Give the pantry some breathing room.
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In the harrowing early days of the COVID-19 countrywide shutdowns, many of us rushed to grocery stores and membership warehouses to stockpile foods for a quarantine. Unsure of what or precisely how much to buy, many shoppers took to much; in some places, hoarding was a serious concern. While we are all still cooking pantry-friendly recipes and strategically working through our reserves, it may be time to consider the quality and freshness of some things you stockpiled. Indeed, everything has an expiration date; some are coming sooner than you may expect.

But instead of feeding your family turkey sandwiches at breakfast (not that we don't love a breakfast sandwich) for the next week to use up cold cuts and bread, consider freezing what you can for later use. From cookies to peanut butter, we're making room in our freezers for these commonly stockpiled foods.

1. Milk

Granted, there are a variety of shelf-stable milks on the market, but if you prefer standard moo juice instead of that ultra-high pasteurized stuff, there's a way to stock up without it going sour. Yep, you can stick the bottle or box — original packaging and all — straight into the freezer. You'll just want to pour out a bit from the top first, since the milk will require room to expand. Check out some more on how to freeze and thaw milk.

2. Cookies

Now what would frozen milk be without a batch of frozen cookies to go with it? And we're not just talking about the dough. To preserve already-baked treats, make sure they're completely cool first — if they're the prepackaged kind, you can obviously skip this part — before arranging them in single layers on parchment-lined sheets, freezing until solid, then packing in airtight, freezer-safe bags and storing for up to a month. As if they'll last that long!

3. Flour

You may well be aware there's been a bit of a run on flour, in order to accommodate all manner of COVID-fueled baking projects (see above). And if you've managed to successfully hoard a snowstorm of powder yourself, you'll want to ensure it lasts long enough to see you through months of frenzied sourdough experiments (besides attracting bugs, non-refined or whole grain flours can turn rancid at room temperature). Remove it from its paper packaging first, and pour into airtight freezer bags. No need to portion into smaller servings; since flour won't harden in the freezer, you can remove whatever you wish, whenever you wish.

4. Eggs

Perhaps the most precious grocery commodity, it's tempting to purchase as many cartons as we can, whenever there isn't a limit actively imposed by the store. So if you've found yourself with enough eggs to fill a chicken coop, there are numerous ways to store excess in the freezer. You can actually stick them in whole (even if the shells are broken!) whisk them up and pour into airtight containers, or separate the yolks from the whites, and freeze separately.

5. Cold Cuts

Is your lunchtime routine suffering without a reliable source for sandwich fixings? Most of us know that bread can be successfully frozen, but the great news is that cold cuts can be, too. Generally, all of those cooked, thinly-sliced meats barely last a week in the fridge before spoiling. But frozen right in their vacuum-sealed bags (or transferred into airtight freezer bags, if procured directly from the deli), those pounds of honey ham, mesquite turkey and Oscar Meyer bologna can last months in the freezer, without sacrificing taste or texture. Extra moisture upon thawing is occasionally an issue, but can be easily blotted away.

avocados and asparagus
Photo: Apeel

6. Fruits and Veggies

It's hardly news that fruits and veggies can be purchased frozen. But if you find yourself with a fast-disintegrating surplus of fresh produce, it's easy to take matters into your own hands. Read this guide to freezing fruits and vegetables, from apples and berries to green beans and broccoli. And you go even further by flash-freezing avocados (peel and halve them, or mash and mix them with lime or lemon); as well as bananas (peel and wrap tightly in plastic, then blend for instant ice cream); onions and garlic (chop and store in bags, or freeze whole); and even fresh herbs (divide into ice cube trays, covered with water or olive oil).

7. Cooked Pasta and Rice

Uncooked and store in airtight containers, rice and pasta keep for many months in the pantry. But if you've gotten exuberant while boiling, there's still a way to save your starches. Freeze in a single layer on cookie sheets, before packing into bags.

8. Organic Peanut Butter

You know that stuff with the oil on the top? It goes rancid pretty quickly. But if you stick the jar in the freezer, you can keep it around for ages with excellent results. The fats and solids can still be emulsified upon thawing, and you can put it back in the freezer again and again.

9. Chips

On the off chance you haven't immediately plowed your way through that bag of Lays, you may be concerned about them getting stale. Here again, the freezer is definitely your friend. If you've opened the bag, just press extra air out first, and your chips are good to stash — for however long that lasts!

10. Coffee

Goodness knows, we need all the caffeine we can get nowadays. But nothing is more of a bummer than beans that have lost their luster. Keep those essential oils fresh by keeping either ground or whole beans in the freezer — and yes, as always, stored in airtight, freezer-safe bags.

Keep Reading: Looking for more tips on how to effectively thaw and reheat frozen foods?