I enjoyed Mark Bittman's column yesterday on what we might call the new pantry, a reflection on how our staple items might be changing or should be, all of it a reflection of our increasing interest in cooking great food sensibly and efficiently (photo for The Times by Francesco Tonelli).  He notes things such as bouillon cubes are out (or should be), and a simple stock of a carrot celery and onion boiled in 2 cups of water should replace it—so true.  Better than canned chicken stock, too.  Making your own vinaigrettes rather than buying bottled dressings, which he calls a ripoff (a decent olive oil, salt and a squeeze of lemon juice over crisp greens is far superior, in my opinion).  Having parmigiano reggiano on hand (I ALWAYS have this—grated or shaved on pasta, on salads, seasoning for soups, finishing a gratin, no end to its uses), fish sauce, sherry vinegar (buy the good stuff it's worth it).  One item I didn't agree with, or not whole heartedly at least.  Canned tomato paste should be out, tubes of it in.  He argues we seldom need a whole can.  True.  But whole cans are better quality and less expensive.  What I've been doing for years is opening both ends of a can, pushing it out whole, slicing off what I need, wrapping the rest and freezing it.  It keeps for months frozen and it's easy to slice off as much as you need.  I always put some in stock, where I use it most.  Nothing wrong with the tube, but it got me thinking what are the things I always want to have in my freezer?

—Tomato Paste, for sauces and stocks.

—Chicken stock, frozen in quart zip top bags, no end of uses (you always have a good meal at hand when you have some stock in the freezer).

—Slabs of bacon for lardons, for noon time frisee and poached egg salads, stews and soups and pastas (bacon, like most fat rich foods, freezes very well).

—Chipotles in adobo sauce, for the great smokey heat in anything tomato based.

—Thai curry pastes for last minute curries and dramatic seasoning.

—Dried red chilli peppers (I do at least one stir-fry a week and like them hotter than everyone else, so I fry them black in plenty of oil for and use both the oil and the chillis throughout the week).

—Ginger can be frozen and grated when you need it, so you always have it on hand.

—Phyllo dough and puff pastry to turn leftovers into elegant meals, tarts and pot pies.

—Baguettes from On the Rise Bakery (find a good bakery near you—don't rely on grocery store baguettes); good fresh baguettes freeze great.

Would love to hear what invaluable staples you keep in your freezer.


159 Wonderful responses to “The Freezer Pantry”

  • Joey D'Antoni

    2 and 4 ounce portions of frozen veal and chicken stock!!!!!

    Pretty much everything else you mentioned. Also, since we got the circulator I usually have a couple of “ready to go” circulator dishes frozen.

  • joelfinkle

    Ginger is something I use frequently enough that I keep it fresh… although I usually end up throwing out 25% or more because it spoils quickly. The galangal I should probably mince and freeze in ice cube trays — it’s too big to try to grate frozen.

    But freezers are great for certain herbs that don’t get used all that often, and whose texture isn’t critical: sage, keffir lime leaves, curry leaves.

    Pine nuts are another that I keep in the deep freeze, they spoil too quickly to go through a Costco-sized bag.

    Fresh chiles from my garden keep for a long time. I have some grilled and some fresh jalapenos and some habaneros at the ready at all times. For that matter, I have several bags of roasted sweet peppers and oven-roasted tomatoes too.

  • Charlotte

    Frozen peas (commercial organic), lots of greens from last summer’s garden blanched and put up with the vaccuum sealer, jars of garden parsley-basil whizzed in the processor with lots of olive oil, the remains of my half pig, half lamb, and random cuts of antelope and elk.

  • RB

    Roux, especially the darker brick roux, in small lumps. It is time consuming to make, and therefore handy to defrost.

    On a more location-specific front I am lucky enough to get to Toronto several times per year. Each time I visit the St. Lawrence market and have one or two peameal bacon loins sliced into individually wrapped third-lb packages which freeze well and are handy for breakfasts and even dinners.

  • Natalie Sztern

    I always have various types of Viennese sausages because my favorite store La Vieille Europe is too far…sausage and beans on a ski day…

  • jod

    Freeze fresh herbs in an ice tray. You can’t really defrost them and use them as fresh again but they are great to throw into soups and sauces. Freeze them in chicken stock if you’d like.

    I’m a college student so I find a way to freeze more than I keep in my fridge because I rarely use anything up fast enough.

  • Amy

    I make different kinds of herb pesto, with herbs from our garden, all throughout the summer. I freeze the pesto in individual portions (either in ice cube trays or scooped in mounds onto a sheet pan) and keep the frozen portions in a ziptop bag. Perfect to take out for pizza, pasta, spooning over a some fish, etc.

    If I ever have leftover pieces of fresh bread, sometimes I’ll process them into crumbs in my food processor and keep a bag of frozen fresh breadcrumbs.

