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.

20140713_122024_8_bestshot copy
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!

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

  1. Reblogged this on Fundstücke aus dem Internet and commented:
    Viele gute Tipps, wie man Lebensmittel einfrieren kann, ohne Plastik zu verwenden. Ich mache das auch genau so!

      1. Thanks for the reblog Kit 🙂

  2. Thank you for this post, really good hints! I just do the same!

    many greetings

    1. Thanks for the reblog Maria. I love my jars 🙂
      ~ Anne Marie

  3. Great! I finally moved into a place with a freezer and I was just wondering this. Plus I love the idea of saving scrap veg for stock. I’ll definitely try this out.

    1. Great! I think you’ll like the stock. It tastes better than the store-bought stuff and is so simple to make.

  4. I love your style! Another no-nonsense, non-smug, practical and empowering post!

    1. Thank you Meg. I hope you’re well. Happy new year 🙂

  5. These are some really great tips! I freeze in glass sometimes and have broken a jar once, but I left headspace so something must have already compromised the glass some how. I stopped doing it because of that incident, but I think I will go back to that again. Thanks for all these great money and waste saving ideas too. I do the stock idea, but didn’t think of making veggie stock too. Great tip! I love not wasting one little bit of my purchases. 🙂 Have a lovely day!

    1. Uh oh, I’m sorry your jar broke. I hope you have better luck this time. The veggie stock is pretty tasty (and free!). I used some in a recipe last week that called for chicken broth and it worked well. It’s late now, so I’ll wish you a lovely night 🙂

      1. Another tip from working in a lab for many years. Initially freeze jars on their sides to prevent expansion related breakage. Once frozen they can be turned upright.

      2. Oooh, thanks for that tip Betsy. Great idea!

  6. Great post. I think you’re wonderful & I love your blog! Thanks for your sane input into this crazy world.

    1. Thanks so much. That’s sweet of you 🙂

  7. Thanks for this post! I was wondering about freezing in jars and these tips really help. I also hadn’t thought to freeze seasonal fruits, but that makes a lot of sense. This way I can still enjoy my favorite fruits—cherries, blueberries, raspberries—in winter when they’re out of season. Yum!

    1. Thanks for checking it out Chris. I have grown to rely on my freezer for tomatoes in winter. I use them in so many dishes. Happy new year 🙂

      1. Thanks! Happy new year to you as well 🙂 Did you make any resolutions for the year?

      2. Not exactly. I did vow to get more organized. And I think it’s time I outlined a book based on this blog. How about you? Any resolutions?

      3. A book is such a good idea! I would definitely buy it and, I’m sure, dog-ear many of its pages. I’ve made a ton of resolutions, as usual: trying to write more, learning to make my own yogurt, becoming a better and more adventurous baker… the list goes on and on haha

      4. Trying to write more sounds familiar… Those all sound like good resolutions. I hope you get to cross some off the to-do list 🙂

  8. Great tip on the fruits. Just today I passed by and passed up the frozen fruit in plastic bags at the store with a heavy sigh. Next year, I’ll do better!

    1. Thanks! Your frozen fruit will taste better than the stuff in the plastic bags 😉

  9. Thanks to this post, my mind is now loaded with fantastic ideas to put my glass jar collection into good use, effectively reduce plastic usages, mitigate food waste, save money and time by being prepared and in the know. Thank you again for being generous with your great practices!

    1. Jars are wonderful, under-appreciated objects. I think at this point, I may have some sort of jar obsession/condition. Enjoy filling yours and thanks for checking out my tips Natalie.

  10. You are my hero! Amazing post.

  11. I wish someone would start making square jars so I could more effectively use freezer space! If you know of any brands, please let me know 🙂

    1. Oooh, good idea Karen. Sur la Table carries slightly squarish jars. My boss gave me a gift card and I had been eyeing them but my daughter who was with my said I had enough jars and that I won’t be satisfied until we can no longer walk around in the kitchen because it will be crammed with so many jars. Here’s a link to them:

  12. No joke, you just changed my life. I have been trying to figure out how to do this for a while.

    1. Hahaha! Well I’m glad you found the post useful 🙂 Happy freezing!

  13. I’ve been freezing stuff in plastic for a long time but here’s the caution. Don’t take anything out of the freezer or even the refrigerator and stick it in an oven or microwave without it getting to room temperature first. Otherwise you get a cracked container.

