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A Comprehensive Guide To Freezing Your Groceries So They Last Longer

Freezer burn? Never knew her.

Skip ahead by clicking on these links to find out how you should freeze:

Apples | Avocado | Bananas | Berries | Broccoli | Cabbage | Cauliflower | Carrots | Celery | Cheese | Corn | Eggs | Garlic | Ginger | Green Beans | Green Onions | Heavy Cream | Leafy Greens (Like Spinach or Kale) | Lemon or Lime Slices | Melon | Milk | Mushrooms | Onions | Peppers | Potatoes | Rice | Squash | Tomatoes

Brooke Greenberg/BuzzFeed

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Welcome to the world of freezing fresh fruits, vegetables, and dairy. It will be so worth it.

Having frozen produce on hand will cut down on your grocery bill and save you time on practically all of your future cooking and dishwashing endeavors. It's a gift from Present You to Future You.

Unfortunately, in order to avoid putting serious time (and money!) into a meal only to find that every forkful contains that certain essence of freezer burn, there are right ways and wrong ways to freeze different types of foods, and not all fruits and vegetables are created equal.

The first thing you should know is that freezing food inevitably changes the texture.

So it's good to have some foresight into what you might be using the frozen thing for. Salads and garnishes? No. A hearty stew? Definitely. Frozen margaritas? Hell yes.

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The second thing you should know is that liquids expand in the freezer (and fruits and vegetables contain a lot of secret liquid).

goingzerowaste.com

So you want to avoid filling anything up to the very brim.

You can freeze things in mason jars, but you should always leave at least an inch or two of space or else your jar could explode in the freezer. Metal lids will also rust in a freezer environment, so if you're going this route, you might want to invest in some plastic lids.

Another important tip: water = freezer burn.

It totally makes sense when you think about eating around those gross ice crystals that grow inside a pint of ice cream. When you can, ensure that you're getting any extra moisture off of your veggies and fruits before freezing, especially if they are freshly washed or blanched.

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Final couple of tips: Get as much air out of your Ziploc (or reusable) bags before freezing as you can. And write the date on the outside.

Pro tip: stick a straw through the top of your bag before sealing and suck out all the air.

Now onto the basics: The two main methods of freezing are "flash-freezing" and "blanching."

Any fruit or vegetable that you are cutting up and prepping prior to freezing needs to be flash-frozen to avoid later having to deal with an untenable frozen mass.

Any vegetable that has a lot of water content needs to be blanched before freezing in order to preserve color, texture, and nutrients. We'll go through these two methods below.

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Brooke Greenberg/BuzzFeed

Most likely, you'll want to cut and prep your fruits and veggies before freezing. Flash-freezing prevents your prepped fruits and vegetables from sticking together into one impossible ice block that is a huge pain to break apart and thaw later on. The process goes something like:

- Wash and cut your fruit or veggies in whatever style you will want to consume them in the future.

- Spread out on parchment paper atop a sheet tray (or anything flat...you could even use a cutting board) and place the whole thing uncovered in the freezer for a few hours.

- Transfer produce to a freezer-safe bag for long-term freezer storage.

You'll want to flash-freeze chopped onions, green onions, lemon slices, peppers, cheese, berries, melon chunks, bananas, avocado, and (cooked) mushrooms.

How to Freeze Onions

sustainablecooks.com / Via Sustainable Cooks

Flash-freeze diced onions in a flat layer for a few hours or overnight before transferring them into a freezer-safe bag. You might want to store your frozen onions away from fruit or any other food that you wouldn't want leeching onion smell/taste. You might want to double bag just in case.

Think of all the tears you'll save!

Use it for: Pretty much anything and everything, as long as the dish doesn't involve eating the onions raw.

How to prepare before using: Your diced onion will thaw quickly when cooking, so no need to thaw first.

Instructions: How to Freeze Onions

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How to Freeze Green Onions or Scallions

happymoneysaver.com

Chop up onions and flash-freeze in a single layer for 2-3 hours. Transfer to a freezer-safe container or plastic bottle — now you can shake out a little bit at a time when you need it.

Use it for: Pretty much anything and everything, as long as the dish doesn't involve eating the onions raw.

How to prepare before using: Chopped onion will thaw quickly when cooking, so no need to thaw first.

Instructions: How to Freeze Green Onions or Scallions

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How to Freeze Lemon Slices

youtube.com

You want to do a similar process as above: freezing the slices in a single layer first. This way they don't stick and freeze together. Because there's liquid involved here, you also want to pat the slices with a paper towel or cloth to absorb any excess moisture.

