homemade freezer meals.

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Tackling winter without creating trash takes a bit of extra preparation. On snowy days when the grocery seems too far to walk but my fridge contains nothing but condiments and a shriveled bunch of kale, I dig into my freezer for whatever I might have tucked away for such an occasion.

Throughout the summer and fall, when I find myself with an unexpected surplus - of corn, of soup, of berries, of tomato sauce - I freeze it in a glass container or jar. Meals that lend themselves well to this treatment run the gamut from vegetable chilis to cooked beans to creamy soups to plain vegetables, which when frozen are always there and ready to be stirred into whatever sauce or stew is lacking them. Cooking dried beans in large batches ahead of time and then freezing them ensures that you’ll never regret transitioning away from the canned variety. Freezing small portions of soups means that you won’t have to eat the same soup five days in a row when a batch is unexpectedly large, and that instead you’ll be able to eat that soup a month later, on a night when you really need it.

Homemade freezer meals have been such a help on days that are unexpectedly busy. Practicing sustainability and zero waste has been so good to my life - however, it’s undeniable that I’m no longer able to reach for a plastic bag of frozen broccoli or a frozen pizza on nights when I rush home from yoga already hungry or leave the office at seven thirty. Having a few prepared items that only need be thawed is such a help on these evenings. I set the chosen jar in a pan of water to warm, and by the time I’ve taken off my coat and made myself a cup of tea, dinner is ready.

Here's how:

Liquids, such as beans, soup, and sauces, should be poured into glass jars or containers. The only requirement is that the container should be straight-sided or slant outward, which ensures the glass won't crack when the liquid expands during freezing. Leave about an inch of space, and don't tighten the cap onto the jar until the contents are completely frozen. For fresh vegetables, blanch and freeze them in a single layer on a small baking sheet before transferring them into an airtight container. This works well for almost all types of vegetables - greens, broccoli, carrots - but avoid freezing things with a high water content, such as zucchini or onions (they don't revive well, and I've found that the texture of them when thawed is really unappealing). Fresh fruit should also be frozen on a baking tray and then transferred to a different container, but of course you needn't blanch it. To thaw any of these, you can stick them in the refrigerator a day before you need them, leave them on the counter the morning of, or simply warm them slowly in a hot water bath when dinnertime approaches.

What are you cooking these days?

Photograph of tomato sauce, frozen at the height of tomato season, eaten at the height of winter.