Throwing too much food away each week? In reality, we waste more food than we’d care to acknowledge. According to Food Aware, each year a mind-boggling 18 million tonnes of food ends up in landfill. At the same time, data from the Food and Agriculture Organisation revealed that last year around 8.4 million people (in the UK alone) were struggling to afford a meal.
Soups, casseroles, bakes, gratins... can all be cooked from frozen
One of the reasons for this is, perhaps, our anxiety around 'use by' dates, and an uncertainty about freezing leftovers.
Freezers can save us time, effort and money, so why are so many of us not using them properly?
Embrace the ease of digging out pre-prepared snacks and ready-made, home-cooked meals at the end of the week or after getting home late.
Banish freezer confusion now with these simple dos and don’ts.
Do freeze the following: A lot of products get thrown away because we don’t realise we can freeze them. Heading off on holiday? Throw leftover milk and butter into the freezer and save it for when you get back. Other products that are definitely worth freezing include: pastry, grated cheese, sliced bread, nuts and seeds (some seeds can go rancid within a couple of months at room temperature), cookie dough, herbs, chillies, grapes, cakes, beaten eggs, white wine and pesto. All can be stored in your freezer and devoured at a later date.
Do cook from frozen: If you often forget to take meals out of the freezer in the mornings, don’t fret – soups, casseroles, bakes, gratins and small fish can all be cooked from frozen, so you don’t need to buy something fresh. Just remember to start thawing at a lower temperature before raising it to start cooking – and voilà, dinner is ready (and unnecessary expense avoided).
Do freeze it on the sell by date: Almost half of people think food should only be frozen on the day of purchase, when in fact it can be frozen up to the use by date. So there’s no need to discard that that delicious lasagne after all!
Do veg out: Frozen veg doesn’t have to mean soggy veg. For maximum freshness and to maintain nutrients, blanche for 30 secs in boiling water prior to freezing. Alternatively, buying frozen veg is often cheaper, cuts down your prep time and is a great way of bulking up pasta sauces, curries or casseroles.
Do get creative: Save wilting herbs and over-ripe fruit from the bin by turning them into delicious flavoured butters and smoothie mixes. You can use ice-cube trays to stash individual servings of butter, pesto, homemade stock or leftover wine. Then, next time you're making a pasta sauce, stew, risotto or soup, you can pop out a cube or two of whatever your dish needs. If freezing fruit, do it properly by washing, peeling and chopping it, drying with kitchen towel, laying on parchment paper and covering with clingfilm before it goes in the freezer. Once frozen, you can transfer it to labelled freezer bags, ready to throw into your next smoothie, crumble or pie.
Do make a list: It sounds time-consuming but making a list of what’s actually in your freezer will save you accidentally doubling up when you’re at the shops. After all, no one needs nine packs of frozen garlic bread…. You could stick a note onto the door of the freezer, and give it a once-over before heading to the supermarket.
Do fill it up: Keeping your freezer well stocked will actually help it run more efficiently, as it will stay cooler and use less energy. If you’ve got a lot of empty space, fill it up with items like bread, bags of ice and bottled water.
Don’t freeze the following: Whilst it is true that almost anything can be kept in good condition by freezing, eggs, potatoes, salad greens, tomatoes, cream cheese, mayonnaise, cucumber, yogurt (unless you're eating it frozen!) and ketchup are some of the exceptions. They don’t react well to freezing so it's best just to use them up in a quick midweek meal.
Don’t get freezer fear: Just because you’ve made a fab korma from frozen chicken strips doesn’t mean you can’t hang on to the leftovers and pop them back in the freezer. Previously frozen meat can be refrozen once cooked – just make sure you only refreeze once.
Don’t keep the packaging: Freezing products in their shop packaging can cause freezer burn and take up unnecessary space, so ditch the plastic for freezer bags or airtight containers before throwing it in the chiller.
Don’t leave it too long: Don’t forget that defrosted food should be eaten within 24 hours of being fully defrosted.