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Freezing Leftovers

Category Leftovers
Leftover food in containers in the fridge.
One problem many people have is getting a chance to eat leftovers before they go bad. One option is to freeze them until you are ready to eat them. This is a guide about freezing leftovers.
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By 34 found this helpful
July 23, 2009

Saving the contents of a partially opened can; and other tips to use freezing certain condiments, spices and even garlic.

This one is really easy. Once you have opened a large jar of a product, usually it goes into the refrigerator, and sometimes spoils if you do not use it quickly enough. This applies to most canned goods, or other things that may only be used a certain amount of the time.

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Why waste opening another jar, or buying more of that item? Get out your ice cube trays! This is a great solution if you are saving something like pizza sauce, tomato sauce, broth, salsa, barbecue sauce and many other items. Even cheese dip seems to work as well. We've tested most possibilities over the years and the only poor outcome was potatoes; mashed or cubed.

This also works really well with garlic. If you are like me; you may like fresh garlic, but it's a pain to peel, chop, and sometimes goes bad if you leave it in the refrigerator too long.

For each liquid item, fill up the ice cube trays about 2/3 full (each "cube"). put in the freezer and when frozen, pop out and put in a ziplock bag and keep it in the freezer. Use as many cubes as you like, it's the perfect portion size and no chance of waste.

The garlic trick is to peel and wash the garlic, toss it into the blender with some water and then pour it into the ice cube trays. it's a wonderful way to have fresh garlic around at all times. Only one warning with the garlic, please make sure you put your frozen garlic cubes in a good container to prevent the garlic odor from mingling with the other foods. I don't recommend ziplock (odor still got out into the rest of the freezer). Now I use a glass jar, which seems to be working just fine.

All those left over sauces and broths can be frozen as well, with the exception of flour-thickened gravy.

I believe over the last 15 years that I have been using this technique it has worked with all items with those exceptions: gravy, potatoes. Everything else comes out just fine. So easy to reach for the proper amount without opening a new can.

By Bella S. from Forks, WA

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Comment Was this helpful? 34
July 25, 20090 found this helpful

I freeze mashed potatoes all the time with great results. Just use sandwich size Ziplocks, and put a cup or so in the bag, press the potatoes to flatten the package, and push them into all the corners to eliminate as much air in the bag as possible. Zip it and stack them in the freezer. To serve, thaw them in the bag, then put them in a microwavable bowl, and heat in the microwave. When hot, stir well with a fork to refresh them. If they are a little dry, stir in a bit of milk and butter. They are as good as fresh done in this manner. This is a good way to store potatoes if they begin to sprout before you can use them up.

Harlean from Arkansas

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July 26, 20090 found this helpful

Do you use separate ice trays for freezing spicy foods, and sweet foods, etc? It seems to me that it'd be easy for the flavors to overlap between uses of the ice trays.

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December 21, 20090 found this helpful

I use a cookie batter scoop (or an ice cream scoop) for mashed potatoes. Freeze individual scoops on a cookie sheet. Once frozen, put in a ziploc bag and then you can take out however many you want when you need them.

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August 15, 20100 found this helpful

I know how much garlic can penetrate. I even had the problem with glass. I saved a jar that had the chopped garlic in it. I was making my own lotion and used the jar to put the lotion in. I brought it to work for some quick lotion on hands. I have no sense of smell LOL, but my co-workers did! They said the lotion reeked of garlic! I learned my lesson on never re-using a garlic jar!

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By 4 found this helpful
May 14, 2010

Baggies are essential in your kitchen. When bringing home those large frozen meat "specials" divide them into meal portions as soon as you get home instead of putting the whole package of meat in the freezer.

Example: Baggie up two porkchops. With a permanent marker, write (2) PC (abbreviation for pork chop). Do this with pork steaks (PS), hamburger (HB). I also cooked up my taco meat for the future and when I bag it up, I write TACO or T on the baggie.

Also when cooking spaghetti sauce, bag it up and write SS on the baggie, etc. Do this also with leftover SS and you will soon have another pot with all of your smaller leftover baggies for another meal! Happy Baggie Days.

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By Jane from Paducah, KY

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May 17, 20100 found this helpful

Use freezer bags, as your food product is protected against freezer burn a little more than with the regular storage bag. You also want to put the date on the package as well. Some food items get freezer burned faster than others. Other "dump" items you may put together with the like item and 1 may be freezer burned and the other not burned. Having 5 children I have done this for years and even pat out ahead my hamburger sandwich patties and can package 4 good-sized patties in 1 gallon-sized bag. Since the freezer-type bag is also heavier plastic a person can also recycle them a couple of times before tossing.