  • JRPfeff

    I keep bags of frozen barbecued pulled pork and beef. The addition of this to a pot of chili or soup adds a tremendous amount of smokey flavor.

    My wife must have 10 pounds of unsalted butter in the freezer, ready for any baking emergency.

  • Frank M

    I was rather proud of myself for having replaced most of what Bittman wrote, but I also disagreed with canned paste-my local grocer sells packets of it (4/$1), which works good too. Don’t forget butters!

  • Catherine

    Pine nuts. I buy them from local gatherers (high country, Arizona) and after I revel in the lamb crusts, pesto, tarts, and brittle, I freeze the rest. I cannot, will not, live without my pine nuts.

  • Laura

    Pesto made with summer basil, veggies from the garden blanched and vacuum packed, bacon!, home grown chicken, home grown sundried tomatoes and ice cream. There’s other things in there as well since we buy beef by the quarter and pigs by the side. But the first are things I always have and use weekly.

    Never thought to keep ginger in the freezer – great idea!

  • Scott

    Frozen Dill
    Brownies (kids lunches)
    Pesto (made during summer)
    Tomato Paste
    Coffee Beans
    Chicken Breasts
    Whole Wheat Flour
    Corn Meal

  • gfweb

    Basil pesto, sun dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, jalapenos, mexican chorizo (fixes any boring dish), spanish chorizo, gruyere, parmagiano, cheddar. Hmmm I discern a pattern here.

  • gfweb

    Basil pesto, sun dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, jalapenos, mexican chorizo (fixes any boring dish), spanish chorizo, gruyere, parmagiano, cheddar. Hmmm I discern a pattern here.

  • Laura

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who keeps many pounds of butter in the freezer!

    Aside from most of the above, I always have Maida Heatter’s Queen Mother’s cake, some
    unbaked homemade rugelach, meyer lemon juice and peel frozen in the correct amounts to make lemon curd, several kinds of homemade ice cream, a chicken carcass or two waiting to be made into stock, several soups and stews packed in individual servings, purees of spinach, carrot, butternut squash, apple and pear, turkey stock (thank you, Michael), and green beans, peppers and berries from the garden. For my kids I also stock individual servings of mac and cheese, turkey lasagna, mini precooked two ounce hamburgers, and chicken marbella (my three year old would eat it breakfast lunch and dinner if she could) and homemade pizza dough.

    I prefer making fresh organic food every night, but I love being able to give everyone organic home cooked meals and handle last minute company with my freezer when I can’t.

  • Bill Burge

    I like to freeze some summer fruit every year. If you lay it out on sheet pans to freeze it, and then vacuum seal them, they keep very well. It’s a beautiful thing to bake something like a blackberry peach cobbler in the dead of winter.

    I also can’t say enough for freezing on sheet pans. So many times I see people freeze things as a block and then worry about separating off what they need. If you simply take something like bacon, for example, and lay the strips out before freezing, you can then throw them in a ziplock and easily pull out what you need. Same goes for other meats, vegetables, the above mentioned fruit, etc.

  • Dick Black

    Frozen berries, sundried tomatoes, several types/sizes of canned tomatoes , frozen shrimp are some of the comestibles I keep on hand.

  • JWC

    I keep a zipper bag full of Parmesan rinds in there. They are a great way to add some salt and complexity to soups.
    Lots of stocks, bacon, baguettes.
    I keep my vanilla beans in a bag of sugar in there,too. And a couple of big rolls of sugar cookie dough too.
    If I have unexpected guests, or my sweet tooth comes alive, I can bang out some cookies, or use it as a tart dough.

  • Maura

    Tomato paste in tablespoon sized portions, vegetable stock, chicken stock, butter, ginger, dried herbs, shrimp shells (for stock), little bits of leftover gravy/sauces/roux etc. that I can’t bear to throw out.

  • carri

    Berries and Rhubarb are two of our favorite freezer staples…and nettle pesto, which I make in big batches in the spring when the nettles are everywhere! At the Bakery we cube stale sread and freeze it to stock up for thanksgiving crouton making. You’re correct that bread freezes well…just pop it in the oven to crisp up the crust once it is thawed.

  • Erin

    I keep all of those things along with a selection of beans, grains and sambal oelek. I have never bought a bottle of salad dressing and even as a kid I passed over the bottle of “Italian” dressing for lemon and olive oil.

  • dailyfill

    Lemongrass stalks.

    Naan to have with quick curries.

    And like JWC, I keep homemade cookie dough in the freezer; I scoop dough into individual balls, freeze on a tray to keep them separate, and then bag them.

  • carri

    oops, I meant to say ‘bread’ no ‘sread’ in that last comment and one other thing about Bittman’s article I have to disagree with is that Balsalmic Vinegar is out…even if it’s the cheaper stuff , it’s something I could never be without!

