How to Freeze Food Without Using Plastic

When I post pictures of my jar-filled freezer on social media, I get lots of questions about it, usually along the following lines:

  • Is it safe to freeze food in glass? (Yes)
  • Do you use special glass for the freezer? (No)
  • Don’t your glass containers break? (Only that one time…)

I have had little trouble freezing food in glass. I do however take a couple of precautions:

Always leave headspace when freezing liquids. I prefer wide-mouth jars for freezing or at least jars without shoulders (i.e., straight sides all the way up to the top). I have broken only one glass container in the freezer—it’s one of those things you do only once. I filled a narrow-neck milk bottle with liquid (likely broth, I forget exactly). Even though I had left head space, when the liquid froze, it expanded and snapped the narrow neck cleanly off the (very nice) bottle. Oops.

Occasionally I’ll use pyrex round or rectangular containers with plastic lids, which I bought before I went plastic-free. I don’t use these very often in the freezer because I like to keep the glass portion of them free for roasting food.

Don’t overstuff your freezer with jars stacked all over the place willy-nilly. When you open your freezer door, jars might fall out onto the floor and break.

What I Freeze

Beans. Depending on the recipe I plan on using the beans in, I freeze these with or without liquid. I love having cooked beans on hand in the freezer. I make channa masala or hummus with chickpeas, a spicy bean dish with black beans and refried beans with pinto beans. I dislike the texture and taste of canned beans, not to mention the BPA (or an equally nasty equivalent) present in the plastic lining of canned food. (Click here for directions on slow-cooker beans.)

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Beans freezing on the right-hand side

Sourdough crackers. These freeze very well! They taste so delicious, they never stay in the freezer long though. (Click here for the sourdough cracker recipe.)

Cookies. I don’t make cookies very often because I have little will power around sweets. But when I do bake them, I’ll freeze some in a large wide-mouth jar.

Bread. If I bake several loaves of sourdough bread, I’ll freeze a loaf or two half loaves in homemade cloth produce and bulk bags.

Fruit. I don’t buy frozen fruit because it’s always packaged in plastic bags. Instead, I freeze seasonal fruit: berries, peach slices and grapes. I spread these out on a cookie sheet and put that in the freezer. Once the fruit has frozen, I transfer it to glass jars.

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Freeze fruit on trays before transferring to jars to avoid creating clumpy frozen blobs

Fruit peels and cores. The first time I made scrap vinegar, I used apple peels and cores I had frozen until I had accumulated enough of them to make vinegar. The microbes necessary for the fermentation survived the freezer and the vinegar turned out well. (Click here for the scrap vinegar recipe.)

Lemon zest. Yes, you can freeze this! I have a small glass jar of it in the freezer now.

Roasted tomatoes. Throughout the summer, I buy lots of dry-farmed early girl tomatoes at the farmer’s market. I halve or quarter these into bite-size pieces, roast them at about 225°F for an hour and a half or two and then freeze them in jars. They taste delicious, especially with the chickpeas above for channa masala. So good! (Click here for the roasted tomatoes recipe.)

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I have more jars of roasted tomatoes than anything else in here

Leftover whey. Making ricotta cheese produces an alarming amount of whey. I freeze this in ice-cube trays and then transfer the frozen cubes to glass jars. A few cubes of whey adds some nice tang to soup. (Click here for the ricotta recipe.)

Chicken bones. We don’t eat much poultry or meat but when we do I always save the bones for broth. Once I have enough, I simmer water and the bones in my slow cooker for twenty-four hours. (Click here for the bone broth recipe.)

Vegetable peels and scraps. I save the ends of carrots, celery, onions, green beans—pretty much all the vegetables I prep, with the exception of bitter greens like chard—and store them in glass jars in the freezer. When I have accumulated a large pile of scraps, I simmer them in water to make broth. I then strain that and either use it immediately or freeze it. I like to use ice-cube trays to freeze broth but sometimes I’ll just freeze it in a jar—with headspace! (Click here for the vegetable broth recipe.)

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Loads of frozen vegetable peels and scraps
simmering vegetable broth
Simmering vegetable broth; notice the corn cobs and pumpkin pulp in this batch
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Finished (free) vegetable broth

Soup. I love to make a vat of soup and freeze some of it in jars for meals later on in the month. (Click here for the rescue soup recipe.)

Tomato sauce. I have only one small jar of this in my freezer now. I can fit only so much in there… (Click here for the tomato sauce recipe.)

I likely have forgotten to mention a few things that I freeze, but this gives you a good idea of what you can freeze without plastic—all sorts of good food!

175 Comment

  1. James L. Joslin says: Reply

    thanks for you post. I have been freezing the juice from my orange tree in Plastic or paper cups. I was afraid glass would break when frozen.

