BPA-Free Ways to Freeze Food Without Plastic 87

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In recent memory, the consumers’ go-to for freezing foods has been plastic. But now that we’ve discovered that BPA (bisphenol-A) comes with certain health risks (and now, whoops! its replacement, BPS, might be even more damaging!) lots of people are looking for BPA-free alternatives. It’s a big stumbling block for people like me who want to preserve garden bounty (I freeze vegetables like green beans; their acid content is too low for water bath canning) or things like soup stock and pre-made meals without the health risks of plastic. Here are some options to consider:

bake, serve, store, freezer, refrigeratorEven BPA-free plastic is problematic! Ready to revamp your freezer and store your food without plastic? Glass storage containers:

  • This collection of Pyrex glass containers is excellent on my wish list. These are oven safe, plus they’re good for both refrigerator and freezer storage and they have glass lids as well as plastic. Other glass containers that I use for freezing have plastic lids that are beginning to crack; I’m having a heck of a time finding replacements. Glass lids are so much more durable.
  • If you are the parent of a baby and making your own baby food, rejoice! Check out these super cool freezer safe glass baby food storage containers. Alas, these aren’t exactly inexpensive options. Life Without Plastic has some great bpa-free storage options, but again, not cheap.

BPA-free glass jars:

  • I freeze some things in glass canning jars. I’ve had some breakage, but honestly? I think that was my fault. I shouldn’t have used the narrow mouth jars with shoulders. When freezing in glass canning jars, you’ll want to use straight-sided wide mouth jars that say specifically that they’re for canning or freezing and be sure to leave enough head space for expansion. I’ve also had good luck with recycling glass peanut butter jars. They’re straight sided and the glass is fairly thick. (And I’ll bet ole Laura Scudder is pretty happy right about now that she didn’t succumb to the plastic packaging craze.)

Steam Pans:

  • A reader commented that she invested in some steam table pans to freeze in. They stack well, are reusable, and come in a variety of sizes.

Recycled milk cartons and aseptic packaging:

  • We’ve all filled a recycled half gallon milk carton with water to make ice blocks, right? Why not use them for freezing soups and stocks? If you buy broth or soup in aseptic packaging, you ought to be Even BPA-free plastic is problematic! Ready to revamp your freezer and store your food without plastic? able to reuse those as well. Just make sure you have some freezer tape on hand to seal the containers. (Yes, there’s an element of plastic here, but aseptic packages are bpa-free. And if you’re diverting items from the landfill, I say it’s a better option that buying new plastic bags.)

Butcher paper and foil:

  • When wrapping pre-made meals (think: burritos) or meats, these are a good option. If you don’t want the foil to touch the food directly (it can react with certain foods), wrap first in a layer of wax paper. If you’re being especially careful to eliminate toxins, there’s a soy based wax paper available (regular wax paper is made with paraffin, which is a by-product of petroleum).

Muffin tins:

  • If I want to freeze items in small portions, I’ll fill muffin tins and freeze them. Once frozen, I thaw slightly, pop them out, and wrap in wax paper and foil. For larger meals, use the same method with freezer safe bowls.

Nature’s skin:

  • This isn’t practical for most things, but you can stick some produce directly in the freezer without any sort of container. I’ve had luck doing this with tomatoes. Just toss them in a freezer safe bowl and voila! When you’re ready to use them in cooking, thaw them out and the skin slips right off. I’m told you can do the same with whole passion fruit.

I’d love to hear your suggestions, especially if you’re of a certain age and remember freezing before plastic – what did you use??

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87 thoughts on “BPA-Free Ways to Freeze Food Without Plastic

  • Heather Anderson

    Thanks for this great post. I have been thinking lately about non plastic freezer options. I food grade plastic jars from purchases of honey and peanut butter, but I have wondered if these are healthy to use. You have several great ideas that I will try. The glass storage containers look ideal and will certainly go on my wish list.

  • merr

    I have recently been wondering about the safety of plastic and freezing food. I need to get some of these.