  • elle cee

    Meatballs – I always try and make large batches then freeze them on a sheet so that they are ready for a quick meal.

    Middle Eastern flabread – awesome for making quick toasts if people come by unexpectedly, or for serving with curry meals.

    Stock – usually turkey because we eat a lot of it.

    Homemade pasta sauce for quick meals.

    Trader Joe’s fresh pizza crust.

  • Kurt

    Basic tomato sauce – some in 1/2 cup glad containers and some in 2 cup containers. Great for individual pasta servings spiced up with pancetta/bacon/guanciale, onion, and red pepper. Braising anything with a little wine (or even water and a little tomato paste).

    RAGUS – bolognese, sausage, chicken livers/giblets, etc they all freeze extremely well and last a few months. Put them in 1/2 cup containers and you have yourself a excellent meal in the time it takes to boil pasta. I usually make batches with 2 lbs of the given meat, not skimping on the ingredients and it costs about $20. Makes about 12 servings. Using good dried pasta, each meal comes out to less than $3. Just make sure you have two or three different cheese in the fridge to add a little variety.

    I don’t like freezing roux or anything of that nature. I find that making up a small batch of bechamel to be extremely rewarding, despite its simplicity, and it is great to top anything along with some parmesan, and through in the oven for a bubbly, browned crust.

  • Kurt

    forgot to say:
    Mix paragraph one (2 cups) with paragraph three and some extremely undercooked pasta and a breadcrumb (we already have some, per Bittman’s advice) topping for a great baked pasta.

  • Mark

    In Amsterdam our freezer space is nearly 50% corn tortillas b/c the one place that sells them in town doesn’t always have them and is a bit far away.

  • Bob

    Fish (tuna and Shark from my Dad’s annual fishing trip), chicken stock, chicken livers, homemade pasta, Thai chili peppers, homemade bread, numerous poultry parts waiting to be made into stock, as well as about 5 pounds of shrimp shells waiting to be made into stock as well!

  • Kate in the NW

    A gallon ziplock bag to store chicken carcass bones/parsley stems/etc in until it’s stock-making day.

    3 or 4 nice cuts of meat/fish that cook up quick after soccer practice.

    Big batches of homemade banana-blueberry pancakes (I am NOT a morning person but want The Kid to have a homemade breakfast).

    Some “emergency” supplies in case I miscalculate what I have on hand: chicken thighs, a small baggie of chopped onion, and tiny bags of minced shallot, same of parsley.

    And sticks of non-hydrogenated shortening for seasoning the outdoor grill. Works like a charm.

  • milo

    I have always been partial to pecorino over parmigiano.

    Homemade meatballs, especially with quality local grassfed ground beef, are just amazing and freeze great.

    Anyone have a good recommendation for a balsamic vinegar that’s a good balance between price and quality (an “everyday” one if that makes sense)? How about a good reasonably priced olive oil (organic would be a plus)?

  • Badger

    Most of these have been mentioned, but:
    – nuts
    – pesto
    – ginger
    – specialty flours/grains (oily ones that would go rancid)
    – bacon
    – juice from our home-grown lemons
    – zest, ditto
    – herbs in ice cubes (or juice cubes)
    – bread/pizza dough (homemade)
    – pickles (ditto)

    I also keep a bag of chopped random aromatics in there — onions, garlic, etc. Little ends and bits that don’t get used fresh.

    Oh, and vodka. Can’t forget the vodka. (Tito’s, always.)

  • Nancy Heller

    Chicken feet for making soups/stocks.

    Backstock of all spices – with just the two of us, even the 2oz minimum purchase from Heathers Heat & Flavor can last a long time. BTW – Heathers has awesome Sichuan Peppercorn – much fresher than Asian Grocery packs.

    Whole chili peppers and deseeded/dehydrated tomatoes from last summer’s garden.

    Pint of chopped lemongrass from Asia Foods, for use in a pinch.

  • Aaron Kagan

    Speaking of stock, I’ve got a summer’s worth of frozen corn cobs waiting to be cooked up. Never tried it before, but I’ve heard that it makes a nice base for chowder, and I love redirecting something to the freezer instead of the trash (or compost).

  • milo

    With bacon, do people freeze raw strips separated apart, or freeze them already cooked?

    My biggest dilemma with meats in the freezer is having too much frozen in one block together. Particularly things like a pound of bacon or a whole chicken, just too much for two people at once (even with leftovers).

  • Victoria

    This year I “did the tomatoes,” so I have zip top bags of my own home-grown tomatoes in there. Next summer I’m going to triple the amount I grow.

