Preserving food is a great way to save money and reduce food waste! It's also a smart tool for healthy eating, allowing you to prep meals ahead of time if you’re a busy bee like so many of us are. So, when your favorite veggies are on sale, or if a friend offers you garden surplus, stock up and preserve what you won’t eat right away.
There are many ways to preserve food- canning, dehydrating, pickling and fermenting- but the easiest method is freezing. Canning is tedious and results in the loss of nutrients over time, pickling and fermenting are finicky, but freezing food only takes a few minutes of prep.
What Vegetables can I freeze?
Nearly all vegetables can be frozen! However, there are a few types of produce to stay away from. “Salad vegetables” that you’d typically only eat raw like lettuce and cucumbers don’t do well in the freezer, and tomatoes will change texture (though this is fine for some soups and sauces). Dark leafy greens are fine, if you plan to use them in a cooked dish like quiche or stir fry. Fresh herbs can be frozen in olive oil and then transferred to a stasher bag.
To Blanch Or Not To Blanch?
Blanching is a pre-freezing process that involves dunking washed and peeled vegetables into boiling water for a few minutes, then plunging them into ice water to cool before draining and packing them into bags. It is recommended that you blanch many vegetables (view a list here) before freezing them, as vegetables that are stored long-term (8 months or more) will lose less nutrients and retain a better texture.
But is blanching always necessary? The jury is out on this one. Personally, I have had better luck for short-term storage (2 months or less) with simply freezing vegetables raw. I find that the texture stays a bit crisper, and I’ve never had any problems with freezer burn or discoloration using my stashers.
Making Your Own Mixed Veggies
I love the classic frozen mixed veggies combo of corn, carrots, and beans, and I like to keep a few bags full in the freezer to quickly add to meals that need a veggie boost. Since I am trying to reduce my single-use plastic, I’ve been making my own DIY mixed veggies, and the results have been great! The taste is so much fresher than the mixed frozen veggies I’d buy at the store, and I’m no longer throwing away plastic packaging.
Here’s my super easy, no fuss process:
1. Wash corn, green beans, and carrots.
2. Drain vegetables (I whirl mine in a salad spinner for a few seconds).
3. Using a sharp knife, slice corn kernels off the cob. Cut the ends of the beans off, and cut in small pieces. Dice Carrots.
4. Squeeze all the air out of your stasher bag, and seal the top tightly before popping in the freezer!
Label your stasher bag with the date using a dry erase marker, that way, you won’t forget how old your vegetables are and can use them up while they’re at their best!
Keep things dry to avoid water crystals forming on your frozen veggies. If you don’t have a salad spinner, drain in a colander or pat dry with a clean towel.
Seal out that air! Freezer burn is caused by oxygen coming into contact with frozen food.
Thawing and Using Frozen Veggies
Once your veggies are frozen, they can be stored up to one year! When you are ready to eat them, simply add them straight into a soup, casserole, or other dish. If you plan to eat them on their own, try steaming. Steaming frozen vegetables is the best way to keep a good texture- boiling will quickly turn them to mush! I like to use the sous vide method to quickly heat up my frozen veggies and ensure the best flavor. It’s easy, too; just pull your stasher of veggies out of the freezer and put it straight into a pot of boiling water to cook within the bag until piping hot. Remove and serve!