  • Melanie @ Frugal Kiwi

    Definitely interested to hear what people have to say about this. Especially with 1/6 of a cow in the freezer now and another 1/3 of a cow coming.

  • Kris Bordessa Post author

    Melanie, when you have a cow butchered, does it come in plastic now? The last time I bought a portion of beef it came wrapped in white butcher paper. I loved those little packages in the freezer!

    • Charmaine

      Unfortunately, that white butcher paper is often lined with plastic coating.

  • Donna Hull

    These are great ideas for avoiding plastic freezer bags. And they don’t sound hard to put into practice. Great sustainable living tips!

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      Thanks, Donna. We’ve even started taking “road trip” snacks with us in alternative containers!

  • Jane Boursaw

    We use way too much plastic around here – including freezer storage bags. I’m vowing right now to change that. Seems like a few well-made containers would set you up forever.

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      This makes me happy. 😉

      • lola

        This makes me happy too. I get so excited when I hear that people are taking the time to make themselves and their families healthy. These comments are the best part of reading the article.

  • MyKidsEatSquid

    On Melanie’s point, I find that if I freeze meat in butcher paper it works out much better. I don’t know is it’s sustainable per se because it does have what appears to be a plasticy coding, but it could definitely work for veggies. I’m interested to hear your thoughts.

    • Tara

      We freeze alot of venison. My husband had the idea of using the regular white freezer paper, but turning it inside out so that the plastic coating is not touching the food. I’m sure it’s not a perfect solution, but it has worked for us. None of my meat has been freezer-burnt nor has any of it leaked out of the paper before the meat froze.

      • Melissa

        Brown butcher paper from whole foods is made with a soy wax. You could probably buy it somewhere.

  • Casey@Good. Food. Stories.

    I’ve definitely frozen things directly on a baking sheet and then transferred them to a container… it’s the container part of the equation that gets expensive and frustrating. Would Pyrex dishes be a dorky Christmas gift?

    • Wolfryder

      No, Pyrex would be an excellent gift for those who freeze food.

  • NoPotCoooking

    I’ve got those glass containers with glass lids on my wish list. I am worried about breakage though because I am a complete klutz – always dropping things.

  • April

    Years ago before we had kids, we left plastic storage containers and switched to Pyrex storage containers. We never looked back. They do have plastic lids, but 7 years later they are all in perfect condition. I do put them in the freezer sometimes, but they aren’t space efficient. We mostly use them for leftovers, taking lunch to work (just DH now, but I did it too when I was working). The other problem is they leave air in there, which contributes to the breakdown of your food. That’s not a big deal if you are freezing something for a few weeks, but for long-term storage it won’t work. I have 5 kids ages 4 and under, so I’m all about efficiency. I make almost all of our food from scratch. To be efficient I like to do freezer meals, I make several loaves of bread at once, batch cooking (like last night I tripled the amount of rice I made so I could freeze some for future meals), etc. Right now I’m freezing blueberries, raspberries, zucchini and squash. I use the FoodSaver because it maintains the quality of the food for the whole year (I usually finish it off by the next year’s harvest). I would have to buy several freezers and I couldn’t afford all those glass containers. I hate wasting all those plastic bags, but I haven’t found a reasonable alternative for the quantity that I do. I do can whatever can be canned, and dehydrate some things, but for other things, freezing is just the best method of preserving.

    • K.C.

      Have you considered the Food Saver attachment that sucks the air out of canning jars? I like it because I can open the jar to get a bit out and then reseal it again. Works for lots of things — but NOT powdery things like flour, which get sucked up into the pump.

      Here’s what I’m talking about: http://www.foodsaver.com/accessories/T03-0023-01P.html

  • Rebecca

    Excellent ideas on here. I re- use ice cube trays from thrift stores to freeze homemade pesto, and then toss the cube in my spaghetti sauce. Fruit pops with toothpicks too.