    I always have:

    Bacon frozen in packets – first wax paper, then aluminum foil, two strips each,

    A half-moon shaped chunk of pancetta, which is easy to cut frozen,

    A package of Jones Little Sausage Links,

    Petite peas;

    Fordhook lima beans;

    Sweet Hungarian paprika; and

    Up till now, a small stainless bowl with beaters for my hand-held electric mixer, so I can whip cream in a flash. However, in A Platter of Figs David Tanis suggests making loosely whipped cream with an old-fashioned eggbeater, which I did last weekend to make cream to serve on my linzertorte. It was a delight – the right texture for schlag. I highly recommend using one. I don’t know, though, if I can keep the eggbeater in the freezer because some of the parts are plastic. I’m sorry I don’t have my mother’s! Perhaps I can find someone else’s mother’s at a yard sale.

  • cayenne

    Most of these have been mentioned, but in addition to a ton of ice cream, my small freezer usually contains combinations of the following:

    -Chicken stock (homemade, split into pint & 1/2-pint containers)
    -Vegetable stock (ditto)
    -Basic tomato sauce (ditto)
    -Bean soups (ditto)
    -Smoked salmon (2kg received annually at Xmas from a friend in Nova Scotia, split into 2-bagel servings)
    -Unsalted butter
    -Puff pastry
    -Raw almonds
    -Ginger root
    -Seasonally frozen berries – gone now 🙁 – and herbs
    -Coffee beans
    -Leftover baguette to toast into croutons
    -Sausage (most often duck or chorizo)
    -Vodka (Stoli)
    -Single-serve lasagnas or other pasta for when I have an “I just can’t stand up long enough to cook!!” day

    Unsurprisingly, there’s rarely room to make ice cubes.

  • kevin

    Very similar to my list, I also keep smoked ham hock on hand for soups and greens, as well as homemade maranara sauce in my freezer.

  • Cheryl

    Wheat berries. This may sound weird (especially from a non-vegetarian), but since they take a full hour to cook I’ll make a big pot once a month and then freeze them in 2 cup portions. I developed several recipes for EatingWell magazine a few years ago, all of which called for adding frozen (previously cooked) wheat berries directly to soups, stews, chili, and even oatmeal. Provides great chew and really rounds out winter dishes.

  • ArC

    This will probably mark me as a philistine, but I have a big and very fast cherry pitter specifically because I like cherries throughout the year; I buy a lot in season and pit big batches, then freeze them.

    I also like to freeze pesto.

  • Laura K

    Chicken, vegetable and veal stock, unsalted butter, lime leaves, tomato sauce, pancetta, various nuts, leftover egg whites (I freeze 2-4 of them in a ziploc bag if I make something that calls only for egg yolks, they’re great for meringues or those little Italian almond cookies). I also always keep oatmeal raisin cookies in the freezer. Although I’m not vegan, the best recipe I’ve found


    happens to be. They don’t stay fresh for much longer than a day or two, so I just keep a stash in the freezer.

  • Laura K

    Oh, and I also keep thai curry paste in the freezer. I make the green curry paste recipe out of Hot Sour Salty Sweet, freeze it in ice cube trays (which gives me roughly 1 tablespoon sized servings) and then throw the cubes in a larger container, so they’re easily accessible.

  • Bea

    Great post!

    Here are the things I cannot do without:

    – Stocks of all kinds (at the moment I have lots of veal (both brown and white), chicken, turkey, lamb, fish and lobster stocks.

    – Breadcrumbs (whenever I have leftover white bread I turn it into crumbs and put it in the freezer).

    – Cooked, shredded chicken (I often make stock by poaching a whole chicken or a couple of legs, and then the meat goes in the freezer.) Chicken stock and shredded chicken are great for making almost instant chicken soups, fricassées and stews of all kinds. The meat can also be used in sandwiches, salads, omelettes, quiches, tacos, enchiladas, etc. An extremely useful thing to have in the freezer!

    – Cooked beans and grains (such as barley and spelt/farro). If one is to cook beans or grains, why not cook the whole package and freeze the rest for later? Beans and grains make great additions to soups and stews.

    – Bolognese sauce, chilli stews, and other preparations that need very long cooking times. A fabulous thing to eat on busy weekday evenings!

    – Offcuts from fish. (Usually we buy whole fish, and often we fillet it, make a stock with the bones, and cut out nice serving pieces from the fillets.) The offcuts we freeze for later use in fish pies and soups. When one has fish stock and bits of fish and possibly a couple of shrimps in the freezer, one can whip up a fabulous fish soup in minutes.

    – Grated cheese. Whenever there is a good offer on quality firm chese, I buy it, grate it and freeze it. Great for gratins, pizzas, etc.

    I find that having these staples available makes it possible to whip up tasty quality foods in no time on busy weekdays. I couldn’t do without them!

  • Emily

    Those of you who freeze individual portions of homemade dishes like mac & cheese or lasagna, can you give freezer hints, like do you freeze before or after cooking? What kind of containers? How do you reheat? Thanks.