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By 1 found this helpful
February 13, 2009

Even though the kids are grown and away from home, I figured out a way that I could save a lot of money and we could still eat the meals that we've grown to love over the years. When TV dinners were on sale, I purchased a number of them. We used these dinners when we were in a hurry rather than eating fast food.

When done, I washed and saved the "plate". Then, whenever I fix a roast, I create TV dinners with some of the leftovers and create a beef stew or a casserole with the rest. The trick to doing this is to have a variety of dinners on hand (turkey, roast beef, chicken, or even left over casserole).

My husband figures we've saved a lot of money by not having to pay for fast food. There's also the energy savings because I don't have to heat the oven every day and the A/C doesn't have to work as hard as it does when the oven is on. If I don't want to fix a meal or if we're in a hurry, all we have to do is take out a homemade TV dinner and we can eat a good balanced meal that is seasoned the way we like them.

Just because the kids aren't here now, doesn't mean that we can't eat the good meals that my husband loves all the time. For example, if I fix a large roast beef for dinner, I'll fix perhaps 4 or 6 TV dinners with sliced roast beef and then get another 4 to 6 meals from the leftover beef when I fix it as a Beef Stew or Shepherd's Pie. That saves me from having to cook a minimum of 4 additional meals. It is a little extra work, but in the long run, it's not that much extra work.

Just make sure you place the "plate" in a freezer bag and make sure it's flat in your freezer to keep everything on the "plate" and reheat in the microwave just like the TV dinners you purchased at the store.

By Bobbie from Mesa, AZ

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February 13, 20090 found this helpful

I like to do something like that for my husband when I go to visit my mother. I stay 2 weeks and he doesn't want to eat sandwiches and I don't want him trying to cook in MY kitchen so this works great.

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February 13, 20090 found this helpful

My mother used to do this back in the '60's when I was a kid. TV dinners were a treat and came in foil pans with sections. She would save these and fill them with leftovers like meatloaf or pot roast. They were a timesaver back in the old days--just pop them in the oven for 45 minutes and your meal was ready.

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By guest (Guest Post)
February 16, 20090 found this helpful

This is a great idea, but you need to be careful. The plastic in the "plates" is not made to be reheated multiple times and could potentially leach harmful chemicals into your food. I would still use this tip, but purchase divided plates that are made to be heated in the microwave. Even though there would be some cost involved, it would still be money saving in the long run.

God Bless!

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February 17, 20090 found this helpful

I'd also say buy reusable divided plates. They should be available at the dollar store. Also, you can use something like Glad Press-n-seal to cover. We get ours at Wal-mart, but the dollar store probably has it, too.

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October 6, 2014

I don't mean to be advertising for Land O Lakes butter but this little 8 ounce container has really come in handy for me. Being flexible, rectangular shape and having a lid make it the perfect container for me to use for freezing turnip salad in a serving size for the two of us. I am so glad that I did not put these containers in the recycling bin.

Yesterday, I cooked my first pot of turnip salad right out of the garden and prepared some to put in the freezer. After putting it in the butter containers, I placed it in the refrigerator freezer over night.

Today, I removed the frozen turnip salad from the containers and placed each cube in a cheap sandwich bag and taped it shut. They fit perfectly in the bottom of the gallon zip lock bag and there's room to add more. I washed the containers and have them ready to the next cooking.

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By 2 found this helpful
November 21, 2011

Sometimes a recipe calls for broth and you purchase a larger amount than needed. To avoid waste, you can pour the leftover amount into ice cube trays or a plastic container and freeze.

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August 26, 2009

I find that when I make a soup with pasta in it, the pasta gets very soft when trying to serve the soup as a leftover. When I have a lot of leftover soup, I will now put it directly into a casserole dish and freeze it.

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July 11, 2007

I purchased a set of 4 trays for $1 at my local discount store and have used them for all sorts of non-ice items. Cubes thaw faster than blocks of food in larger sizes, and store easily in zipper freezer bags. Just be sure to label the bags.

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By 1 found this helpful
February 26, 2011

When preparing soups or anything with leftovers to be frozen for later use, I save the excess in ziploc freezer bags. When the food is cooled enough for freezing, lay the bags flat in a baking pan until they are frozen.

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By 0 found this helpful
February 29, 2008

Experts say that the best way to SLASH your grocery bill is to eliminate the waste-stop throwing things out! Here is my way of salvaging the tablespoon of corn or green beans that is not enough to eat but I can't bear to throw out.

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By 0 found this helpful
July 15, 2011

I really think that the introduction of Clip Lock bags (Freezer Use) are the next best invention since sliced bread! I usually go over the top and make too much of a particular meal/soup sauce (all the kids have now left home and sadly I still cook for 6 rather than 2!).

