Tips for Frugally Freezing Fruits and Veggies
by Reader Contributors
What produce freezes well and what’s the best way to freeze it? Our readers share their best tips and tricks for frugally freezing fruits and veggies.
Dear Dollar Stretcher,
Which fruits and veggies freeze well? I’m seeing some good prices both at the grocery store and local fruit stands. We have a large chest-type freezer with plenty of room. I’ve never been a canner. Seems like I should be able to do a little prep work and freeze some of the summer harvest.
What fruits and veggies freeze well? And, are there any special techniques that minimize damage?
Frugally Freezing Fruits and Veggies
Whether you grow your own produce or stock up during seasonal sales, you can save a lot of money by freezing your inexpensive produce finds.
Our frugal readers had a lot of tips to share for freezing produce. Read on for their best fruit-freezing advice.
You Can Freeze A Lot of Produce!
In my experience, lots of fruits and veggies can be frozen, including tomatoes.
One of the best ways I have found is to slice the fruit into bite size pieces first. In the case of strawberries, I slice them in half. I lay them out on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and then pop the cookie sheet into the freezer until they are frozen. Then I transfer them into a freezer bag. One of those devices that sucks the air out of the bag might be a good investment, but I never seem to keep the frozen fruit that long as I use it up in smoothies. I do this with other fruits like bananas (they don’t even turn brown), blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherries, cantaloupe, mango, etc.
You can also do this with veggies like butternut squash, green beans, broccoli, and others as well. Of course, with most vegetables, blanching them first and then cooling them down in a bath of ice water is the first thing to do. I like the idea of freezing the veggies and fruit individually as it is easier to separate out how much you want to use of it.
Related: 14 Ways to Buy Produce for Less
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Freezing Tomatoes with Ease
I grow tomatoes, but they ripen at the hottest time of the year. Who wants a steam bath at that time of the year? My solution is so easy.
I wash the tomatoes, put them on a cookie sheet covered with waxed paper, and put them in the freezer. When they are frozen, I put them in a zippered storage bag and return to the freezer. Repeat until the tomatoes are all frozen.
When I need tomatoes, I take out what I need and let them thaw in a bowl. When they are thawed, I pinch the skin and pull it off. It’s like they just came out of a can with far less effort.
Check Your Grocer’s Freezer
Almost anything that you can grow may also be frozen. The only exceptions I can think of right now are lettuce and cucumbers. Bu, if you use the lettuce in cooking, such as in a soup, you could probably freeze even lettuce.
I have frozen tomatoes for use in cooking by simply quartering them and putting them in freezer bags. The skins slip off when cooked and can be removed if you wish. I chop onions and peppers in sizes appropriate for dishes I cook.
To use space efficiently, either freeze individual pieces on a tray and then bag or be sure to flatten the bag before placing in the freezer. I prefer the former, so I can use small portions when I wish.
Look in the grocer’s freezer at all the fruits and vegetables to get more ideas about what to freeze or check the website of your local extension service.
Know How to Prevent Freezer Burn
You can freeze almost any fruit or veggie except lettuce. Freezing changes the consistency of most things, but the flavor will still be excellent. Anything delicate or juicy will be mushy when thawed regardless of what you do, but if you’re cooking with it or making a smoothie, it doesn’t matter in the end. I personally chop and freeze flat in baggies onions and peppers. For tomatoes, I finely dice or even put them in the blender or food processor and then freeze in small containers to use as a base for soups or pasta sauce. Be sure to keep paste type tomatoes such as Roma separate and label the container so you know which are best for sauce.
For fruits that tend to turn brown (peaches and bananas), sprinkle with a bit of Fruit-Fresh® (found in the canning isle). For the really juicy ones, freeze in small containers. For things like berries and banana slices, freeze flat on a baking tray and transfer to freezer bags. I don’t like the consistency of apples or pears that have been frozen, so I make applesauce and freeze that.
The key to not getting freezer burn is to make sure the item is not warmer than room temperature when it goes into the freezer, and once it’s frozen, it needs to be placed in a thick freezer bag or container with all possible air removed and kept frozen until you’re ready to use. Do not place it in the freezer door where it will get warmer and colder as people open and close the freezer.
Hope you enjoy your frozen goodies!
