Freezing leftovers is one of my favorite ways to reduce food waste and cut down on food prep time during the week, but knowing exactly what and how to freeze food can be confusing.
I like to freeze leftover ingredients (canned coconut milk, cooked/canned beans, tomato sauce, canned chilis, etc.), leftover portions of cooked meals, and foods that I don't use quickly enough before they go bad (cheese, bread, deli meat, bacon, etc.)
It is safe to freeze just about about anything. Major exceptions would be foods in a can (remove from can prior to freezing) or eggs in the shell. However, there are some foods that freezing them can degrade the quality (I will leave those foods off the list).
I have made a list below of common foods that you can stick in the freezer for longer keeping.
What can you freeze?
Fresh chicken, turkey, steak, fish (be sure to only freeze once. Once you have taken it out to thaw, you need to cook it or toss it)
Bacon or sausage
Soups/stews (recommend storing in single serve containers to make it easy to heat up for quick meal)
Cheese (I recommend shredding or slicing prior to freezing)
Baked foods (cookies, cakes, pies, etc.)
Leftover canned coconut milk (don't freeze in the can)
Leftover canned goods - beans, tomato sauce, chilis (don't freeze in the can)
Ripe bananas (take out of the peel prior to freezing)
Q: Does freezing destroy nutrients?
A: Nope. Freeze away!
Q: What should I store the food in?
A: I prefer to pre-portion out foods into food containers or freezer bags before freezing them. This makes it easier for me to take out of the freezer and defrost the exact portion that I need (again, less food waste).
Q: How long can I keep something in the freezer?
A: Food will be safe in the freezer almost forever. However, the quality of the food can deteriorate. Recommended storage times very for optimal freshness. When in doubt, I recommend smelling and looking at the food. If something does not smell or look right, probably safer to throw it out.
Click here for a printable refrigerator and freezer storage chart from the FDA.
Q: How should I thaw food? A: In the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. When thawing meat in the microwave on "defrost" option, I recommend checking the meat frequently. It can be helpful to turn the meat periodically during the thawing process to make sure it thaws evenly and the meat does not start cooking. For meats specifically, I prefer to thaw in the refrigerator.
Sources and additional information:
National Center for Home Food Preservation (great information if you are wondering if a specific food can be frozen or not)