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By 2 found this helpful
March 27, 2011

If a leftover food is good for a soup, wrap it, write on it what it is, and freeze it. Some things will need to be chopped fine before use, but add a lot of flavor.

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September 15, 20040 found this helpful

When you cook a chicken and have leftovers to put in the freezer, store the chunks of chicken in broth to keep it from drying out. Your chicken will be nice and moist when you need it for casseroles, etc. By Katz

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September 30, 20040 found this helpful

When making pizza, there always seems to be more sauce than we need, so I freeze leftovers in ice cube trays and take out one or two when needed. These are great for a quick tortilla pizza night. Just use tortilla shells instead of pizza dough.

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Questions

Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

By 0 found this helpful
March 18, 2009

I live alone, but when I cook I make recipes for a family, then put portions into small 1 or 2 cup containers and put them in the freezer. Then I take them out when I want them. However, often when I do, they are freezer burnt and I have to toss them!

I guess the containers I use don't do a good job of keeping the freezer burn out. I'm tired of throwing out food. How can I store these portions and not get freezer burn on them? Thanks in advance for your replies.

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March 18, 20090 found this helpful

Try using zip lock bags, and double bagging the food. Put the first bag into the second upside down after squeezing out as much air as possible from both. I find that I have much less freezer burn when I do this. I wash and reuse all bags except those which held meat. By the way, we're neighbors as I'm on Grand Island.

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March 18, 20090 found this helpful

I use a little thing called Handi-Vac by Reynolds (it is where the food bags are). I freeze the food in a cheep 1 quart bag then slip it into a Handi-Vac bag and use the Handi-Vac device to remove the air. No air no freezer burn. Since no food touches the Handi-Vac bag I reuse them. Glad has a product that does the same thing. I have had stuff in the freezer for 60 days with no burning. It is only 10 bucks but well worth it.

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March 18, 20090 found this helpful

Those are great ideas, but what do I do with the small plastic containers I have? I guess I could put the food in them, then put them in one of those vaccuum bags or another plastic bag?

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March 18, 20090 found this helpful

When freezing food in 1 or 2 cup plastic containers, I place a piece of saran wrap on top of the food and press it down so there are no air bubbles on the surface of the food. This eliminates air contact and the food freezes better this way. The plastic wrap does not have to be cut to size perfectly. I usually put the lid on with the excess wrap sticking out of the container, then I trim it roughly with scissors. If there is enough head room in the container, I just fold the excess wrap over the food and put on the lid.

How long are you keeping your frozen food? I think the quality does deteriorate the longer it's kept. I wouldn't like to keep frozen leftovers more than 3 months. Or maybe it's your fridge--how old is it?

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March 18, 20090 found this helpful

I found an article online:

http://ezineart … -Like-You-and-Me!&id=2086402

iI referred to a blog and I found a menu on there that is specifically for people short on time and money - it is all cooked and then frozen to reheat later. It is just enough for one adult and two children under 5 to eat for 20 days. You could take a look at it and adjust it a little since you do not have the kids! Hope that helps! Lara

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March 19, 20090 found this helpful

I, too, live alone and freeze portions for future use. I freeze the item in freezer cartons, once frozen hard, pop it out and into ziplock freezer bags, squeezing out all excess air. Should be good for several months. I also store them in larger plastic cartons for easier access and doubling the danger of freezer burn.

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March 20, 20090 found this helpful

The freezer in a refrigerator is not cold enough for storage longer than a week. A deep freezer is much better. I use sandwich bags, folding the top back over the contents to eliminate air then zip shut. I then store all the small bags in one or two large freezer bags which are date labelled.

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Anonymous
March 20, 20090 found this helpful

I also live alone and do the plastic baggie storage technique. I love OliveOyl's idea about the plastic wrap placed on top of the food in the 'containers' because pasta sauces, refried beans, etc sure are messy once thawed trying to remove from a plastic baggie ;-) LOL! Thanks so much, OliveOyl ;-)

As for takelababy's comment about a refrigerator freezer not being sufficient to freeze for more than a week, well, that's simply not true. I've been freezing small portions of all sorts of foods for years and they freeze quite well for up to three and four months depending on the food type. Just place the items you know will be stored for a longer period of time towards the back of the freezer.

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March 20, 20090 found this helpful

I use a vacuum. sealer (food saver). My sister just got one, and loves it. 3 of my friends use mine, all the time. I have had mine for about 7 years.

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March 20, 20090 found this helpful

I, too, live alone, and live a hectic life, so when I cook, it's for several meals! I purchased a "Food Saver" last fall....and don't know how I live this long without one! Not only the extra cooking, but now do now canning as my trusty Food Saver looks after all! It has paid for itself time & again! I also live where seafood, shellfish is plentiful (in season) so love preserving this way, to be enjoyed a yr. long! Cheers!

