The foods you can freeze… and the ones you can’t

Don’t just fill your freezer with ready meals and ice cream. There are loads of surprising foods you can freeze to help you avoid food waste and save some cash.

As I wrote earlier in the year, a freezer is a great helper in saving money. You can stock up on reduced grub and avoid food waste but putting away your leftovers and unused ingredients before they spoil.

Now, I’m sure you’ve all got a loaf of bread, some chicken breasts and some ice cream in your freezer, but there’s much, much more you can store there. 

I’ve spent hours reading loads of different articles to bring you this fairly hefty list of what you can freeze, some things to bear in mind when doing it, and also some things where it’s not worth putting them in the freezer.

What foods you can freeze

It turns out you can freeze most things, I’ve listed a few exceptions further down the page. But I’ve shared some of the more unexpected that even the waste-conscious of you might not be aware of.

Leftovers – I’m putting this at the top as I’m always surprised how many people throw out portions of perfectly good grub if they’ve cooked too much. So if you’re not going to eat it for another meal, there’s a good chance you can freeze it – as long as it hasn’t been cooked from frozen in the first place.

Hard cheeses – The advice is to grate it before freezing, or at least chop into small chunks. This not only helps avoid a change to the texture but also makes it easier to use in dishes or throwing on the top of meals.

Butter and margarine – A good one if you find a haul that’s been reduced. It’s best to put any blocks in a freezer bag. Salted butter will last longer than unsalted.

Milk – Semi-skimmed and skimmed milk apparently are best for freezing. It helps to take a little out of the bottle so there’s room for the milk to expand. I’ve also read you need to leave it to thaw for two or three days, and then it’s best to use for cooking rather than drinking. So practically I think you’re probably better off buying it fresh.

Eggs – It doesn’t happen too often but I find recipes which require a yolk or a white but not both really frustrating. The unused part normally ends up in the bin. But according to this website, you can freeze both yolks or whites – perfect for the next recipe that requires one or the other.  You can also freeze beaten eggs.

Cakes – I don’t know why this wasn’t obvious, but I only started freezing leftover or reduced portions of cakes five or six years ago. Some types of frosting/topping might not freeze well though.

Pizza – If you’ve made your own pizzas, you’ll know they’re so much better than frozen ones. But the latter can be really convenient. Well, you can get the best of both. Whether you’re using a ready-made base or one of your own, prepare it as usual, top it, then cover it in clingfilm before freezing. AND you can cook it straight out of the freezer.

Pasta – I’ve read a few mixed things here so it might be one to try next time you have leftovers. But in theory, though the texture won’t be as good as when you first cooked it, it’s fine to bag up a portion of pasta and sauce. If you know you’re going to freeze some, then it’s better to remove some from the pan when it’s al dente.

Vegetables – It helps to parboil veg then immediately put them in ice water before freezing. You can then boil or roast them straight from the freezer.

Herbs – Whenever we get fresh herbs from the supermarket there are always too many, so we freeze the leftovers. These tend to be fine for cooking with later, though you wouldn’t want to use them for salads. We tend to put the packs in an airtight container, but I’ve read that you can also chop the herbs up and put them in a little water in an ice cube tray.

Garlic – Just put the cloves in a freezer bag. It obviously helps to separate them first.

Bananas – Ever since the TV show Arrested Development featured the frozen banana stand, I’ve experimented with freezing my own. My number one tip is to take the skin off! You can blend frozen ones into a nice dessert, not too dissimilar to ice cream or you can chop them and dip in chocolate before freezing for bite-size snacks.

Grapes, lemons and limes – Put a frozen grape or slice of lime (chop it before freezing) in a glass and you’ve got a great alternative to ice.

Wine – If you’ve got a bit of a bottle left, rather than chuck it out, you can freeze it. Then it’s there to use for cooking when you need it. Ice cube trays are a good way to portion out what you have left.

What you can’t freeze

These are the most common items I found which people advise you not to freeze. Though, with the exception of whole eggs you can potentially cook with most of the items.

Salad – Avoid high water content fruit and veg like tomatoes, cucumber and lettuce.

Eggs – Raw or hardboiled eggs are a no-no unless you take them out of the shell.

Yogurts and creams – On the whole, the advice is you can’t freeze things like this as they’ll split. So this includes cream and cream based sauce, soft cheeses such as cottage cheese or cream cheese, yogurts, sour cream,  and mayonnaise. However I did read a few sites which said you could freeze the odd exception, such as full-fat cream cheese. 

Soft cheese – These too won’t survive the freezing process in a way that makes them edible.

Cooked rice – Apparently just not very nice at all.

Fried food – You’ll lose the crisp and crunch of fried food when freezing it, so it’s probably not worth it!

Meringue and egg white based frosting – Best to avoid.

Galatine based – Jelly won’t freeze! So along with cream and custard, it means you really do have to eat all of the trifle.

Defrosted meat – You know this one right? If you’ve frozen raw meat or fish, and defrosted it, you can only freeze it again if you’ve then cooked it.

> Read more: The website The Spruce Eats has instructions and videos for freezing all sorts of ingredients

5 thoughts on “The foods you can freeze… and the ones you can’t

  1. Raphael Baldacchino September 7, 2021 at 7:22 am

    As you said you can re-freeze meat if you cook it first, the same applies to previously feozen meals. Cook them first which sterilizes them.

    The same applies to cooked pasta and rice which is contained in many commercially frozen ready meals.

    There is no need to freeze hard cheese like cheddar and butter except for unsalted butter which is better frozen for the reason you said – it doesnt keep as well as salted. Hard cheese and salted butter can be kept beyond their dates in a fridge if it’s at the best te.perature -about 2C.

  2. Fitoru Keto Support October 6, 2020 at 12:18 pm

    This is definitely going to be a big part of my diet because I honestly don’t know anything about the foods that I can freeze and I’m afraid I’ll just have to throw away foods that can still be cooked or used. Thanks a lot for posting!

  3. I grow cucumbers and tomatoes in the summer and freeze them in large quantities. I put the cucumbers in smoothies (chop them before freezing). Tomatoes are fine for cooking and can be thrown in whole or make tomato sauce for bolognaise or tomato and pepper sauce which goes well with chicken.

    1. Thanks Ruth, hadn’t thought about using cucumbers in smoothies!

  4. I don’t see why you cannot freeze a meal that was frozen before you cooked it as cooking it sterilises the meal. There is no need to freeze cheese, especially hard cheese, or butter or margarine as they will keep perfectly well, unopened, in a fridge at the proper temperature, preferably 3C or less. In fact these products will mature. but you can freeze them if needs be. Yogurts and cream can also be kept in a fridge if unopened. These dairy products are heat treated before being sealed in packaging and therefore sterile which is why they will keep provided the seal is intact and unopened. I have kept such items months after their best before or use by dates.


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