  • Bethany

    This is a tough conundrum. I’m having a baby in a few months and so I’ve been trying to think about how I can preserve baby food and pumped milk in the freezer without plastic. Thanks for the link on those containers! I don’t really have much advice to give since I’m sorta just starting off on this journey. I also use my food sealer, but try not to waste the plastic by cutting the bags extra big for multiple uses, which I then wash and reuse. Chemically speaking though I have no idea if that’s the right answer or not.

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      I made an awful lot of my own baby food many moons ago. I used baby food jars from friends to freeze it. Just make sure you fill only about 3/4 full and you shouldn’t have any problem with breakage. Honestly, I don’t think there is a “right” answer. There’s often a “best I can do right now” answer, though. Good luck with your family expansion, and congrats!

    • My Healthy Green Family

      Baby food in stainless steel ice cube trays freezes perfectly then you can pop the cubes out and store in the freezer in a glass container.  The standard ice cube size is also considered a serving size for baby food so you can get a good idea of how much to serve that way. 

      • Tara

        Yes, the recycled baby food jars worked perfectly for me!

    • Melissa

      I didn’t do pureed baby food. We went with BLW (baby led weaning, or BLS baby led solids). My little girl started when she began to grab food off my plate, and I then made sure I always had some cooled steamed veggies (carrot, broccoli, anything easy to grab and pick up) on my plate as well…. then she would eat them while in her high chair. She progressed to grated apple, avocado, banana, rice, spaghetti etc. as she gained motor skills. It’s messy, but she pretty much ate what we ate without any of the spicy stuff. Google it…. it’s wonderful and a lot less work to prepare than pureed baby food. Uses less plastic too 🙂

  • April

    Awesome idea Kris. I bet you could collect tons of baby food jars on freecycle. I was going to add that I’m going to post on freecycle to get extra glass pans for doing my freezer meals like lasagna or stuffed peppers so I don’t have to use those foil pans. It would be too expensive to buy that many.

  • JoeBlack

    Great ideas. You should be aware, however, that the inside of paper milk and juice cartons are plastic coated. 🙁

  • lstroyan

    I just did a huge freezer day and came up with a new trick. I don’t like to store in plastic in the fridge, but I do use plastic zippered bags in the freezer — but not until after the food is frozen because it’s pretty inert in it’s frozen state. (Aluminum is also a health hazard that we have to avoid, so foil is not a good option for us). First I expanded my Pyrex collection (from their website you can get replacement lids as well as cheaper versions of many of the basics). I froze all of the food in the Pryex with a piece of cotton twine underneath the food. After the food was frozen solid, I ran it under water to loosen and used the twine to pop the food out of the dish. I put the food into zippered bags which I reuse several times (some of my bags had labels from 2006!).  When I am ready to use the food I’ll put it back into the glass container to thaw in the fridge and bake in the oven.
    I did find a new product which is paper on one side and foil on the other so the foil never touches the food. I haven’t tried it yet though.

      • lstroyan

         @Attainable Sustainable It’s Reynolds non-stick pan lining paper.  Here’s a link: http://www.reynoldskitchens.com/plp/prod-info.asp

    • Monica Green

      Great idea on the freezing in the shape of the pyrex container!!! I also think this would be fantastic for the crock pot! No more tipping the frozen food on its side with the lid off the crock pot until it heats up enough to fit into the crock pot!

  • Laura Weldon

    We use a lot of glass containers for leftovers but I’ve broken too many in the freezer. Or maybe my kids have broken too many. Nothing like retrieving glass-studded strawberries that have cascaded through freezer racks. I often freeze things solid, then transfer to freezer bags. Mainly I’ve gotten away from freezing and done more canning instead to avoid the plastic problem. I was happy  with this until I read that the canning jar lids (as well as most baby food jar lids) have a coating that contains BPA in it. Screaming just a little bit over here. 

      • Crystal

        I know I have seen BPA-free canning lids on the Internet. Google!

        • Kris Bordessa Post author

          Oh, I’ve googled my heart out. The only BPA-free lids I can find are the *plastic ones from Tattler. Not an ideal alternative, IMO.

