave a headspace and lay the jar down on its side until frozen, then set it up. The air space then is on the long side of the jar and doesn't cause breakage

7/9/2010 8:43:12 AM

At our house, we have what we call Freezer Night. That is the night when I just don't feel like cooking a big meal so we use up whatever little bits left in bags and boxes in the freezer. I will bake things like 10 fish sticks left in the box, 1/2 a pound of fries, 2 or 3 dinner rolls, 5 pizza rolls, etc all on the same cookie sheet then mix all of the frozen veggies that aren't enough for soup, salad remnants from the crisper, and all of the other left-overs all for one meal. It does double duty of using the left-overs and cleaning out the fridge. Everyone can pick and choose from the "buffet".

nebraska dave
7/1/2010 7:46:28 AM

@Brent & LeAnna, I wasn’t quite as organized as you and your Mom with putting leftovers into different bags by what went together. Many times on Friday I would make what I called refrigerator soup which meant the leftovers of the week went into the pot with seasonings. My kids still cringe at the mention of Friday refrigerator soup. Most times it worked out pretty good but every so often it was only Dad that ate the soup. Now that the kids are grown and gone, the leftover situation is practically nonexistent. When I make soup I have to start from scratch. I kind of miss those leftover days. I am a miser with not only food but everything else as well. When I’m finished using an item it’s not even fit for the thrift store. I guess it must be the Scotch in my heritage. Thank you for the tips about freezing for later use. It does make sense to freeze first then bag so there not one big clump. May all your left over meal scraps always turn into delicious meals.

s.m.r. saia
7/1/2010 6:45:36 AM

Wow, this was really interesting. I think I'm going to try some of these ideas. I share your frustration about the wasted food. I have a little kid too, and it always seems like there's half of something left around. Last year I froze a lot of green beans and squash from the garden, but found it was kind of soggy when defrosted. We ate it all anyway - but this year I had an idea to pop it in the dehyrator for a little while after blanching to make sure it's completely dry before freezing. It seems to have worked, as the veggies so far this year don't have ice crystals on them.