What can you do if you have leftover produce in the fridge that you don’t want to go to waste? Freeze it! Cherie Pasion shows us how it's done.
As summer draws to an end and autumn fast approaches, now is the time to benefit from the season of abundant produce. Specials on summer fruits and vegetables can be found in farmers’ markets and fruit stores. Or perhaps your own garden is overflowing with summer fruit and vegetable goodness.
Why freezing food is good for you and the planet
It’s estimated that almost half of all fruit and vegetables produced globally are wasted i, and up to 40% of the average household bin in Australia is food waste ii. Instead of letting leftover produce go to waste, with a little bit of preparation you can have fresh produce in the freezer ready for the winter months.
Like most people, you probably lead a busy life. Fewer trips to the shops means more time you have for yourself and your family. Plus your back pocket will thank you for it. You’ll also save yourself reaching for fast comfort foods in winter months by having frozen, unprocessed, yet healthy and delicious fruits and vegetables on hand to use.
How to freeze common fruits and vegetables
While you can cook up a batch of tomato sauce ready for winter, why not just core fresh tomatoes and pop straight into a freezer bag? Then you can add the frozen tomato to your winter stews down the track.
Grapes and berries
These bite-sized fruits are great to freeze. To avoid sticking together, spread individual grapes or berries on a tray and let freeze. Then add loose to a container or freezer bag. You can eat the grapes alone as an ice-cold treat or use them instead of ice-cubes in cold drinks. With the berries, simply add to smoothies, yoghurt or use in your baking.
How many times have you bought a big bunch of herbs for a recipe, only to use just a little bit and the rest has gone to waste? Next time you have leftover herbs, chop them up finely, and together with some water spoon into your ice-cube tray. Once frozen, pop into little containers or freezer bags. Now you have manageable herb blocks to add to winter casseroles and sauces.
If your bananas are ripening in this summer heat before you can eat them, throw the overripe bananas – skin and all – into the freezer for use later on when baking. To defrost, you can zap in the microwave or put in a bowl of hot water, and then simply squeeze out the fruit. Alternatively, you can chop up ripe bananas and store in freezer bags, ready to add to breakfast smoothies.
Summer and autumn veggies
This requires a little bit of extra preparation, as vegetables need to be blanched in order to stunt the ripening enzymes, however it’s worth it.
Prepare your vegetables as you normally would (e.g. trim ends of beans, peel and dice carrots, cut broccoli into florets, etc) and then cook in boiling water for a minute or two. Cool in ice water and then freeze. An extra tip is to score the freezer bag with a chopstick, and then once frozen you can snap off small amounts during later use or better still freeze in small individual containers.
Vegetable scraps to make stock
Keep a brown paper bag in the freezer to store your vegetable scraps. Scraps could include onions (skins, tops and bottoms), carrots (peels, tops and bottoms), celery (tops and bottoms), corn (cobs), mushroom (stalks), garlic (skins, tops and bottoms). When the bag is full, make a vegetable stock by boiling the scraps together in water for at least 30 minutes. Strain the scraps and you are left with vegetable stock. You can use the stock within 3 days in the refrigerator or pop in the freezer for those winter soups.
Lemons and limes
If you have lemons and limes leftover from summer drinks, consider squeezing the juice into ice-cubes. You can also zest the rinds and freeze those too.
Love food, hate waste!
For more fresh food storage tips to prevent waste check out Brisbane City Council’s Love Food Hate Waste website.
* Savings are an estimate based on typical prices. Mileage may vary.