Use it for: Lemon water, hot tea, iced tea, cocktails.

How to prepare before using: If dropping in liquid, you can drop the slices in frozen. If for some reason you need to thaw, leave at room temperature for an hour.

Instructions: How to Freeze Lemon Slices

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How to Freeze Peppers

Instagram: @this_maine_life

Slice peppers, flash-freeze in a single layer, and then transfer into a freezer-safe bag.

Use it for: Casseroles, sauces, stir-fries. The texture won't be great if consuming raw.

How to prepare before using: If cooking into a hot dish, no need to thaw first.

Instructions: How to Freeze Peppers

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How to Freeze Cheese

dessertnowdinnerlater.com

While you can freeze whole blocks of cheese, you might find that the cheese becomes crumbly and difficult to slice after thawing, so I recommend pre-shredding.

Freeze shredded cheese into useable portions. To prevent the shreds from sticking to each other, shake in about one tablespoon of cornstarch before freezing or use the flash-freeze method. Store for up to 3 months.

Use it for: Best in any dish you want "melty" cheese for, like pizza or mac and cheese.

How to prepare before using: To thaw, place in your fridge overnight or leave it on the counter for around 30 minutes. You can also use frozen if it's going on a dish that's going to get melty (like pizza).

Instructions: How to Freeze Cheese

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How to Freeze Strawberries and Other Berries

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Flash freeze in a single, flat layer for one hour. If freezing strawberries, just be sure to trim the green tops off.

Use it for: Smoothies, 3-ingredient freezer jam

Instructions: How to Freeze Strawberries and Other Berries

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How to Freeze Cantaloupe (works for pretty much any melon)

gentlysustainable.com

Slice cantaloupe into bite-sized pieces, removing any rind. Flash-freeze in a single layer on a sheet pan for about an hour, then transfer to a freezer-safe bag.

Use it for: Smoothies.

Instructions: How to Freeze Cantaloupe

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How to Freeze Bananas

Instagram: @intentfulspaces

Peel and slice bananas into bite-sized pieces. Flash-freeze in a single layer on a sheet pan for about an hour, then transfer to a freezer-safe bag.

You can also choose to freeze your bananas whole, just make sure to peel them first.

Use it for: Smoothies, baking.

How to prepare before using: Toss frozen into smoothies. If you're using your bananas for baking, thaw overnight in the fridge or at room temperature for an hour.

Instructions: How to Freeze Bananas

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How to Freeze Avocado (Mashed, Cubed, or Halved)

instagram.com

Cube/mash/half your avocado, douse in lemon juice, and freeze in freezer-safe bags.

Use it for: Dressings, dips, sauces. Frozen avocado is less ideal for salads and sandwiches because of the texture impact.

How to prepare before using: Thaw overnight in the fridge or at room temperature for an hour.

Instructions: How to Freeze Avocado

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How to Freeze Mushrooms

montereymushrooms.com

Slice your mushrooms and sauté for about 7 minutes (if you don't do this step, your mushrooms will get all mushy when they thaw). Flash-freeze in a single layer on a sheet pan for about 30 minutes. Transfer to a freezer-safe container.

Cook method: Sauté.

Cook time: 7 minutes.

Use it for: Stir-fries, soups, bakes, casseroles.

How to prepare before using: Throw in a hot dish, no need to thaw.

Instructions: How to Freeze Mushrooms

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Brooke Greenberg/BuzzFeed

It's recommended to blanche high water content vegetables before freezing. To blanche or not to blanche is your choice, but blanching will 1) help your food last twice as long in the freezer 2) kill off any lingering germs 3) better preserve flavor and texture.

The process goes something like:

- Wash and cut your veggies.

- Boil water. Once boiling, cook or steam veggies to the point where they're cooked through but still retain their original color (I'll specify below which method to use for each vegetable, and for how long).

- Dunk in a bath of ice water to stop the cooking process.

- Once drained and cooled, blot off any extra moisture and transfer to a freezer-safe bag for long-term freezer storage.

You'll want to blanche leafy greens, celery, corn, carrots, cabbage, squash, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans.

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How to Freeze Leafy Greens (For Long-Term Preservation)

sustainablecooks.com

Once you've chopped your leafy greens (and de-stemmed if working with kale), you'll want to blanche it. Squeeze out any excess water with your hands and flash-freeze clumps in a muffin tin for about two hours. Remove the pucks, and freeze in a freezer-safe bag. The pucks should last 6 months.