  • Andy Coan

    I am only now starting to use the freezer more and more–it all started when ‘Elements’ won me over on stock, and then I started making soups and stews. I’ll make 4-5 quarts at a time and freeze about 2/3 of it for later.

    When I first discovered the tomato paste tubes, I thought it was the best thing going…until I realised it’s not really as tasty, and I usually end up using 1/3 to 1/2 of the tube at a time anyway. I had not thought of freezing it, but usually the small cans last about as long as I need them to anyway, because like vinegar or lemon, it’s one of the things I look for excuses to use.

    Why it never occurred to me to keep some bacon on hand in the freezer, I don’t know. Though I do have some ham hocks on hand, I believe. 🙂

    I do have a little stock in the freezer, as well as a running collection of meat trimmings, though I’m starting to find that I can make more stock, and more often, by just buying trimmings, necks and backs and whatnot from the farmer’s market.

  • Andy Coan

    A couple things about the Bittman piece: I’m not on the fish sauce thing, but I do have worcesterschire always around…how similar are the flavours?

    And while I have pretty much stopped buying bottled dressings and marinades, I still love me some French dressing. I think Alton Brown mentioned it in a book, and I agree: I don’t care what’s in it, it’s reminds me of my childhood and to me it’s delicious!

  • Connor

    I keep nearly all of my bulk spices in the freezer. And there’s always a healthy stock of butter, nuts, bacon, bulk sausage, tomatoes (blanched and peeled in quart bags), vegetables, basil pesto, stock, and shrimp.

  • Joseph

    Ice cubes for cooling off blanched vegetables. I take my 250 ml containers and freeze them in chunks and then break them with a cast iron pot or any other heavy item close by. Freezing them in the containers means you can stack them up, and you don’t have to worry about spilling them on anything.

  • milo

    Worcesterschire isn’t really that similar to fish sauce at all.

    Just spend the two bucks on a bottle and find out for yourself, it’s salty, probably more similar to soy than anything else but a little fishy. Tons of asian recipes use it – one of my favorites is vietnamese dipping sauce: fish sauce, lime, sugar, and a little hot pepper (chopped fresh, usually green for me, or red flakes). Awesome stuff, you just need to balance the four flavors, makes a good asian salad dressing as well.

  • Connor

    just wanted to add that this post reminds me of one of my main food goals for the new year — to waste less food.

    a well-stocked pantry, freezer, and fridge are great…but only if you’re always mindful of what you have on hand. it’s way too easy to convince yourself that you have nothing for dinner, only to let things spoil or collect another layer of freezer burn, without being diligent about the pantry.

    i’ve taken to keeping a list of “must use soon” ingredients on my fridge…and I need to tidy my freezer and pantry frequently in order to keep on top of things.

    aside from all the benefits of wasting less food — there’s something supremely satisfying about challenging yourself to be a better, more efficient manager of your own kitchen. it also forces you to be creative, of course, about how to combine a number of random ingredients into a good meal…which for me, is one of the biggest pleasures of home cooking.

  • cwolfe

    Pin oats. When my hubby, daughter and I crave ’em, I cook several mornings’ worth on Sunday and we eat them all week. But we inevitably have a leftover uncooked supply, so into the chill chest they go!

  • Kanani

    Staples in my freezer:
    Turkey stock (from the holidays)
    Puff Pastry
    Cookie Dough
    Fruits (for smoothies)
    When the teens were babies, I used to cook, grind, and freeze their baby food too.

  • Erica

    Tofu! I only keep firm or extra firm in the freezer though. We go through tofu alot more than we do with meat (I don’t know why…maybe because its cheaper in general). I buy it in the package, and just put it in the freezer, packaged and all (It comes in those tubs with liquid in them).

    When I want to use the tofu, i’ll sit it out on the counter until its firm. Then i’ll take the tofu out of its packaging, and if its not vacuum sealed, i’ll literally squeeze out the liquid like a sponge.

    I have noticed that after freezing the tofu, the texture is slightly different so its better to use with stir frying than more delicate things like soups.

    In college we always use to marinate meat for kalbi or bulgogi and then put individual servings in freezer ziptop bags and freeze the bags. So when we wanted some kalbi or bulgogi real quick we’d take it out of the freezer

  • Cameron S.

