For many of us, the freezer is just a detour for food destined for the bin.
I know I’ve been guilty of hoarding a freezer full of random bags and containers, labels lost a millennia ago, filled with what can only be described as mystery food.
But, use these simple freezer tips and you’ll not only waste less food, you’ll save time and money.
Basic Freezer Tips
How to Freeze Food
The idea of these freezer tips is to help you save money so the most important tip is to freeze food properly.
If the meal you’re freezing has a topping that might be damaged by foil or cling wrap, freeze it uncovered first and once frozen solid, wrap and label. The same goes for delicate ingredients; freeze uncovered on a tray until solid, then wrap or bag and label.
For meals that will go into the oven to reheat like pasta bakes, line the baking dish with foil first, make sure there’s sufficient foil to eventually cover the entire meal, then freeze. Once it’s frozen solid, remove from the dish, finish wrapping in the original foil then either place in a large ziplock bag or wrap in cling wrap and label. Freezing complete meals using this method ensures all your baking dishes don’t end up in the freezer.
Always remove as much air as possible from the bag or container as possible. This reduces the possibility of freezer burn that could potentially impact the quality of the food when it’s defrosted.
The fuller your freezer, the more economical it is to run. When a freezer is full the air has less area to circulate therefore less electricity is required to keep pumping chilled air around the open spaces. If you’re attempting to use up everything in the freezer before refilling it, use plastic bottles filled with water to fill the empty spaces.
Keeping food safe
The quality of most foods will start to deteriorate after three months. You can check the inside of your freezer for recommended food storage times. So, make sure you always practice rotation when adding meals to the freezer – freshest to the back. If something looks dodgy, assume it is dodgy and throw it out.
The safest method of defrosting food is to put in the fridge overnight. Make sure it’s on a plate or in a container so it doesn’t drip onto anything else in the fridge and place it in the bottom of the fridge.
If you’re pressed for time, you can defrost small pieces of meat by leaving them in the freezer bag and immersing it in lukewarm water.
Cook for a crowd
If you’re going to spend the time cooking, use that time efficiently. Try cooking double or triple batches of the meal and freezing the extra in either family sized or single portions.
Always be aware of what’s in your freezer and decide ahead of time what meals to serve on which nights. Stick a PostIt note on the fridge so you know which meal to get out the night before.
When the freezer stock starts to look a little low, plan a cooking session to refill it.
Write the contents of the bag, on the bag. Believe me, there’s nothing worse than taking out a serve of soup to take to work only to discover it’s actually spaghetti sauce. True story!
Sticky labels can fall off in the freezer so don’t risk it, write on the bag. A the very least, make sure you include: the name of the dish; date it was added to the freezer; and the number of serves.
One of the best ways to save on waste is to prepare meal ingredients as soon as you get home from the grocery store. You can prepare meat and other ingredients so they’re ready for use. Great examples are meat for stir fry or schnitzels.
The best freezer tip for saving time and money is to start meal planning, prep ahead and fill your freezer with wholesome food.
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Good ingredients to freeze
Make herb butter by mixing the herbs and butter together than rolling into a log, freezing until firm and slicing into individual patties. Freeze the herb butter patties by spreading them evenly on a tray, then transferring into a ziplock bag.
You can also divide the herbs over the portions of an ice-cube tray and cover with oil and freeze for individual portions of herb oil to add to your cooking or salad dressings.
Bread and other baked products
Good quality bread is expensive and can go stale quickly so make sure you slice and freeze what you don’t think you’ll use immediately. Same goes for bread rolls and baguettes.
Other baked goods like muffins, cupcakes, and cake can be successfully frozen, too. Bag them individually for ease of access. Under most circumstances, a frozen muffin added to a lunch box will be thawed by lunchtime and will help keep other foods cool in the process.
Freeze left over wine – yes, that really can happen – in either ice-cube trays or half-cup portions so you can add them to casseroles or sauces for an extra lift.
All sorts of dairy products can be frozen; from milk to butter to cheese. A couple of things to remember, cream might split after being frozen so it’s best suited to cooking with rather than whipping. And, grate or cube cheese before freezing for ease of access.
Freezing serves of yoghurt for adding to lunchboxes is a great idea, too.
You can freeze egg whites to use later for meringue. Be sure to follow the labelling rules so you know how many whites are in the bag.
The best way to freeze avocados is to cut them in half, remove the stone and the peel then slice the avocado into chunks. Place the chunks on a tray and freeze. Remove from the tray and place the frozen pieces into a ziplock bag or air tight container.
Exotic ingredients come with exotic price tags. Make the most of your investment by freezing any left over product. You can freeze bay leaves, grated ginger and even chillies.
Scraps and bones
One of my favourite freezer tips is to keep a bag or container in the freezer for bones and vegetable off-cuts for making stock. Make sure each category of ingredient is frozen separately. For example a bag for fish bones and a different bag for chicken bones.
The finished stock freezes incredibly well, too.
Freezer Dump Bags
A popular meal planning solution is to prepare freezer dump bags with all the ingredients needed for a slow cooker or crockpot meal.
Not only is this a great way to save time if you’re a busy family, by adding marinades and flavourings before freezing you’re enhancing the flavour of your meals.
Need some ideas? Check out our Pinterest Board: Recipes Crockpot / Slow Cooker
Which are your favourite freezer tips from this list? Can you add any others?
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