Everyone’s had it—the quarter-carton of nearly expired buttermilk, the half-full can of tomato paste, the expensive tin of something or other that you opened only to use one tablespoon of. You push it into the back corner of the fridge, hoping that maybe you’ll be inspired in the next few weeks to whip up a batch of buttermilk pancakes or something using chipotle chiles in adobo, only to discover it six months later, forlorn and covered in mold. (Probably after you’ve already bought a new carton of buttermilk or can of whatnot because you forgot you already had some.) Stop the cycle! Odds are, whatever it is, you can freeze it. Not only does this mean you’ll always have some at the ready, you could potentially save hundreds of dollars a year by eking every last ounce of usefulness out of the ingredients you buy.
Unless you possess a particular enthusiasm for drinking buttermilk, odds are you’re only using 1/2 to 1 cup at a time. Some stores sell little half-pint containers of buttermilk, but many (Grocery Outlet, for one) do not—you’re stuck with an entire quart of the stuff. So long as you’re baking with it (it will separate, so it’s not great for drinking), buttermilk is perfectly freezable. When I’m done using a carton of buttermilk, I’ll simply freeze it in 1-cup increments in plastic bags. It reheats quickly in the microwave, or simply leave it out on the counter for a few hours and let it defrost naturally.
2. Egg whites
Yep—totally freezable. I’ve even made soufflé out of defrosted egg whites. Simply label the amount of egg whites on the outside of the bag, lay flat, and freeze. (Freezing them 2 at a time allows you to be able to make coconut macaroons in an instant.) I admit I’ve had some of these in the freezer for quite a long time—six months or more, in some cases—and have yet to notice a decrease in quality.
3. Tomato paste
Again, those pesky little 6-ounce containers of tomato paste can be scooped out, put in a plastic bag, flattened and frozen. There are at least 6 tablespoons per 6-ounce can; I make sure the paste is very flat so I can easily break off 1-ounce pieces (about 1 T) as I need them. This is also great to do with any other paste, including harissa or curry.
4. Chipotle chiles in adobo
A lot of recipes may call for one chile, but once that can is open, the clock starts ticking. Again, this is a great candidate for freezing in a flattened plastic bag—I’ve had the contents of one can in my freezer for over a year, chipping little pieces off the block as needed. If I’m just looking to add a hint of chipotle flavor, I’ll carve off pieces of the frozen adobo sauce only—it’s a great addition to tomato sauces, grits, polenta, rice…you get the idea.
5. Individually wrapped slices of bread
As readers may know, we bake fresh bread twice a week. It’s great the day of, but without preservatives, it gets stale fast. It’s freezable in whole-loaf, unsliced form, but then the whole loaf has to be defrosted and then that gets stale. To mitigate this, we’ve taken to individually wrapping slices of bread in plastic wrap and freezing them. Not only can they just be taken out and popped in the toaster (or defrosted in the microwave), the individual wrapping keeps them fresh-tasting and free from freezer burn or off flavors. Plus, because it’s just bread, we’re able to save the pieces of plastic wrap and use them again and again. This would also work well with store-bought bread.