    – multiple containers of pork lard
    – caul fat
    – leaf lard / kidney fat
    – fat back
    – pork bellies
    – home made bacon individually sliced and in larger chunks (thanks Charcuterie book)
    – beef suet
    – a couple of pork shoulders for sausages / terrines / pates
    – roasted new mexico hatch peppers
    – roasted new mexico chimayo peppers
    – ground beef
    – ground pork
    – frozen berries
    – butter
    – some herbs (sometimes you want cilantro or flat leaf parsley and it is not convenient to get)

    (all items are vacuum sealed)

    I think that is about it…

  • Sarah

    I make our bread, then slice it and freeze the loaves, then we always have bread if we need it. I keep all of our organic orange peel in a bag in the freezer until I have enough to make candied peel. Chicken carcases go into one bag, cooked chicken bones into another, then when we have enough I make stock. I freeze the stock in 1 litre containers. We also have a day of making our own curry pastes once in a while and freeze 3 tablespoon measures in plastic wrap. They defrost in about 10 minutes on the kitchen bench while i’m cooking the rice. We have a great market here in Sydney once a month so we stock up on berkshire pork, venison and goats curd and freeze those for use throughout the month. And of course, butter, nuts and berries take up all the leftover space. I love our freezer!!

  • Natalie Sztern

    I disagree on the ginger…whether I grate it or freeze it whole: when defrosted it turns watery and looses all its flavor…for me ginger must be fresh…that is an absolute

  • Lynda

    Fava beans: I buy a case at the farmers’ market, blanch and shell them and freeze bags of them, so I can use them straight away through the winter.
    Love the idea of the ginger, especially since I just bought a huge bag of ginger root in Chinatown last wee.

  • Laura

    Emily, for the mac and cheese and lasagna, I cook them (no breadcrumbs on top of the mac and cheese because my kids don’t like it), cool them, put individual portions in a plastic sandwich bag, seal them, push out as much air as I can and lay them flat on a cookie sheet. I put them into the freezer and when they are hard, I put the individual servings into a gallon ziploc bag – or two or three – which is then labeled and dated.

    To use, you could heat the portions up in the oven, but for the kids, I usually microwave the food about two minutes per serving on a porcelain plate with a microwave cover, so it doesn’t dry out.

    For the mac and cheese, you might want to pause it and stir it once or twice so it defrosts evenly.

    Hope it helps.

  • Edsel

    The bottom drawer of my freezer is full of vacuum bags of stock (veal, chicken, turkey), plus supplies for making more (bones, chicken feet). Need I mention that I *really* like cooking with home-made stock? 🙂

    I keep wheat berries in the freezer. I like to grind WW flour in the Vita-Mix dry canister. When I buy pre-ground WW flour it always spoils before I use it up. Taking a few minutes to grind it fresh is worth it, and having the berries frozen actually helps with the grinding.

    That’s about it for “invaluable staples” – the rest is mostly postponed projects – various parts awaiting curing or smoking…

  • cherylk

    Emily, I do my mac & cheese similar to Laura, only I bake mine in individual single serving dishes that I’ve sprayed. When they’re done, I let them rest a few minutes, run a knife around the edges and they just pop out. Once they’ve cooled, I pop them in zip top bags, get rid of the air (I used to have the machine that did this but it took up too much space in my tiny house) and have brilliant single servings to grab as I dash out the door to work or to send home with college boy.
    I keep small bags of homemade pasta sauce, always 2-3 chicken carcass for making stock and stock itself.
    I did find an awesome way to get my stock into the baggies with great ease. I have a large plastic container with a tap. Once the stock has cooled a bit, you simply place the zip top freezer bag under the tap and fill it 3/4’s full. Then I lay them flat on cookie sheets. When they’re frozen solid I just label and stack. The container is a breeze to wash up and there’s no spillage.

  • Laura

    Pesto made with summer basil, veggies from the garden blanched and vacuum packed, bacon!, home grown chicken, home grown sundried tomatoes and ice cream. There’s other things in there as well since we buy beef by the quarter and pigs by the side. But the first are things I always have and use weekly.

    Never thought to keep ginger in the freezer – great idea!

  • lisadelrio

    Uh oh, I keep chipotles in adobo in the refrigerator, not the freezer. They taste fine and so far they haven’t killed us.

    In the freezer we always have: pesto, nuts, veggie stock – because I read this blog, bread, various flours that I mill at home, and berries. I’m going to put my ginger in there right after I click post.

  • Haley W.

    I cook for just myself often during the week when my fiancee travels, so I usually have single servings of homemade pomodoro sauce in my freezer for a quick dinner. I also have tomato sauce, stock, and frozen herbs.

  • boonie

    -veal stock in ice cube trays (best idea in the kitchen ever!!!)
    -ice cubes

  • Alex

    Wonderful post. We always have lemongrass, ginger and chillis in the freezer ready to go if we fancy a soup or curry.

  • DOT

    Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookies
    Wild Blueberries for Smoothies
    Hazelnut flour
    Frozen Pizza dough

  • Allison

    Shrimp. I can rarely buy them fresh anyway and they can be thawed and brined simultaneously in salt water.

    Peas. Usually better frozen than fresh where I live.

    Roasted and peeled kabocha pumpkin. It’s only available about six weeks of the year and the dog and I both love it.

