I submitted this as an article somewhere, but it was rejected. *sniff*
However, I figured you all would appreciate it more, so I am posting here instead:
It's sickening to discover that that bag of peppers you bought has quietly disintegrated into mush, or that the remainder of a can of tomato paste is now sporting a jaunty brown fur coat. Food waste can also be a huge drain on your food budget, too. According to a recent University of Arizona study, the average household throws away 15 percent of the food it purchases. That can add up to several hundred dollars a year.
You don't have to be a master leftover strategist to plug this leak in your food budget. All it takes is a couple extra minutes attention and your freezer. Although a standalone freezer is nice for long-term storage, your refrigerator's freezer can be a powerful tool to help you save money by cutting down on waste.
The answer is to freeze foodstuffs that you can't use before they go bad. There are many foods you can save with very little work. Freezing small amounts is a particularly valuable strategy for people who live alone, and often can't finish even smaller packages while they are still fresh.
For instance, when you only need a dab of tomato paste, or one or two anchovies for a recipe, freeze the rest for later use. You can do this by freezing recipe-sized dabs on a cookie sheet, then placing the frozen blocks in a freezer bag when they are solid. Fresh herbs can be preserved much the same way: spread and freeze chopped herbs, then bag. Scoop out just what you need for recipes, and always have fresh-tasting herbs on-hand.
Do you enjoy a slice of lemon or lime in your drink, but tend not to use the whole fruit before it goes bad? Keep a bag of citrus slices in your freezer. Freezing has no affect on the taste, and allows you to add flavorful bits to a glass of iced tea or soda, or your alcoholic beverage of choice.
Be careful how you freeze, however.
Most vegetables will get woody or mushy if they are put in the freezer without par-cooking first. My favorite way to deal with aromatic vegetables like onions, peppers, celery or mushrooms is to saute in a bit of oil, then freeze in small zippered bags.
I often use this technique to rescue mushrooms that are about to go bad, or the last half of an onion or bell pepper. This is also a good way to take advantage of sales on less than perfect produce, even if it's something you can't use right away. In the end, it's a time-saver, too. For your next meal, all the chopping and sauteing is done, and all you have to do is thaw the vegeatbles in the pan.
Freezing those little bits that would otherwise go to waste is a quick and easy way to save time, money and the environment, all while enhancing your meals.