    1. It should work just fine, James. Just leave some headspace. Thanks for checking out my post 🙂

  2. I started saving jars several months ago, when I moved here to Colorado, as my apartment complex does not have a recycling bin. I rinse them well, and then run them in the dishwasher before putting them in the cupboard. I am trying to be more thrifty and less wasteful, so now I know what to do with the jars. Thanks for this post, and the recipes.

    1. Thanks for checking out the post Cathi. Jars are gold. I can never have enough of them. I use them for storing food, buying food, fermenting food… They’re nice to drink and eat out of too (depending on what you’re eating).

  3. […] Plastic, be gone. As I get rid of the toxic things in my home, I’ve been appalled at the amount of plastic that I use, even though I thought I was doing pretty well with that. One of the major crime scenes? The inside of my freezer. This article shows you how to preserve food in the freezer without using plastic. […]

  4. squeezedmillennial says: Reply

    Why am I not using my stockpile of jars in the freezer?! Thank you for this- you’re freeing me from the tyranny of spending money on environmentally unfriendly plastic 🙂

  5. Anne Marie – What do you do with carrot greens? I like to get carrots at the farmers market when I can, and they usually have the greens still attached. Are they any good to use when making vegetable broth? I’ve read that they are very nutritious but are bitter tasting. Will they add an off-putting flavor if cooked with veggies to make broth?

    1. Hi Kristin. My daughter used to add them to broth and it seemed to taste okay. I try to buy carrots (and beets for that matter) loose when I can so I don’t have to deal with greens guilt. I haven’t tried carrot tops in pesto but I have seen many recipes for it. This one looks good: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/roasted-carrots-with-carrot-top-pesto I’ll have to try it too.

  6. […] Plastic, be gone. As I get rid of the toxic things in my home, I’ve been appalled at the amount of plastic that I use, even though I thought I was doing pretty well with that. One of the major crime scenes? The inside of my freezer. This article shows you how to preserve food in the freezer without using plastic. […]

  7. Kimberly/KFSonshine says: Reply

    Thank you so much for this post!! I have been unsure of how to go about freezing liquids in glass and now I know!!

    1. Thanks for checking out the post Kimberley. See you on IG 😉

  8. I absolutely love your blog! And I love finding people out there who I can relate to… I have a blog of my own ( energisedliving.wordpress.com ) and would love your feedback! Seriously, just in five minutes of browsing your blog I have found so much valuable info. Thank you for sharing your wisdom 🙂

    1. Thanks so much. I’m glad you found some useful information. Thanks for checking out my posts 🙂

  9. I love my jars for freezing. I use a combination of mason jars I got from yard sales and repurposed jars from pasta sauce or salsa. The only time I’ve had breakage was when I overfilled, so it was my own fault. I always wonder if I can recycle the broken glass, maybe in a paper bag with the contents written on the outside so nobody gets cut. Have you tried this?

    1. You’re a kindred jar-obsessed spirit, I see 🙂 I love to repurpose jars too. Occasionally I’ll find something good at a yard sale, like a le Parfait jar. I don’t recycle broken glass. My bins say not to. I don’t understand the rule either. The glass will obviously be broken down somehow. It must be for safety/litigation reasons.

      1. That’s what I thought. Whenever I see the guys picking up recycling I can hear the smashing glass in their truck. Oh well. Such a waste.

  10. Next to Natural says: Reply

    This is a great post, thanks! I ‘ve been looking into freezing food without plastic and have wondered exactly how it would work. Now I know it’s possible!

    1. My pleasure. It works well and gives me and excuse to hoard more jars 😉

  11. Today I received a comment to one of your older posts I had commented on. I was so happy as I had fallen off the wagon on my buttermilk making. As for freezing food, I have broken so many jars (those with the shoulders, I surely overfill them since it’s not space efficient not to) so I mostly use the pyrex type dishes (and often omits the top for broth) and the wide mouth jars. I never thought of freezing my vegetable scraps, I love the idea! Finally I love to freeze big chunks of apples in the fall when there are so many (mea culpa I usually put them in a -reused many times- freezer bags since there are so many). My kids love it when I make an apple crumble or apple sauce past the apple season. I also freeze whole firm tomatoes (roman) in the summer when I run out of time to make sauces. Thanks.

    1. Well that’s not the worst wagon you can fall off of 😉 Thanks for the freezing tips! I haven’t tried freezing apple chunks or whole tomatoes. I am always disappointed at the end of apple season. I’ll freeze some when they come back.

  12. Peter Hobson says: Reply

    My mom used to do this, file of jars on our freezer.

    1. Smart woman, Peter 😉

  13. I’ve thought of using jars before but was nervous about how! Quick question before I try it, do you put the lids on before or after the items inside are frozen? I’m worried about explosion!