    Homemade ketchup, barbeque sauce, and chutney that don’t have enough sugar to last in the fridge.

    I keep lots of stock in the freezer too, but when you say there’s always a good meal at hand if you have stock do you mean something more than just soup?

  • Joy Manning

    This is such a great list! The only thing I keep on hand in the freezer that I don’t see here is dry white wine frozen in ice cube trays. Perfect for when you need a little for risotto or a small amount of pan sauce.

  • Allison

    Oh, one more: compound butter. I seem to always be trying to salvage fresh herbs before they turn to slime. I make compound butter with them and freeze them in plastic wrap like sausages. I use them for finishing soups and sauces; I put them on steak and fish; I’ve even used them sauteeing, which works better than you might think.

  • Jane Ridolfi

    Chocolate fudge sauce
    Pate brise- frozen flat disk – ready for a galette
    shrimp shells
    chicken parts – ready for stock
    mushroom duxelles

  • Marlene

    Garlic. I always have garlic on hand.

    I buy tomato paste in jars rather than tubes or cans.

    Parisianne gnocchi has become a staple in my house, so I always make extra and freeze them in serving batches.

    Always keep lots of butter in the freezer, and stocks.

    Kosher salt. I can’t remember the last time I bought a box of table salt.

    Maldon salt for finishing.

    Always have balsamic vinegar on hand.

    I usually make up a log or two of various compound butters and keep them in the freezer, and slice off what I need.

    Ditto for beurre manie. I make it up and roll it into a log and slice off as needed.

  • Joan Horner

    4-5 kinds of oil(peanut, grapeseed, sesame, olive, canola), soy and tamari, mirin, kecap manis, nam pla, 6-8 vinegars(cider, white, verjus, red wine, champagne,sherry, rice wine) clam juice, capers, harissa, 4 kinds of mustard (dijon, whole grain, honey, yellow), Frank’s Hot Sauce, chipotle, 3 honeys (clover, chestnut, truffle) tinned beans of various kinds and mushy peas to keep the Brit husband happy.

    Frozen: keffir lime leaves, galangal, lemongrass, bird chilies, confit duck legs, duck breast, cider from the fall, blueberries picked over the summer, strawberries picked in july, chili, pea soup, ragu, bangers…see Brit husband above.

  • ErikaK

    We have 2 freezers, the garage freezer is the home of stock (chicken & beef right now) with some buns & frozen burgers for emergencies. Inside the freezer is packed with carcasses & veggie trim for more stock, duck & bacon fat, butters, puff & fillo dough, frozen tablespoons of tomato paste (I just lay a piece of plastic wrap out, then roll the portions up & freeze), a tupperware of lemon juice, and some frozen peas & corn. Oh yeah, and vodka.

  • Tom

    Whole Grain Corn Meal (I get Bob’s Red Mill brand)–The coarse grind is excellent for polenta, and the fine grind I use for baking (for which I find the coarse grind too gravelly).

    Whole wheat flour, brown rice, barley, quinoa, other whole grains that last longer in the freezer.

    Fresh lard, and accumulations of duck fat, bacon fat


    Dried beans that I’ve soaked, simmered until tender in water with an onion and a bay leaf, drained and put into a zipper-top bag. Sometimes I’ll toss a few into a pasta dish or with some greens or rice.

    A bag of decaf coffee beans for guests.

    Homemade dumplings or wontons from my Chinese inlaws.

  • Tatiana


    It seems your archives links are broken – any month I select does not go anywhere.


  • Natashya

    I do put all of my nuts and seeds in the freezer, as well as my wheat germ and wheat bran – both of which spoil quickly.

  • Rhonda

    I am late to the post but I love “virtual snooping” through everyone’s freezers.

    Currently, the freezer above my fridge is saved for:

    -Martini glasses
    -Beer glasses
    -Water glasses
    -a cocktail shaker
    -voddy and gin

    I have found small ziplock bags which hold one cup of stock. I fill them and freeze them and then stack them like soldiers in another container for easy access (also in freezer 1). Larger quart bags are in freezer 2. This works GREAT for veal stock because sometimes you only need a bit for sauces.
    -Nuts (6 different kinds)
    -dates, currents, dried cranberries, etc.

    Small freezer 2:
    -Meat, meat, meat…
    -frozen homemade gnocchi (potato, butternut squash)
    -Quart sized frozen bags of chicken stock
    -Phyllo pastry
    -Puff Pastry
    -tomato paste
    -raspberries & plums from my parents’ garden for smoothies
    -Jalapenos from the garden
    -Butter, butter, butter!!!
    -Cold smoked salmon
    -Assorted red sauces in small containers for the emergency pasta dinner
    -Homemade tomato salsa, peach salsa, zucchini salsa made from the summers harvest (parents’ garden)

    Also; I SWEAR there were homemade Nanaimo bars in there the other day and now they are missing. I THINK I MAY HAVE BEEN ROBBED! Nothing else was touched, only the Nanaimo bars.

