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.)

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.)

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 add some nice tang to soup. Or thaw it and heat it up to use in place of warm water when making pizza dough. (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.)

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

211 Replies to “How to Freeze Food Without Using Plastic”

  1. Hello! I’m prepping for post-partum and do use glass containers of all sorts, but i need to maximize my freezer space. Are there “bag”-shaped alternatives to freezing things in jars, or wrapping them (in which case they can’t be frozen for a very long period of time? What do you think of reusable silicone bags? What about compostable plastic-alternative bags. I wonder if they are too porous for freezing? Curious if you have any thoughts! Thank you for your article!

    1. Another post on this site talked about a breast pump that can connect to mason jars, so that might be a good option.

    2. Katie, did you come up with anything? I am up against the same problem with a very limited freezer space, and I’d like to have as much stashed away as possible before I deliver. Thanks! Cassandra

      1. Reusable silicone bags? I have read that the process to create silicone is not the most environmentally friendly. However, if you really needed to do bags, you could use them even after you’re done storing breast milk. I hear stasher bags are good, but they’re expensive and there are way cheaper options as well that you could look into? Just thought I’d share that
        even though it’s a few months later lol 🙂

  2. […] How to Freeze Food without Using Plastic – Zero Waste Chef […]

  3. Jenn Chamberlin says: Reply

    When freezing beans, is it better to freeze them in liquid or not? I froze pinto beans over the weekend in glass jars, but first I froze them on cookie sheets (like freezing fruit) so that they did not all stick together, and I could could accuratly measuer how much was in each jar. Will this cause the beans to have freezer burn faster? Should I just add liquid?

  4. […] This article has some great tips for freezing food without plastic, and explains the simple method of “flash freezing”. This is where you basically freeze individual foods (like berries) and then transfer them into a container to keep in the freezer. It prevents frozen blobs from sticking together, like what happens if you just put mushy things in the freezer all at once.  […]

  5. […] in point: Bonneau’s dedication to freezing food without plastic. Check out the amazing pictures of her freezer, filled with frosty-looking jars of all shapes and sizes. She makes a point of collecting all the […]

  6. The bread doesn’t get freezer burn in fabric bags?

  7. How do you find enough room in your freezer? Do you have 2 freezers? Thank you

    1. Hi Nadia,
      I just have one freezer but it’s filled with jars. Surprisingly, I can fit quite a bit in there. Usually, I have more tomatoes in there than anything else.
      ~ Anne-Marie

  8. I am arriving late to this post and chat line, but I can many of the things that Anne-Marie puts in her freezer. This leaves me freezer space for the things that are not the same when canned (berries…) and means that I can use them without a defrosting step. I can all my broths, tomato sauce and pickled mushrooms. I have not yet canned pre-cooked pulses, but clearly one could. You just need a good collection of jars with good lids and a big pot. And there is no danger of jars breaking or popping their lids in the freezer :-).

  9. Can you use compostable bags to freeze food?

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