Blanche method: Steam or boil (steaming will result in less wetness to remove before freezing)

Cook time: 2 minutes.

Use it for: Stir-fry, pesto, sauces, smoothies.

How to prepare before using: Place bag in a bowl of cold water to thaw. It will also cook down quickly in a hot dish.

Instructions: How to Freeze Leafy Greens for the Long-Term

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How to Freeze Celery

sustainablecooks.com

Use blanching method if you plan on storing celery longer than 2 months. Otherwise, flash-freezing should be sufficient.

Prep and chop celery. Blanche in boiling water for 3 minutes before dropping celery into an ice bath with a slotted spoon. Remove excess moisture and flash-freeze on a sheet tray for 2 hours. Transfer to freezer-safe bags.

Blanche method: Boil.

Cook time: 3 minutes.

Use it for: Soups, stews, hot dishes.

How to prepare before using: No need to thaw if using in a hot dish.

Instructions: How to Freeze Celery

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How to Freeze Corn

Instagram: @happyhivevt

Blanche shucked corn cobs. Once removed from the ice water bath, slice off the kernels (an electric carving or serrated knife comes in handy here) and store in freezer-safe bags. Make sure your corn is dry before freezing.

Blanche method: Boil.

Boil time: 6 minutes.

Use it for: Chowders, chilis, casseroles, just eating plain with a little butter and salt.

How to prepare before using: Most cooked dishes do not require thawing beforehand.

Instructions: How to Freeze Corn

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How to Freeze Carrots

instagram.com

Peel, cut, then blanche carrots. Cool, soak up any excess moisture, and then freeze in freezer-safe bags.

Blanche method: Boil.

Boil time: 3-5 minutes.

Use it for: Any dish that calls for cooked carrots, like stews, soups, and chilis.

How to prepare before using: Most cooked dishes do not require thawing beforehand.

Instructions: How to Freeze Carrots

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How to Freeze Cabbage

instagram.com

Quarter the cabbages, being sure to leave in the core (otherwise all the leaves will fall off). Blanche, let drain in a colander, squeeze out any excess moisture, and store in freezer-safe bags.

Blanche method: Boil.

Boil time: 3 minutes.

Use it for: Any dish that calls for cooked cabbage, like stews, soups, braised cabbage, or corned beef. It won't be crisp, so coleslaw is not your best bet for frozen cabbage.

How to prepare before using: Most cooked dishes do not require thawing beforehand.

Instructions: How to Freeze Cabbage

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How to Freeze Zucchini or Yellow Squash

instagram.com

Slice (or spiralize!) zucchini. Blanche, let cool, and remove any excess moisture. Flash-freeze for about an hour, then transfer to freezer-safe bags.

Blanche method: Boil.

Boil time: 1 minute.

Use it for: Soups, casseroles, stir-fries, smoothies, pasta dishes.

How to prepare before using: Most cooked dishes do not require thawing beforehand.

Instructions: How to Freeze Zucchini

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How to Freeze Broccoli (This method also works for cauliflower and green beans.)

acleanbake.com

Cut clean broccoli into florets and blanche in boiling water (or steam). Next, flash-freeze the florets in a single layer on a sheet pan for a few hours. Transfer to freezer-safe bags and freeze.

Blanche method: Boil or steam.

Cook time: 3 minutes.

Use it for: Stir-fry, sauces, soups., casseroles.

How to prepare before using: Throw it into a hot dish, no need to thaw first.

Instructions: How to Freeze Broccoli

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Brooke Greenberg/BuzzFeed

Find out the best ways to freeze ginger (absolutely GAMECHANGING), eggs, tomatoes, garlic, milk or heavy cream, leafy greens, apples, potatoes, and rice.

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How to Freeze Ginger Root

premeditatedleftovers.com

Peel your ginger root, place in a Ziploc bag, and freeze.

Whenever you need to use ginger in a dish, just grate or zest the frozen root into your cooking. Frozen ginger is actually easier to grate than fresh ginger.

How to prepare before using: No need to thaw. Just grate or zest wherever you need it. You may need to slice or grate off any outside skin first.

Instructions: How to Freeze Ginger Root

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How to Freeze Eggs

Robyn Stone / Robyn Stone addapinch.com

Spray down a muffin tin with nonstick spray. Crack eggs individually into each receptacle and freeze for 30 minutes to an hour (until liquid has solidified). Remove eggs and store in a freezer-safe bag.