    1. Hi Sheri. I hear this a lot but I haven’t had any trouble. I put the lids on before. Just make sure you leave enough head space for liquids (at least a couple of inches). ~ Anne Marie

  14. I freeze in glass jars. One advantage of this over plastic is that the food is microwaveable when you are in a hurry (ie no BPA etc in the food as it thaws).

    I also carry my lunch to work in glass jars for the same reason 😊.

    1. shawna hartley says: Reply

      Helen, I’ve discovered that microwaving kills all the good stuff in your food. We use ours only for the heat pack now..

      1. Have you got any links to the effect microwaving has on food? There are no other facilities other than a microwave at work for reheating food, so I would be great to get a handle on the issue.

    2. build a solar oven, a slow cooker to reheat food, http://www.instructables.com/id/Best-Solar-Oven/

      1. I love this idea! I have used a solar food dryer to make kale chips and dried fruit and vegetables. That would also work. It gets up to 225F on a really hot day. I’ve had “build a solar cooker” on my to-do list for a few years now. This box cooker you’ve linked to looks very easy. The box cookers are the best.

        Here’s a post I wrote about a solar cooking festival if you’re interested: https://zerowastechef.com/2014/07/23/solar-cooking-festival/

  15. I have a couple of questions…
    Does freezing in glass result in freezer burn?
    How do you freeze meat without plastic?

    1. Hi Annie. I haven’t trouble with freezer burn but I also don’t freeze food for months and months (generally). When I buy meat or fish, I take a metal container like a LunchBot or a tiffin to the store and have the butcher/fishmonger fill it. If I want to freeze it, I just pop the container in the freezer. You can use larger glass containers too. ~ Anne Marie

  16. zerowastefamilyjourney says: Reply

    Hi Annie.

    We’re literally just starting out on a zero waste lifestyle.
    First stop was to cease buying milk in plastic.
    We have a dairy farm not too far away but need to buy in bulk to save constantly going over there.
    Do you think freezing milk in wide necked, jars with room left to expand would be OK?

    Many thanks in advance!

  17. Reblogged this on One Brown Planet and commented:
    Is it possible to freeze food without plastic? The Zero Waste Chef talks about this and some great idea’s in this blog.

    1. Thanks so much for the reblog 🙂

  18. You totally helped me out big time with this post!

    1. Great! Happy to help Morgan 🙂 ~ Anne Marie

  19. Silly question: Do you compost the veggie scraps after you strain them from cooking stock?

    1. Not silly at all. Yes, I compost them after I make stock. They don’t have much flavor at that point.

  20. […] Is it possible to freeze food in glass containers? (zerowastechef.com) – Why, I’m so glad you asked. Yes, it IS possible to freeze food in glass containers. And the link above will guide you through the process. I love reading posts from Zero Waste Chef, as Anne Marie’s tips and suggestions move us toward less kitchen waste, especially plastic. […]

  21. Hi! I have a question, how do you freeze hamburgers? I mean, I’m used to separate them with plastic..Thank you, I really like your blog. Greetings from Argentina.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thanks Rocío 🙂 Hmmm, how about separating them with parchment paper or wax paper? If you have beeswax wraps, I think that would work too. You can search for them online to buy. Or if you’re crafty, you can make them and cut them into hamburger rounds. Here’s a tutorial: http://myhealthygreenfamily.com/blog/wordpress/plastic-wrap-alternative-diy-beeswax-cotton-wraps/

      ~ Anne Marie

      1. Thanks for the ideas!

  22. I’m surprised you eat (any) meat. You’re obviously concerned about the environment and yet you support (to some degree) animal agriculture, the biggest polluter on the planet.

    1. Hamburgers can also be made of soy, rice, vegetables, beans, etc. They’re easy to make and are a good option when you don’t have the time to cook a hole new meal.

  23. […] Here are some great tips on freezing food without using plastic. […]

  24. thank you for this article. How do you find berries package free? Even at the farmers market they’re in plastic 🙁

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      When blueberries are in season, I can often buy them in bulk at the farmer’s market. Cherries are always in bulk. I bring jars and containers for those and also for strawberries. The strawberries are in pint boxes but I dump the berries into my jars and then hand back the boxes to the vendors. I saw loose blueberries once at the grocery store. It’s rare here unfortunately.

  25. Ah, a foodie after my own heart! I’m grateful to Beth Terry for sharing a link on Facebook that brought me to you. Like you, I freeze quite a few things in glass as well, but boy, do I yearn for a shelved freezer so I can preserve in summer all the food we usually have to buy in winter–such as jarred tomato sauces. I go through a lot of jars of tomato sauce in winter, when local tomatoes are tasteless mush!

    Here’s a question for you. I’ve frozen grapes many times, but never the soft raspberries and blackberries. Do you wash them first? They tend to go soggy so quickly after washing, and I’ve always wondered how best to get them dry quickly without breaking them apart. Suggestions welcome!

