I’m always surprised by how many people don’t utilise their freezers. I freeze pretty much everything, as you’re about to find out, so I find it hard to believe some people just use there’s for frozen chips and ice cream! Now, I’m not judging anyone’s lifestyle here, if you only eat fresh food or like to cook from scratch every night, then that’s fantastic. But if you struggle to decide what to eat after a long day, when you really can’t be bothered to cook; if you never think there’s anything easy and quick in to eat, so you regularly reach for convenience food, not because you particularly want it, but just because it’s easy. Or if you want to save a bit of money and reduce your food waste, then give this post a read.
Just to be clear, I’m not perfect, my house isn’t spotlessly clean, I’m possibly the worlds worst (best?) procrastinator, though I haven’t got round to finding out yet. But there is always a healthy, homecooked meal, just minutes away from being ready in my house, and I very rarely have any food waste. I’m the sort of person who could cater for a party at a moment’s notice, and I never struggle to make a meal, even if I haven’t been food shopping for a couple of weeks. Call them life hacks if you want, or top tips or whatever, but here’s how I do it, and it’s all down to my freezer.
I do a lot of batch cooking, and it works really well for me. There are only two of us in our household – my husband and myself, and he’s a self-confessed veg-dodger. But even so, whenever I cook, I usually make quite a few portions, box them up, label them, and freeze them. Then I treat them just like any other frozen ready meal you might buy in fancy packaging – I pop them in the oven or the microwave for a quick and easy meal when I can’t be bothered to cook from scratch. Most things can be cooked from frozen, and the rest will last a couple of days in the fridge once defrosted, so I don’t need to plan a week’s worth of meals, I can get something out to have, then change my mind, and as long as I have it within the next few days, it’s fine.
For things that need to be cooked in the oven, disposable foil trays are fantastic (at the bottom of the above picture.) Just portion up your bakes, pies, lasagne etc into foil trays, put the cardboard top on, fold the edges down to seal it and label it. Then stack them up in the freezer, and when you’re ready for it, just remove the cardboard top, bake, eat, then wash the foil and cardboard and put them in your recycling.
For things that can be reheated in the microwave, I reuse takeaway tubs (in the middle of the above picture). My husband also likes the premade curries you get from supermarkets, so I use those containers too. They’re dishwasher and microwave safe, free, stack really well, and when they finally crack, you can put then in the recycling, so why not?
Freezing Chopped Veg
We’ve all done it. You buy a huge cabbage or a pack of celery with the intention of doing fantastic things with it, and it ends up sitting in the fridge, rotting until it gets thrown out. It happens to the best of us! Well next time you spot something going over, or you end up buying far too much of something (why do leeks come it 3’s? Who ever needs 3 leeks for a meal?) wash it, chop it up, pop it in a freezer bag, label it up and freeze it. Then just use it straight from frozen – add it to your curry, soup, stew, whatever. You will always have an assortment of veg to hand.
This allows you to buy seasonally too. Veg is much cheaper (and tastier) when it’s in season as it hasn’t travelled as far to get to you and it’ll be fresher and fewer people will have handled it. So buy your local courgettes, sugar snaps and aubergines in the summer, buy the squashes and pumpkins from the farm down the road in autumn, then prep them and freeze them so you have them all year round, for no extra cost.
The only things, in my experience, that haven’t frozen well was broccoli, cauliflower and carrots. Cooked and in a recipe, they freeze fine, but freezing them raw seems to destroy the texture. For everything else, you can’t tell the difference.
Save Money, Reduce Waste
Cheese – I’ve spoken to people in the past who buy big blocks of cheese as it works out cheaper per gram, then they grate it and keep it in a tub in the freezer. Whenever they’re making a cheese sauce or want to put a cheesy topping on something, they just grab a handful of the frozen cheese and use that. We eat so much cheese in our house that a block never makes it to the freezer, but I do always have a block of Parmesan in ours. Good quality Parmesan cheese can cost quite a bit, and though it’s worth it for the flavour, I’ll never get through a full block before it goes off. The texture is so crumbly, though, that you can freeze a whole block and grate it onto your food from frozen, so I now always have a block in my freezer door. I take it out, grate it over my pasta, and return it to the freezer for next time, making sure it isn’t out long enough to defrost.
