Many ingredients are packaged and sold at the supermarket in quantities large enough to feed several people, creating waste for those of us just cooking for two. In the test kitchen, to avoid unwanted waste and trips to the supermarket for a single ingredient, we lean on a handy appliance we already have in the kitchen: the freezer. The freezer is ideal for any home cook looking to store leftover ingredients that aren’t going to get used immediately—and it can handle much more than the usual ice cream and frozen dumplings. Here are 10 surprising food items you can store long term in your freezer. (And for ideas on how to use them, check out our full catalog of recipes that serve two people.)
10 Leftover Ingredients You Didn’t Know You Could Freeze
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How to Prep for Freezer: Peel bananas and freeze in zipper-lock freezer bag.
To Freeze and Use: Defrost and use to make banana bread or muffins, or drop into our inexpensive winning blender while still frozen for fruit smoothies.
How to Prep for Freezer: Freeze butter in its wrapper. (When stored in the refrigerator, butter can pick up off-flavors.)
To Freeze and Use: Transfer to refrigerator 1 stick at a time as needed. To quickly soften frozen butter, cut into small pieces or place in zipper-lock bag and pound to desired consistency with rolling pin.
How to Prep for Freezer: Place some small paper cups on tray and fill each with ½ cup buttermilk; place tray in freezer.
To Freeze and Use: Once buttermilk is frozen, wrap each cup in plastic wrap and store in large zipper-lock freezer bag. Defrost in refrigerator before use for our recipes like BBQ Chicken Sandwiches with Buttermilk Slaw or Buttermilk Pie that call for ½ cup buttermilk or more.
4. Canned Chipotle Chilies in Adobo
How to Prep for Freezer: Spoon out chiles, each with a couple teaspoons of adobo sauce, onto different areas of baking sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze.
To Freeze and Use: Transfer frozen chilies to zipper-lock freezer bag for long-term storage. Use in any recipe that calls for canned chipotle chilies in adobo.
How to Prep for Freezer: Wrap hard and semifirm cheeses like Parmesan, cheddar, and Brie tightly in plastic wrap, seal in zipper-lock bag, and freeze.
To Freeze and Use: Store in freezer for up to 2 months. Whether you're cooking a childhood favorite like Skillet Macaroni and Cheese that calls for cheddar cheese, or a savory dessert like our Grandma's Special Dutch Apple Cheese Muffins, make sure to defrost the cheese in the refrigerator before use.
6. Citrus Zest
How to Prep for Freezer: Remove zest from entire fruit. Deposit grated zest in ½-teaspoon piles on plate and freeze.
To Freeze and Use: Once piles are frozen, place them in zipper-lock freezer bag and return them to freezer. Add your prepared grated zest to lemon sugar cookies and lemony pasta at your convenience.
7. Egg Whites
How to Prep for Freezer: Pour leftover egg whites (never yolks) into each well of ice cube tray and freeze.
To Freeze and Use: Use paring knife or small spatula to remove each frozen egg white cube and defrost in small bowl in refrigerator as needed. Instead of cracking a fresh egg for desserts that call for egg whites (like meringues, mousse, and custards), use your leftovers. Still iffy about freezing egg whites? Learn the difference between how freezing leftover egg whites compare to fresh whites in whipped applications.
How to Prep for Freezer: Place 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary, sage, parsley, or thyme and water to cover (about 1 tablespoon) in each well of ice cube tray and freeze.
To Freeze and Use: Once cubes are frozen, transfer to zipper-lock freezer bag and store. Add cubes directly to sauces, soups, or stews.
How to Prep for Freezer: Due to their high fat content, nuts go rancid quickly unless frozen. Freeze nuts in zipper-lock freezer bag.
To Freeze and Use: Frozen nuts stay fresh for months. No need to defrost before using; frozen nuts can be chopped just as easily as fresh.
How to Prep for Freezer: Measure 1 tablespoon wine into each well of ice cube tray and freeze.
To Freeze and Use: Use paring knife or small spatula to remove each frozen wine cube and add as desired to pan sauces.