  • Bob

    “trotter gear”
    bread crumbs
    duck fat
    goose fat
    pig fat (cured and uncured)

  • MessyONE

    I’m feeling fairly smug because I made a gallon and a half of turkey stock on Monday – I freeze it in two cup Glad containers because they’re relatively space-efficient. I also keep stocked on fresh ginger, puff pastry, nuts, pesto and the like. One thing I haven’t seen mentioned is bouquets garnis.

    The Boy buys the muslin bags, then fills them all summer while he’s pinching herbs. Once a week or so, he’ll put together 3 or 4, then throw them into a zipper bag in the freezer. Since no one ever sees them, they don’t have to be glamorous, and they taste a whole lot better than the ones made with dried herbs.

  • cybercita

    raspberries, mangoes and peaches for an impromptu sorbet, artichoke hearts for a frittata, soup, or to jazz up a dinner salad, grains, nuts, parmesan rinds, stale bread for breadcrumbs {take out of the freezer and grate}.

    also during the summer i partially bake a couple of apricot tarts, wrap them very well in foil then in a ziploc bag, and freeze. it’s fun to pull out an apricot tart in december!

  • Michael Franco

    Safely tucked away in my freezer is a glass jar filled with Arborio rice. Buried between the rice grains are a few truffles which enliven many a dish. Not to mention using the perfumed rice to make a lovely risotto.

  • Michael Franco

    To Rhonda, Happy New Year friend,

    You may need to enlist the help of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to recover those nanaimo bars.

  • ohn

    in my freezer;

    home made thai green curry paste
    kaffir lime leaves
    homegrown chilies of various types
    little green peas
    pesto from homegrown basils
    galangal root
    chopped bunches of homegrown greens, in ziplocs, for some last -minute soups
    chopped longbeans from the garden

  • Tags

    Batteries. I read that freezing extends charge life and have been freezing them ever since. Also,

    stock, garlic cloves, ginger, butter, lime leaf, lemongrass stalks,

    Wei Chuan dumplings, homemade ravioli and/or gnocchi,

    sushi for quick congee (including pickled ginger),

    Thai bird peppers, coffee, surimi balls, Amish kielbasa,

    firm tofu, edamame,

    vodka, gin, and other combustibles,

    mysterious bags of ingredients with inscrutable Chinese names.

  • Rhonda

    Michael Franco:

    Happy New Year to you too, my friend! I went to the gym this afternoon and stepped on the scale — the nanaimo bars have been located!

    Is your stashed Arborio rice cooked or raw?

    This is such a great post! I have learned that I can use my frozen fruit for sorbet and I can freeze my duck, pork and chicken fat.

    I know this is an obvious “duh” but I didn’t think about doing this before.

    MessyOne: You should feel smug. Go girl! Good stock is like our dirty little secret. Especially veal stock.

    As a home cook, it is a way to be a culinary genius amongst our friends.

    Carol, if you are reading; thanks for agreeing to “KULL-INARY”.

  • Michael Franco


    The Arborio is raw yet already infused with wonderful truffle essence.

    I agree, Rhonda, what I learn here is invaluable, particularly from our esteemed host.

  • luis

    The FoodSaver has changed my cooking/eating life. Amazing what a new gadget can bring to your party.
    I no longer feel I have to either cook 1 portion meals nor do I need to eat everything I cook right then and there.
    Bulk food is one thing but cooked food is time and labor plus overhead. Anything I cook that is over my portion gets divided and vacuum bagged. Then frozen. I am shooting for zero waste. But without a flavor profile and a steady requirement for any ingredient?…I am not trying to freeze any particular ingredient. Though Michael as usual.. you have cleared up some major issue for me. Bag and freeze tomato paste vs the tube.
    I like it, I love it, gimme more of it Michael…!.
    This is a SUPER tip man.
    … and Charlotte… go easy on all that meat woman. Mix it up a bit or you are a great candidate for the ” Gout”.

  • J Bean

    I like to caramelize many, many onions (about 7.5 lbs) in the slow cooker and then divide them up and freeze them in Food Saver bags to make quickie onion soup. The little blocks of chopped frozen basil from Trader Joe’s are nifty. Mostly, though, I have last summer’s (and probably a few from the previous summer…) tomatoes. They get halved, roasted (not too much), separated from their skins, frozen, and Food Savered.

    Mushy stuff stores more neatly if you freeze it in nice uniform containers and then pop the block into the Food Saver bag.

  • Robert

    My freezer is always filled with Alaskan staples from the summer, halibut, salmon (king, silver, and reds, some of it smoked), blueberries, rasberries, and whatever stocks I have made. Oh, and of course vodka and usually some Jaeger.