          • cherise

            The Tattler lids are guaranteed for 20 years. Just curious why they aren’t a good alternative if they’re BPA free and reusable. Besides, the lids of the canning jars only touch the food while it’s cooking, not for all the years of storage. (I just used green beans canned in 2012 and they were perfect.)

          • Kris Bordessa Post author

            I don’t have any experience with the Tattler lids. They ARE still plastic, though, with all of the worries that come with plastic – it’s a petroleum product, potential leaching… Just because it’s BPA-free, doesn’t mean it’s not leaching something else. That’s not to say the metal rings/lids are a lot better, but I don’t see a huge *benefit in switching from one to the other, you know?

          • Lynne Clark

            I was checking Walmart.com today and found Anchor Hocking canning jars that state that the metal cover is PBA-free.

  • nanr42

    One problem with milk containers is that they are layered paper and plastic, but I don’t know what kind of plastic. Waxed paper is waxed with parafin, a hydrocarbon. Butcher or freezer paper is plastic coated. So i’m pondering which is the least bad choice.

  • Maria R

    Interesting Article in the NY Times today: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/19/opinion/eat-like-a-mennonite.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20130119

    Butcher paper is not the same as freezer paper. Reynold’s Freezer paper is plastic coated, butcher paper is not. I have switched to soy-based waxed paper with an over-wrap of butcher paper. I’ll freeze things in a pyrex then move it to this. I label it and the blocks stack nicely. No breakage and the package can be recycled.

    And someone mentioned Canning jar lids? Tattlers are the only ones I know of also. They last nearly forever. I think they might be petroleum based but I don’t think that leaches into our bodies.

  • Linda D

    Thank you for the freezing whole tomato tip, I freeze whole lemons to grate (w/skin) and mix with honey and ginger for cough and congestion relief.

  • Taylor-Made Ranch Homestead

    I love this post – The freezer is the last frontier where glass vs plastic is concerned for me. I absolutely hate plastic but I’ve had too many glass accidents in the freezer which is a hazard for the food beneath the broken glass jar as well as future digging into the depths of the freezer to retrieve food, so I’ve been freezing soups, broth, etc in repurposed peanut butter jars. I also use zippered freezer bags but I reuse those bags several times by wrapping the food itself in repurposed plastic bags from other food items such as baby carrots, tortilla bags, etc. and then placing that bag into a zippered freezer bag. As others have said, maybe not the ideal situation but certainly working for us currently.

    I cook in glass, stainless steel or cast iron. In the fridge my leftovers are always placed in repurposed wide-mouth glass jars and I have quite a collection of Pyrex to store larger amounts of refrigerated food in.

    Thanks for sharing this post!

    ~Taylor-Made Ranch~
    Wolfe City, Texas

    • Lynne Clark

      When I freeze food I usually place in on a cookie sheet to freeze [sometimes the food sticks to the metal but it usually pops off with a butter knife to encourage it], then place in freezer zip bag. When I take the food out, I keep the bag in the freezer to reuse later. I figured that any food particles still in the bag would stay frozen. I do this a lot with French toast and pancakes.

  • Jenny Eide Bibler

    Thanks everyone for the great tips! First, a quick side note: if you cook in anything other than quality stainless steel, it will leach undesireables into the food. Yes, even glass. My first choice for cooking is always stainless steel, second would be cast iron, and I avoid all else. Now back to the topic of freezing; I have been using the BPA free Food Saver bags and so far have been quite pleased. Even though it is BPA free, I wait for the food to cool before bagging it and when it is time to cook I of course let it thaw at room temp rather than warm it in the bag. Heat releases the chemicals, even if all you do is run a soup can under warm water it releases BPA from the lining into the food! Anyway, even with BPA free Food Saver bags, I let things come to room temp because I read somewhere that all plasticizers are suspect, not just BPA. And as far as the BPA lining in all canned food, there is only one company that uses BPA free cans, and that is Eden Foods. Now if we can just get GMO food labeled… Good luck to us all!

  • Sheri

    My grandma always froze in the milk cartons she saved, and there was no freezer tape. She opened up the tops completely, filled them with whatever, then cut the top to custom size leaving flaps to fold down, folded them over to protect the food and tied some cotton twine around the carton like a package to keep it in a tidy bundle.

