Freeze Herbs to Save Money and Create Less Waste

A sprinkle of parsley beautifies any dish, but what to do with the leftovers? I try to use up herbs wherever I can, but more often than not I end up tossing the unused bunch in the compost a week later. As someone who cooks regularly and wants to eliminate waste wherever possible, this frustrates me.

My mom was visiting from North Carolina a few weeks ago. Being the supermom that she is, she clued me in on how to use every last herb in the bunch. By freezing any unused herbs, I don’t have to create waste each time I cook by buying herbs I won’t use. Plus, this method saves a little cash.

Freezing Leftover Herbs

Thyme ready for the freezer

Pretty much every herb freezes well, though each plays best by their own rules. Thyme, for instance, freezes well as is. Place it in a tightly sealed container at the bottom of the freezer.

Believe it or not, the freezer is the best place for bay leaves. Here they retain more flavor and aroma than when stored in the spice cabinet. Place them at the deepest part of the freezer to bring down the temperature quickly.

bay leaves before the freeze

Parsley stores best in the freezer when pulled from the stem and roughly chopped. As you can see in the photo below, even weeks after being stored, parsley still retains its beautiful green color.

stored parsley fresh from the freezer

Basil is a little fussier. My favorite way to use up fresh basil is to make pesto. I make it during the summer with leaves harvested from the bush on my patio so I have homemade pesto all year long. It’s definitely my favorite sauce to coat on pasta or spread on brioche rolls for egg sandwiches. My go-to recipe is from the NY Times. Tip: Walnuts are cheaper than pine nuts and have that great nutty flavor, so I always use them instead.

If you want to freeze the basil leaves themselves, wash and dry the leaves before placing them in an airtight container. Or you can blanch them for 15 seconds then plunge them into an ice bath. Once the herbs have dried place them in a container in the freezer.

Save Those Jars

You can buy plastic containers and Tupperware or even plastic baggies, but if you’re like me, you want to cut down on plastic use. I save glass jars and use them for pesto and herb storage. Next time you finish up jam, salsa, or any sauce that comes in a small glass jar, run it through the dishwasher and use them up for storage. This method helps you reuse and save a couple of bucks.

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