Do you find yourself t owing away leftovers time and time again, unable to keep up with your family’s meal portions? Or are you simply tired of the endless meal prep cycle and want to make your life easier? Look no further because we have the solution for you!
Freezing leftovers is a great way to reduce food waste and save time, but it’s not always as simple as it seems. That’s why we’re sharing with you little-known freezer hacks that will take your meal prep game to the next level.
T oughout this article, we’ll cover everything from portion control to blanching, flash freezing, and using a vacuum sealer to preserve freshness. We’ll even show you how to freeze citrus zest and herbs for flavor boosts and label your containers for easy tracking.
So, let’s get started and learn how to freeze leftovers like a pro! But first, take a look at this image for some inspiration on how to use your frozen leftovers:
1. Freeze in Portion Sizes for Easy Reheating
If you’re tired of reheating the same gigantic container of leftovers every time, freezing in portion sizes is your solution! Individual containers or bags make reheating quick and convenient, allowing you to whip up meals in no time. Be sure to label each portion with the date and contents to avoid confusion and prevent wastage.
Tip: Using zipper-lock bags is an excellent space-saving option, as you can store them flat in the freezer, saving room for other items.
2. Blanch Greens Before Freezing
Are your leafy greens turning into a mushy mess when you thaw them? Blanching your greens before freezing can help maintain their vibrant color, and crunch. It’s a simple technique that requires boiling or steaming the greens for a short time and then quickly cooling them down.
First, rinse your greens under cold water and chop them into bite-sized pieces. Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil, and add them in. You can also use a steamer basket to steam them instead for 2-3 minutes. Next, transfer the greens to an ice-cold water bath to stop the cooking process and quickly cool them down. Once cooled, drain them and pat dry.
Finally, pack the blanched greens into freezer bags or containers and remove as much air as possible before sealing. Label the bags with the date and contents, and place them in the freezer.
Using this technique will help prevent freezer burn and preserve the taste and texture of your greens, so you can enjoy them in your favorite recipes, anytime.
3. Flash Freeze for Better Texture
If you’re tired of ending up with one big frozen lump, try flash freezing your leftovers. Spread out cooked pasta, rice, or chopped vegetables on a baking sheet and freeze them for 30 minutes. Why does this method work? Flash freezing prevents clumping and ice crystals, ensuring better texture and flavor when you’re ready to enjoy your leftovers.
For an extra burst of flavor, consider adding a drizzle of olive oil or a sprinkle of herbs before freezing your food. Once the individual pieces are frozen, transfer them to a freezer-safe container or bag for long-term storage.
4. Freeze Broth & Soups Flat to Save Space
What’s better than a steaming bowl of homemade chicken soup on a chilly evening? Having it ready to go in your freezer, of course. But soups and broths tend to take up a lot of space in the freezer, making it hard to store other meals. That’s where this freezer hack comes in handy: freeze your broth and soups flat!
All you need to do is pour your soup or broth into a freezer-safe bag, remove as much air as possible, and lay it flat on a baking sheet or tray. Once frozen, these flat bags can be stacked upright for optimal space optimization. Easy, right?
Freezing your broth and soups flat has another added advantage: it reduces defrosting time since the liquid thaws more evenly. Whether you’re making vegetable stock, beef stew, or chicken noodle soup, freezing flat is a simple and effective way to save space and time when it comes to your freezer.
5. Embrace the Vacuum Sealer for Maximum Freshness
If you’re serious about reducing food waste and keeping your freezer organized, investing in a vacuum sealer is a smart move. Not only does it help you save time and money, but it can also preserve the integrity of your ingredients for longer.
With a vacuum sealer, you can:
- remove excess air from bags or containers, preventing freezer burn and extending shelf life
- seal your food items airtight, limiting bacteria growth and odors from seeping in
- freeze food into specific portions for convenient meal prep and portion control
Pro Tip: Embrace the vacuum sealer and use it to seal individual portions of marinated meat, fish, or delicate ingredients like berries and herbs. This way, you can defrost only what you need and avoid the risk of waste from defrosting larger quantities.
Before you start using your vacuum sealer, be sure to read the instructions carefully and choose the right bags and containers for your needs. Vacuum sealing can be an investment, but with proper care, it can provide long-lasting benefits for your kitchen and your wallet.