  • stephanie

    not sure if someone mentioned this already… i freeze in glass jars (peanutbutter, pickle, mason, etc.) and after some breakage from expansion pressure, I came across a tip for freezing with jar laying on its side so space for expanding contents is evenly distributed down the whole side of the jar. after contents have frozen then i can stand the jar back up. i found this also seems to speed up thawing time slightly… no broken jars since i began employing this simple trick.

    • JoanB

      What a great idea.  I will start doing this.

  • PN

    I turned plastic free recently – spent a lot of time thinking about an ideal solution and found one of the best solutions – steam table pans – they are stainless steel, comes in all different sizes, has a lid that perfectly fits (not tight fitting) – but is fine for freezing, is stackable and is rectangular in shape – which is ideal for space utilization. It is not heavy as glass and stoneware, is easy to clean and store and is much less expensive than stainless steel food storage containers that are around in the market. I bulk ordered them from a restaurant supply store.

    • Christine

      Seriously I feel like you deserve a ton of falling bollons and confetti with hero music!! Stainless steel steamer pans are PERFECT!!! Thank you so much. You ROCK!!

    • Kelsey

      PN– Whoa, GREAT idea!  Just curious, does using steam table pans work for freezing for a couple of months or just weeks?  No freezer burn!?


    • Lorraine

      PN- Thanks for the idea about steam table pans! I’ve thought about this before, but always assumed that since the lids aren’t airtight, there would be freezer burn. What has been your experience with that? Any special precautions you take? If anyone else has a thought on this, please chime in!

      • PN

        Hi Kelsey and Lorraine, I haven’t been here for some time – I still use the steam pans – I don’t seem to have any problems with freezer burns – do not fill it to the top – the air pushes it open and that can cause freezer burns. The only disadvantage is that you cannot take it out and stick it in the microwave – I defrost it in a pan of hot water until I can get it out into a microwaveable dish. The other disadvantage is you cannot do – ready-to- go type freezer meals in this because the lid is not tight….. I use it mainly for soups, curries, stews etc. I am currently looking for plastic free options for storing ready-to go meals – bento box type – there are some silicone ones available.

  • Joan

    Just putting it out there, but could you use banana leaves or grape leaves etc to wrap food in and freeze, maybe then put in plastic freezer bags or something. Would like to know if this is safe.

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      That’s actually a terrific idea. I can’t imagine how it would be unsafe!

  • Brooke

    For stuff I want individually frozen (fruit chunks, pepper strips, chopped onions, etc.), I put a sheet of parchment on a baking sheet, then scatter the food across it and put the whole tray in the freezer. Once it’s frozen, then I transfer to plastic containers. That way I don’t get a giant clump when I just want a few pieces.

  • Feline Jan

    1- Unfortunately, the BPA – free plastic is more poisonous!
    2- Love the idea of turning the glass jars on their side to prevent breakage!
    3- I’m going to try the “freeze in square glass container, then remove”, wrap with wax paper, and then put it in zip-top plastic bags (that get re-used a lot!) , that I use a straw to remove most of the air before sealing.
    4- I’m keeping my eyes open for an old metal ice cube tray, but were they stainless steel or aluminium?

  • Mary

    Please do not buy these cheaper Pyrex dishes from the discount stores. My daughter washed her Pyrex dish and put it on her drain rack to dry. A Hour later she heard a loud bang. The dish had exploded and was all over her kitchen. The glass was every where. Buy the old Corning Ware or the old Pyrex. Freeze in canning jars. Please be careful. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/569992

  • Erin

    I freeze in the regular mouth jars, but lay them on their side to freeze. More surface area means more expansion room. I have never had one break on me.

  • bobbi

    I freeze bananas in their own skin too. Works like a dream.

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      Oh, I do that too! GREAT for banana bread.