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      I love Beth Terry 🙂 I’m also grateful that her Facebook page led you to me. I am down to my last few jars of frozen tomatoes. I roast them and then pack them in jars. I bought about 60 pounds last year. I was contemplating asking my neighbors if I could squat in their freezers… I do wash the berries first but let them sit for a while to dry off. Otherwise they stick to the cookie sheet. I rinse them in a colander, let them sit, then spread them out to dry further on the cookie sheet. I hope that helps. Berry season will soon be upon us 🙂

      1. Thanks for getting back to me. I love the idea of toasting the tomatoes first. Yes. I’m hoping this year I can find a farmer who picks them ripe and sweet. Haven’t had a truly ripe batch in a few years now.

      2. The Zero-Waste Chef says:

        You’re welcome. I’m slow but eventually I respond 🙂 I hope you find some tomatoes too. Ripe are so, so good. Here’s how I prep mine: https://zerowastechef.com/2014/10/08/roasted-tomatoes/ It’s a lot of work at the time, a whole afternoon affair for each 20-pound box I buy (I do them in batches, not all at once) but in the winter, I have the BEST tomatoes. I cooked a large batch of chana masala last night with two big jars of the tomatoes and garnished our dishes with chopped preserved lemon. OMG. It was so good. Having it again tonight…

      3. Wonderful way to preserve them! Thank you. Ripe tomatoes are usually a lot easier to find at our farmer’s markets than ripe berries. No one want to risk the berries smooshing from farm to market, so they pick them sour, but firmer. I miss living where I could drive ten miles out of town and u-pick, but those days are gone forever, for this old, city-bound granny, looks like.

      4. The Zero-Waste Chef says:

        Ah, that makes sense sadly that they pick them unripe 🙁 Here’s another thing you can do some of your tomatoes: https://zerowastechef.com/2015/07/14/fermented-salsa/

  26. Sarah Breckenridge says: Reply

    I like everyone else love the jar usage and have been doing it for a while. What do you do when freezing bread/cake/ meat?

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi there Sarah, sorry I just saw this comment now. I freeze whole loaves of bread in my cloth produce and bulk bags. They are the perfect size. I find if I slice the bread before freezing it, it doesn’t keep nearly as well. Cake or brownies, I cut up and then put in jars or metal containers. When I buy meat, I bring a metal LunchBot or tiffin to the store and then put that in the freezer. ~ Anne Marie

  27. Nice article, you’re inspiring me to go zero waste too. My girlfriend is vegan though, do you have favorite vegan meals?

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Ooooh, I have lots. Channa masala. It is so delicious: https://zerowastechef.com/2016/08/13/chana-masala/
      I make a lot of dal too: https://zerowastechef.com/2015/06/25/lentil-dal/
      A really good vegan snack is sourdough crackers with hummus. And I have a recipe for vegan pesto. Those are all in my recipe index: https://zerowastechef.com/recipe-index/
      Enjoy!

    2. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      I forgot this one! Here is a good recipe for vegan chili: https://zerowastechef.com/2017/03/28/vegetarian-chili/

  28. […] lots of handy tips for avoiding food waste. Also check out Zero Waste Chef’s blog post on freezing food plastic free. If you are interested in composting, Compost Collective are running a number of free courses […]

  29. […] fact, but you can actually use glass to freeze food! Zero Waste Chef has a great article on how to freeze food without using plastic that I encourage you to check out. Personally, we use screw top jars and cloth (bags) in the […]

  30. I didn’t have time to look at all your comments here. I buy organic blueberries in bulk and ‘traditionally’ bag them in large Ziplocs. I can’t imagine putting 30lbs. on trays and then separating them into small jars. I figure there must be a better way. I may try my 9×12 casserole dishes with the plastic lid, but even then, I’ll need quite a few! We have been using glass jars with no problems as well, but I run into trouble when buying fruit in bulk for my family of 7. Anyone have any suggestions?

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      I have a few of those casserole dishes too. How many pounds do you think you could fit in one of those? I wonder if a cloth bag would work. I have never tried it but I think I’ll go transfer some frozen blueberries from my jars into a bag and see how it goes.

      1. Well, let me know in about 6 months how that went! I need a reliable solution, or else I waste a lot of food that would’ve been for my family. I guess we must go back to old times and make fermented blueberry drink…uh, wine 😂 That would be the most eco-friendly option of all. Water it down for the kids, gets them in bed on time!

  31. […] kann, stimmt übrigens nicht. Eine tolle Anleitung, wie man plastikfrei einfriert, findest du hier bei Zero Waste Chef (auf Englisch) und eine kürzere Anleitung bei Smarticular (auf Deutsch). Wir selber frieren auch […]

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