6. Freeze Citrus Zest & Herbs for Flavor Boosts
Don’t let leftover citrus rinds and herbs go to waste! Instead, learn how to freeze them to enhance the flavor of your dishes.
Start by washing and drying your citrus fruits and herbs. Use a microplane or zester to remove the zest from the citrus and finely chop the herbs. Then, place them in separate compartments of an ice cube tray, filling each one about two-thirds of the way.
Next, pour water into the tray and freeze it. Once frozen, remove the citrus zest and herb cubes and store them in a freezer-safe container or bag labeled with the date and contents.
The next time you need a quick flavor boost in soups, stews, sauces, or cocktails, simply drop a cube into the dish as it cooks. You can also use the citrus zest cubes to add bright flavor to baked goods or as a garnish for drinks.
Benefits of Freezing Citrus Zest & Herbs:
- Prevents wasting leftover citrus rinds and herbs
- Allows for easy flavor addition to dishes
- Can be used in a variety of recipes
7. Freeze Cooked Grains for Quick Sides
Leftover grains like quinoa, brown rice, or farro can be easily transformed into a quick and healthy side dish or meal prep bowl. The key is to freeze them in individual portions, so you can quickly thaw and reheat them whenever you need them. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Allow the cooked grains to cool completely before freezing them.
- Divide the grains into individual portions using freezer-safe containers or bags.
- Label each container or bag with the date and contents using a permanent marker.
- Make sure to remove as much air as possible from the container or bag before sealing it to prevent freezer burn.
- Place the containers or bags in the freezer and store them for up to 3 months.
To reheat the frozen grains, simply microwave them for a few minutes or cook them on the stovetop with a splash of water or broth to prevent them from drying out. You can also add fresh herbs, spices, or veggies for extra flavor.
8. Label with Liquid Levels for Easy Tracking
Have you ever pulled a container of frozen soup or sauce out of the freezer and wondered how much is left? Avoid the guessing game by labeling your containers with liquid levels before freezing. This simple trick will save you time and prevent defrosting surprises.
To label your containers, first, fill them with your soup or sauce, leaving some empty space at the top. Use a permanent marker to mark the fill level on the outside of the container. Be sure to include the date and contents, as previously mentioned.
It’s recommended to label with the date and contents first, then mark the fill level. When it’s time to defrost and enjoy your leftover soup or sauce, you’ll know exactly how much you have left.
9. Freeze Sauces & Dressings in Ice Cube Trays
If you love adding extra flavor to your meals, freezing sauces and dressings in ice cube trays is a game-changer. This hack will help you to save time and add convenience to your meal prep routine. Simply follow these steps:
- Portion your favorite sauces, dressings, or pesto into clean ice cube trays.
- Cover the trays with plastic wrap and freeze them. It will take around 2-3 hours for them to freeze completely.
- Once they are frozen, pop them out and store them in an airtight container or freezer bag.
- Label the container or bag with the name of the sauce or dressing and the date you froze them.
When you’re ready to use them, simply take out one or two cubes and thaw them in the fridge overnight or defrost them in the microwave for a quick, easy flavor boost to your pasta, salad, or dip.
Pro tip: to save time and avoid mess, use a small funnel to pour the sauces and dressings into the cubes.
By utilizing this freezer hack, you’ll always have flavorful sauces and dressings on hand without having to make them from scratch each time. Plus, you’ll reduce waste by utilizing leftovers or excess ingredients from past meals. Frozen sauces and dressings will last for up to 6 months in the freezer, making them a versatile addition to any meal-prep routine.
10. Reheat Strategically for Optimal Results
Now that you’ve learned how to freeze your leftovers efficiently, it’s time to talk about reheating.
One of the best strategies for thawing frozen leftovers is to transfer them from the freezer to the fridge overnight. This gentle method of defrosting allows for even cooking and optimal food safety.
When it’s time to reheat your leftovers, consider the best method for the type of food you’re heating up. For example, soups and stews are easily reheated on the stovetop, while cooked grains and vegetables can be warmed up in the oven.
It’s also crucial to keep an eye on the heat and avoid cooking your meals at too high of a temperature. Low heat and gentle reheating techniques will help you achieve the best results.
By reheating strategically, you can ensure your leftovers are just as tasty as the day you cooked them. Remember to reheat strategically, and enjoy your delicious, hassle-free meals!