Related: How to Prevent Freezer Burn
Most Produce Freezes Well
Freezer boxes are space-effective and can be used for leftovers once emptied. Boxes keep out odors from other produce better than bags, but plastic bags can be used if you prefer.
Peel fruit and place in water with vitamin C pills dissolved in it. This will keep fruit from browning. Reserve peels for making jelly. Fruit can be put directly into boxes with a slotted spoon or can be flash-frozen on cookie sheets and then stored.
Non-browning fruit can be washed in a weak solution of white vinegar and water to kill mildew and then frozen.
Bananas can be frozen whole for snack pops, sliced for puddings, or pureed when overripe for banana bread.
The Punk Domestics website has great recipes for herb or wine jellies made with fruit peelings.
Some Creative Ways to Freeze Fruit
Frozen Fruit: Berries and soft fruits freeze well for future eating. Spread berries in a single layer on a cookie sheet. For stone fruit like peaches and plums, slice in half, remove the pit, and freeze the halves. Peaches can also be frozen whole; if you thaw them in warm water, the skins slide right off. Store fruit in plastic freezer bags, squeezing out as much air as you can to prevent freezer burn. Eat frozen, or thaw in warm water (also an easy way to wash it). Sprinkle fruit on cereal or ice cream, mix into fruit salads or smoothies, or bake into pies. For kids, frozen fruit is better than popsicles. Thawed, the fruit is slightly mushy, but it still tastes fresh.
Sugared Fruit: Slice and sugar fruit like berries or peaches to bring out the sweet flavor, then freeze in bags or plastic freezer containers. Spoon over pancakes or waffles.
Freezer Jam: Freezer jam is easier to make than traditional varieties, it uses less sugar, and it keeps that fresh-picked taste. Smash or slice fruit, add sugar and freezer jam pectin, and stir. (See freezer jam package for exact proportions, since recipes vary by brand.) Freeze the jam in bottles or plastic containers. Do not store jam for too long in the fridge, as the low sugar content gives it a shorter shelf life. You can also freeze cooked jam.
Fruit Yogurt: For a cross between sherbet and frozen yogurt, mix blended fruit with an equal portion of plain, vanilla, or fruit-flavored yogurt. Store in plastic containers or plastic bags, or freeze in ice-cube trays for popsicles.
Easy to Freeze Peppers
I freeze green peppers for cooking in the winter months. If no time to chop, I just wash them and put into a zipper bag. Before I seal it, I crush them down with my hands, seal, and then freeze. Then when I need some to cook, I just take out the piece I need and rinse it off. The slightly frozen pieces are easy to chop.
Freeze to Have Available in Winter
I customarily freeze all my excess produce each summer, so that I have it available during the winter. I can use the produce in soups and cooked meals, but in the case of vegetables, I won’t be able to have them crisp and raw.
I freeze peppers, celery, onions, and carrots simply by removing any seeds and then mincing them into small pieces and placing in individual baggies. When cutting up the peppers, I remove the white portion inside, since it’s bitter.
I also cook tomato sauce and then freeze it instead of canning it. Since the flavor is in the seeds and skin, I only take out the bitter white portions of the inside and cook the rest.
For freezing berries, I pick them when ripe, set them out on a cookie sheet so they’re not touching, and then freeze. After they are fully frozen, they can be packed in baggies or vacuum sealed.
Freeze Corn in the Shucks
Corn can be frozen in the shucks. I just put the frozen corn into the microwave for about six minutes for two ears of corn. When I take them out, I use a towel to handle them as they are quite hot. As I strip the shucks off, the silks come off also, or sometime I just cut them off with scissors.
Freeze Fruits as Pie Fillings
For most fruits/veggies, the process is the same. Remove the stems, rinse in a colander or water bath, and spread out in a single layer on towels to dry. This part can be messy, so I recommend paper towels or cotton “tea” towels that can be bleached. Once they’re completely dry, transfer to a single layer on a cookie sheet and freeze overnight. Then store your produce in an airtight storage bags.
We’ve done several types of berries, tomatoes, green beans, and peppers this way with good results. Diced peaches, pineapples, melon, etc. can be frozen using the “single layer” method for fruit salads and smoothies.
Slice peaches, apricots, apples, etc. and freeze together for pie filling. Simply allow the bag to thaw and dump it in your mixing bowl when you’re ready to bake.
Reviewed July 2022
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