    1. Yikes! Yes, thank you for that tip Maggie!

  14. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! 🙂

    1. Thank you for checking out my post, Dena 🙂

  15. I am inspired! Do I have to stop using my Foodsaver?????

    1. Great! I’ll convert you 😉 How much do you use your Foodsaver? Could you freeze everything in jars instead? If you don’t have a lot of jars, I would start hoarding them now. Thanks for checking out my post 🙂

      1. It does have the jar attachment! What will I do with all the bags? Ug.

      2. Well, maybe you can set them aside and one day they will come in handy for something. I have stuff I bought before I went plastic-free that I wish I hadn’t but I can’t just throw it out. It’s a dilemma. But I’m not going to lose sleep over it either. I do my best.

  16. No shoulders you say. I’ve been using jars with shoulders, does that increase the possibility of breakage? I use canning jars and spaghetti sauce (Classico brand) jars.

    1. Well I guess it’s more of a personal preference. The jar I broke was actually a bottle so it had a very narrow neck. I find wide-mouth easier to fill and clean. I think if you leave enough head space (a couple of inches is plenty), you will be fine.

  17. […] Source: How to Freeze Food Without Using Plastic […]

  18. Does the air at the top of the jar cause freezer burn? I thought plastic bags were to allow us to suck the air out. I am eager to learn more.

    1. That’s a good questions Beverly. I haven’t had any trouble with freezer burn but I don’t leave food in there all that long (maximum six months I would say, less for fruit, only because we gobble it up quickly). Ice crystals will form on top of the food eventually, depending on what you store. So I just looked in there and the tomatoes I froze a few months ago have only a little bit of ice around the inside top of the jar. The beans I froze last week have a bit of ice on top of them. But I haven’t noticed any problem with flavor. I hope that helps. People have had so many good questions on this! I’ll have to write a part II on this post.

      1. And the fruit in open air….have you found that they becom freezer burned? How long do you allow them to freeze before jarring them?

        Thank you very much for this article. I have been considering how I could freeze and store in glass containers efficiently, and your advise has been very helpful.

      2. The fruit takes only a couple of hours to freeze, if that. It’s always just fine, even if I get busy with something else, forget about it and it sits in there longer. I’m glad you found the info useful 🙂

  19. Ok twice now, TWICE, I have had the bottom of a jar just fall out after it was frozen. I had taken a jar of chili out of the freezer and put in the fridge. I took it out and shook it, to see if it was thawed, and the bottom of the jar just came off. Chili everywhere. When I told this to my Mom, she said, don’t you know you’re not supposed to freeze glass? It changes the chemical composition, or something.

    Obviously it’s working for you, but cleaning the mess I made TWICE has made me learn my lesson.

    1. Uh oh. Sorry to hear that about your chili. That would be a pain to clean up…twice. I haven’t run into that problem and I hope I don’t! So far so good.

  20. Thanks for the post. I grow my own food, so I freeze HEAPS, but have been very reliant on plastic. I’ve just recently gone zero waste, but hit a big hurdle when we had three of our sheep butchered for the freezer. For such large things as roasts, and with such a large quantity which will stay in the freezer for quite a while, I couldn’t think of an alternative. In the end, I told the butcher to package it for a family of eight (we are a family of four) so as to halve the number of bags. Do you have any other ideas or tips for me to help me avoid plastic next time?

    1. Oh wow. I bow at your feet. I wish I could say I grew my own food, including raising animals. That’s a great idea to halve the number of bags. You cut down on the amount of packaging right there. Could you also wrap the meat in something like parchment paper? I haven’t done this myself but it sounds like it might work. You could experiment with one hunk of meat and if that keeps well, try it with more. Also, do you ever salt the meat? I have never tried doing it but that’s another idea for preserving it.

      1. Great ideas, especially the salting. I hadn’t thought of that. It’s a good idea to try different methods of wrapping and see how they go. Thanks for your ideas!

      2. You’re welcome. I hope they work 🙂

  21. Thanks for the bean freezing idea, I never thought to do this.

    1. You’re welcome Julie. Thanks for reading the post 🙂

  22. I assume bread frozen in cloth bags doesn’t have a very long freezer life? I used to make just two loaves and freeze one, but now I am trying to make four loaves and freeze three, which doubles my oven-use efficiency.

    An aside– I find your font quite small and difficult to read– especially in the comment section. And I am in my 30s with decent vision!