5 Foods You May Not Be Freezing—But Should Be
Whether you most frequently cook for one, love to shop at big-box stores like Costco, or are looking for savvy ways to prevent food waste, the freezer is a magical tool for keeping your grocery bill down and your food safe for as long as possible. We asked Beth Moncel, founder of the popular Budget Bytes blog and namesake Instagram account, for some potentially surprising foods that do well in the freezer, which she says happens to be one of her favorite kitchen tools. Plus, Moncel also explains how to ensure each of these foods are properly stored to prevent anything from being wasted.
Moncel says she likes to buy cheese in bulk to get a better price per pound, saving what she won't be able to use over the next few weeks in the freezer. She divides what she wants to freeze into regular-sized portions, such as the 2-cup-sized bags of shredded cheese or 8-ounce blocks you'd find in the dairy aisle of the grocery store. This way, she doesn't have to feel pressured to use up a ton of cheese each time she thaws it from frozen.
"Cheese can get slightly more crumbly after freezing and thawing, so it's not best for slicing," says Moncel. "It's still great shredded or crumbled for any dish where cheese will be melted or baked."
Fresh herbs and spices like ginger can often seem unworthy of purchasing for small households or if you just need a tablespoon for Wednesday's chicken curry, but Moncel says this is a great ingredient to freeze for later, as fresh ginger brings a depth of flavor that dried or pureed ginger can't achieve.
"I love cooking with fresh ginger, but I don't use it often enough to use an entire piece before it gets old and dried out in the fridge," says Moncel. "Instead, I keep a knob of ginger in my freezer and just grate off as much as I need when making a recipe. Not only will it stay good much longer, but it's easier to grate when frozen without having the fibers clog the grater."
Whether your great aunt sends you a giant case of fresh Florida citrus each Christmas or you can't help but buy that giant bag of mandarin oranges every time they go on sale, your freezer is the perfect place to store nature's immune booster. Plus, Moncel says that utilizing your freezer will allow you to buy citrus in bulk, saving you from having to buy two or three lemons at a time that often cost nearly as much as a bag of six.
"Citrus fruit is really easy to zest when the fruit is frozen, and the freezing-thawing process makes it much easier to extract the juice," Moncel says. "Because they get extremely soft after thawing, they won't be useful for slicing or using as garnishes."
There's nothing worse than reaching in the back of the crisper to find a barely used bag of fresh spinach at the end of the week. Of course, you had every good intention to whip up a green smoothie most mornings or toss a side salad with dinner every night this week, but oftentimes, that just doesn't happen. Thankfully, Moncel says you don't have to sweat this bad habit too much because now, instead of tossing your leftover bag of spinach in the trash each week, you can just toss it in the freezer!
Of course, you'll want to transition a bag of spinach from fridge to freezer before the leaves start to wilt too much and smell, so if you don't think you'll be able to finish the remaining contents in the next few days, go ahead and place it in there. Moncel says frozen spinach can be added straight from the freezer to soups, smoothies, sauces, or even a veggie sautèe with garlic and other spices for a speedy side dish.
Has the remainder of the Chocolate-Zucchini Cake you made for supper club been staring you down all weekend long? No need to toss it out or finish the rest in one sitting! Moncel says that most types of cakes, cookies, pastries, and even breads freeze very well and can last for weeks, if not a month or more. Plus, you can freeze slices of cake to save on freezer storage and make portioning a breeze.
Now, you no longer have to throw out the remaining half of your loaf of bread each week before it molds or rush to get the rest of your Bacon-Cheddar Scones to neighbors before you finish the whole batch with your morning cup of coffee. Pop 'em in the fridge and let them thaw at room temperature or reheat them straight from the freezer in a toaster or microwave oven when you're ready for breakfast or dessert.