Stewed fruits – We have a few fruit trees in our garden, and though I fill our fruit bowl and make jams, I always have far to much. Well this Autumn a neighbour came and collected about 3 carrier bags of pears and damsons from me that were going spare. He told me he would stew them, then freeze them in portions to have as desserts over winter. Some would go into pie cases and some he would just serve with ice cream or custard. Apparently you can do it with most fruits – apples, plumbs, rhubarb etc. So that’s something to bear in mind if you or someone you know has any fruit trees.
Pastry – Everyone knows you can buy frozen pastry from the supermarket now, but do you ever think of making your own? If I’m making pastry, quite often I will make more than I need, and freeze the excess, raw. Then, if I suddenly fancy a tart, a quiche, a pie, I just take it out of the freezer, and by the time I’ve made my filling, the pastry is defrosted and I just roll it out and use it as if it was freshly made.
Bread – This might surprise you, but we don’t own a breadbin. All of our bread is kept in either the fridge or the freezer. It’s unbelievable how much longer bread lasts for in the fridge, and it doesn’t change the flavour or texture (lot’s of people ask me that when I tell them) it just slows down the bugs that create mould. Honestly, it pretty much doubles it’s shelf life! We tend to keep baps in the fridge, as they can get nocked about a bit in the freezer , and crumpets can loose their texture when frozen, but we keep our loaves, breakfast muffins, and wraps in the freezer. Then we just take out what we need, as and when we need it. You see people searching the bread shelves in the supermarkets, looking for the longest dates. I usually buy the reduced loaves that are going out of date that day for half the price and put them straight in the freezer at home.
Sweet Treats – undecorated cakes, flapjacks, chocolate truffles and shortbread biscuits freeze really well. I quite often start baking for parties weeks in advance and store them in the freezer. Icing can go a bit funny when frozen though, which is why I say undecorated cakes, but I’ve found chocolate is fine. So you can decorate biscuits with milk, white or dark chocolate before freezing.
Meat and Fish – Unless I know we’re going to eat it in the next few days, all the fish and meat I buy goes straight in the freezer. Yes, I know you have to be more organised when you’re meat is frozen, you have to get it out with enough time to defrost before you can cook it, but in my opinion, it’s worth it. It not only means you wont be wasting meat (absolutely no issues with people eating meat, but remember, an animal has died to provide that, be respectful, don’t let it just end up in the bin!) but it also means you can buy in bulk when things are on offer, and buy reduced items that are going out of date. Cooked chicken can be shredded and frozen in portions, then just defrost it and mix it with mayonnaise for a chicken mayo sandwich or salad. (Mix a teaspoon of tikka paste in as well for a really tasty chicken tikka sandwich)
Wine – Ok, let’s be honest, left over wine is a very rare thing in my house! But very occasionally, if we’ve had a guest round who drinks red wine, we might be left with a glass or two. Neither me nor my husband drinks red wine, so I pour it into a freezer bag or container and store it in the freezer. Then, when I’m making a bolognaise, beef stew, steak pie or something for my husband, I add in the frozen wine. It works really well.
Things To watch Out For
The general rule is that things can be frozen for up to 3 months. I’ll be honest, I’ve kept things in the freezer for a lot longer than that, and they’ve still been fine, but that’s up to you. As they say in the catering world “if in doubt, throw it out”.
Once you have defrosted something, don’t re-freeze it, and make sure you eat it within 3 days of it being defrosted.
Check all meat and fish before you cook it. If it feels slimy, smells or tastes funny, don’t risk it, just throw it out.
If you’re buying items from a supermarket bakery section, just be aware that some of the things they are selling have actually come in frozen, and they bake them on sight. Things like bread rolls may well have been made from scratch, and even if they were frozen, they will have come in as frozen dough. Baking the dough will have changed the structure of the bread, so they should be ok to freeze, but things like croissants, tarts, sausage rolls and pies have already been made, frozen, delivered to store, then defrosted and heated through. So they don’t freeze well at home.
I hope this has helped. If you have any questions or tips of your own, I’d love to hear them!
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2 thoughts on “It’s Not a Life Hack, It’s Just a Freezer!”
I never thought about freezing wine for cooking purposes but I am definitely going to start to do that. In the summer I make pesto and fig preserves. I put them in small container and freeze.
Wow! I love pesto and figs, I’ll have to give that a go!
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