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March 21, 20090 found this helpful

What I do is line my heating grabbit bowl with a baggy that is filled with the leftovers, freeze it like that, then put the bowl away. So later unmolding it fits my bowl exactly. Also if you freeze fresh fish I fill with water. Meatballs keep better with lots of sauce.

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March 21, 20090 found this helpful

Place food in small ziplock sandwich bags make sure all air is out then place bags in large freezer ziplock bag again press down so you can release air and now the grand finale. Place large freezer bag in a large brown paper bag make it as flat as you can place rubber band around bag put in freezer take one small bag out as you need to use. Guess what no more freezer burn.

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March 24, 20090 found this helpful

I like to freeze my food in sandwich bags. I put the food/ sauce in the bag and gently squeeze out all of the air. Then I place the bag in a gallon freezer bag. If you lay the bag flat in your freezer, you'll have extra room. Plus it makes thawing a breeze! When it comes to freezing pasta, be sure not to cook the pasta thoroughly. This will help prevent it from being less than desirable once it is thawed.

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March 25, 20090 found this helpful

Wow-- Thanks for all your clever ideas! I've got a meatloaf in the oven right now and I'll try a few of these ideas to freeze the slices and let you know how they turn out! :)

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October 7, 20140 found this helpful

Can I freeze leftover lasagna? And if so, in what, a glass container, or plastic?

By Sonia I

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April 20, 20150 found this helpful

Can you freeze sauerkraut and ribs and for how long?

By Donna

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By 0 found this helpful
March 13, 2009

Using leftovers can be tricky. The hardest leftovers to use are those in the in-between size. It's too much to add to one's own dinner portion, too much to throw away, yet not enough to make a full-sized meal portion.

I save them anyway, using in a zip-top baggie or a baby food jar if I don't have a container of the correct size for the portion. I freeze them if the food is freezable, too.

Later, I can take them out and prepare a mini-serving in whatever container makes sense. Soup stays in the baby food jar or tiny Rubbermaid-type container, while a thick spread may be put on a tortilla or lettuce wrap (use a flexible leaf, steamed in the microwave, so it won't break apart when wrapped); anything solid can be put into a baggie or a reusable silicone cupcake mold. (I also make meatloaf in these sometimes, just to have tiny portions.)

Then when it's time to prepare a box lunch for myself or DH, I take out several mini-portions of everything: meatloaf, tortilla, tiny lasagna slice, itty bitty leftover pizza circles that I've cut from a full-sized slice with a biscuit cutter, a teeny portion of salad, one or two fish sticks or chicken nuggets... anything that's small, or can be made small. I fill a bento box (do a net search on 'bento box') halfway with this sort of thing, then fill the empty spaces with grapes, berries, cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes, slices of cucumber, and so on.

Tiny, cute food is fun to eat, and you can pack in a lot of good variety and good nutrition if you focus on smaller portions of good foods instead of bigger portions.

By Chayil from USA

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March 13, 20090 found this helpful

I don't know why I never thought of this, but it's the tops when it comes to those bits. Now I will save more of those 'bits' because I know they won't fill up the freezer. Lunch is more for snacking for me than dinner is. Thanks.

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March 14, 20090 found this helpful

I use a plastic ice cream bucket and put all leftovers that do NOT contain dairy in it after dinner and stick it in the freezer. When it's full I put it in a stock pot and cover with tomato juice and simmer. Served with crusty bread or cornbread it's really good and it tastes diffetent every time I make it. The boys always say "You can make this anytime!" Little do they know I can't!

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March 14, 20090 found this helpful

I find that especially with picky eaters, or those who would otherwise forget to eat lunch, that it's easier to get them to eat something that's tiny and cute than to get them to eat a whole big serving of one thing that maybe wasn't their favorite.

I also highly recommend using fun-shaped cookie cutters to cut out biscuits, and also to cut slices of cornbread, lasagna, pizza, and so forth. I've been known to use the same star-shaped cutter for a fried egg, lasagna, pizza, even a burger, and piling all the similarly-shaped but differently-flavored foods into a bento box together. The combination of colors and flavors delights my DH.

Also, all the DH's co-workers like to come to my DH's desk to see what cool things I've done to make DH's lunch cute. I'm sure it would have similar effect on a child's classmates.

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March 14, 20090 found this helpful

I keep a 2 cup container in the freezer of my refrigerator and when I have a few vegetables leftover, I put them into the container. When the container is full I have enough mixed vegetables for another meal, as in equal to a can of vegetables! I don't like throwing out a couple tablespoons of food so this is a good way to recycle.

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