Use it for: scrambled eggs, baking, and quiches.

How to prepare before using: Allow to thaw in a bowl in the fridge overnight before use. Or soak the whole bag in cold water.

Instructions: How to Freeze Eggs

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How to Freeze Tomatoes

kitchentreaty.com

Puree your tomatoes in a blender or food processor and pour into a muffin tin sprayed with non-stick spray. Flash-freeze the muffin tin until the liquid is frozen. Slide pucks out and store in freezer-safe bags.

Use it for: Soups, pasta sauces, chilis.

How to prepare before using: Let it thaw in a bowl for an hour, or use the microwave if you're in a rush.

Instructions: How to Freeze Tomatoes

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How to Freeze Garlic

instagram.com

Peel and chop your garlic cloves (a food processor helps here) and stir in 1/4 cup of olive oil (a sufficient amount for 3 or 4 bulbs of garlic's worth). Spray down a baking sheet with nonstick spray and spread your garlic-oil mixture over the tray evenly with a spatula. Use a bench scraper to create one-inch square slices. Flash-freeze for several hours, then transfer to a freezer-safe bag. You might want to double bag to ensure the garlic smell doesn't leech onto other foods in your freezer. One square = about one teaspoon.

If you're not dealing with massive amounts of garlic, you could also freeze them in little balls, kinda like cookie dough, on a sheet pan. Or you could freeze the mixture in ice cube trays.

Note: There is a risk of botulism from bacteria that can grow when garlic is immersed in oil at room temperature. Don't leave a melted garlic cube sitting at room temperature — always transfer frozen garlic in oil directly from the freezer to whatever you're cooking ASAP.

Use it for: Cooked dishes like pasta, sauteés, soups, mashed potatoes.

How to prepare before using: Transfer garlic cube from freezer to cooking dish immediately (do not thaw at room temp!)

Instructions: How to Freeze Garlic

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How to Freeze Heavy Cream or Milk

littlehouseliving.com

You can freeze heavy cream or milk in ice cube trays. You could also store in a mason jar, just be sure to leave a couple inches of space at the top to account for expansion.

Use it for: Sauces, hot coffee, soup, smoothies.

How to prepare before using: Toss into smoothies frozen. To thaw, leave overnight in the fridge or soak the jar in cold water for about 30 minutes.

Instructions: How to Freeze Heavy Cream

Instructions: How to Freeze Milk

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How to Freeze Spinach or Kale (For Short-Term Preservation)

unsophisticook.com

If you're willing to use your leafy greens within the next 4-6 weeks, just storing it in a freezer-safe bag should be fine. Just be sure to soak up any excess moisture and get as much air out as possible.

There's no need to flash-freeze since a bag full of spinach will likely cook down to a useable portion anyway.

Use it for: Smoothies, stir-fries, pasta dishes, sauces

Instructions: How to Freeze Leafy Greens for the Short Term

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How to Freeze Apples

instagram.com

To keep sliced apples from turning brown, you'll want to first douse them in a solution of 1 tbsp lemon juice (salt works, too) in 1 quart of water. Dip each apple slice in the mixture and flash-freeze for 1-2 hours in a sheet pan. Then store in freezer-safe bags.

Use it for: Smoothies, baking, apple sauce.

How to prepare before using: Toss into smoothies frozen. For baking and applesauce, thaw at room temperature for an hour.

Instructions: How to Freeze Apples

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How to Freeze Potatoes

Instagram: @geministyles

Weird things can happen when you freeze potatoes. They can end up mealy when thawed to the point of being inedible, and in some cases, they can even turn black. In order to preserve a potato's integrity in the freezer, it's best to incorporate some fat — which is why mashed potatoes are one of the least-compromising ways to freeze potatoes. Just be sure to use a recipe that incorporates butter or cream.

You can do a flash freeze in single-portion lumps to make your life easier when it's time to put dinner on the table.

Instructions: How to Freeze Mashed Potatoes

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How to Freeze Rice

budgetbytes.com

Once you've made a ton of rice, let it cool and partition into singular servings in freezer-safe bags.

How to Prepare Before Using: You can reheat on the stove or in the microwave with a little water.

Instructions: How to Freeze Rice

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Finally, here's a handy chart of frozen food storage windows.

freezerlabels.net

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These meals will make your weeknights way simpler. (And tastier!)

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