  • Laure

    Thanks! I often make huge pots of homemade soup, and just recently started using my canning jars for leftovers, in the fridge & freezer. The pints are perfect for soups, & 1/2 pints for sauces. It’s easy to tell what’s inside, too!
    It’s just the two of us now, but sometimes those really large sizes are just so much cheaper than smaller ones… So I buy the big one, & ration it out into smaller containers to freeze. Fewer trips to the store, more money in my pocket.
    I’ve come to hate the plastic ware that keeps falling out of the cabinet! The lids break, the bottoms turn orange, & I can never seem to match up all the pieces. Canning jars are easy – there are several different sized jars, but only 2 lid sizes.

  • Michelle in OK

    I’ve seen these recently in my wandering on the ‘net. Has anyone tried them for freezing? (Or at all?)

  • Kim

    1) Go for beeswax wrap!
    2) I started using glass containers for my freezing (good, thick Pyrex), but when it came time to thaw, the glass broke every.single.time. How do I keep this from happening?

  • Karen W

    i use plain old wide-mouth can & freeze jars to freeze .

  • Catherine

    I found fantastic air tight stainless steel containers on the website of “my life without plastic”. There are expensive, but I like to think they are a lifetime investment. I also freeze in glass jars, mason type with glass lid, but make sure they are sturdy (not the ones made in china), and leave enough air space for expansion. I also reuse milk cartons for soups, I’ve read they are PBA safe. Where I live, citrus like lemons are very expensive. So when they are on sale, I buy a lot, press the juice out and freeze it in a metal ice cube plater, I then transfer the cubes in a non plastic container. Two ice cubes
    equal a lemon!

  • Belinda Christensen

    I freeze raspberries and strawberries on cookies sheets then pack the frozen berries in canning jars. I use my canning jar vacuum attachment to pull out the air and put them back in the freezer. The berries stay really fresh this way.

  • Ian

    Great ideas, but I don’t agree about using foil either. It’s environmentally dubious.

  • jean funk

    Back in the 50-60’s that’s all we used were square plastic freezer containers when my children were babies I froze there vegs in glass baby jars. We didn’t think about the hazards of freezing things in plastic because thats all there was. After awhile I canned all my vegs and aso canned my meat and chicken before we would get new beef and new chickens. Maybe we need to go back to the old method of canning. Hot water bath.

  • Cooperdc

    I can in antique jars with the glass lids. I freeze, (but could also can) with the european glass top jars. I can juice in the european beer bottles with the clamp porceline top. But I have not found a freezer paper without plastic.

  • Wanda Bland

    What about food grade silicone freezer containers?

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      My understanding is that silicone is a form of plastic.

  • Shawnda

    the person using the steamer pan what they using to cover/seal the pANS?

  • Summer

    Beechnut still makes their baby food in glass jars. I buy them occasionally and then use them to store homemade baby food. They’re also great for freezing small amounts of bone broth (for making pan sauces or whenever you just need half a cup) and they’re great for taking things in lunches. Love this post!!!

  • Maggie

    When you’ve packaged your freezer items in paper like the burritos or the muffin tin items, or in those recycled milk cartons, now you can put them into your food saver vacuum packaging too. Even though it’s plastic, it won’t be touching the food because of your paper wrapper but will still keep your food from getting freezer burn and possibly longer. And the bags won’t touching the food, so they can be reused!

  • Meredith

    I’ve got those glass containers with glass lids on my wish list. I am worried about breakage though because I am a complete klutz – always dropping things.

  • Mala

    I simply use steel containers ( called stainless in India). They have been in use in my kitchen and freezer for more than 25 years now and still look new. I’m sure Indian stores in the Western countries sell those. Great value for money!

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      This is why I appreciate the internet. We can learn so much from other countries/places. Thanks!

  • Kate

    I grow about 20-25 tomato plants every year and I just toss the tomatoes in a plastic bucket that we use for making wine. It goes into the bottom of my freezer and when I feel like canning some home made V8 I grab some and thaw them in my stock pot. I usually don’t end up making this until November/December, as I’m a so sick of seeing tomatoes what with canning them and making salsa and sauce.

  • Margot

    My grandma used homemade oil cloth and butchers twine.