Musings & Contemplations

Making the most of your freezer: Easy Guides and Tips

I was chatting to some friends the other week and I mentioned how I freeze pretty much everything, and I mean everything, to 1. save money, 2. reduce waste and 3. to have home made food to hand when I’m ever tired and tempted by a takeaway. They found my tips helpful so I decided I would share them with you guys too!

The main things you need to remember when freezing food is that most foods should only be in there for 3-6  months, it needs to be stored properly (in air tight or well sealed containers) to avoid freeze burn, which destroys flavour and texture and finally it should be reheated gently but thoroughly.

Bulk meals

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As I have mentioned countless times before I really believe bulk cooking is one of the best ways to eat on a tight budget. You can create a healthy meal plan for the week based around a few dishes and then you only need to buy a few ingredients that you know are going to be put to good use.

It’s also a great way to use up any leftover veggies such as the usual carrots, onions and celery that seem to always be in my fridge, and it saves time as you only need to cook once and you’ll be fed for a few days.

It’s not only soups that can be frozen, you can freeze stews, beany dishes, lasagna, gratins, pies, casseroles, pasta sauces and sides.

TIPS-

  • Freeze pasta sauces but not the pasta for a fresh but still very easy meal.
  • Allow foods to cool before putting them in the freezer.
  • Add a splash of water when reheating to help foods not dry out, especially dishes with potato in them.
  • Freeze meals in individual portions so you only have to defrost what you need
  • Label the boxes/ bags well with the name of the contents and a date it went in to the freezer. I have had so many “potluck” freezer moments where I didn’t write down the contents so it was a surprise meal once defrosted.

Herbs/ Garlic/ Ginger/ Chillies

herbs
Lets start with herbs. Soft herbs such as basil, dill, coriander and parsley can be quite quick to start going brown or bruised so freezing them is ideal. They won’t survive very well if you just place them in the freezer so an easy idea is to chop them and freeze in water in an ice cube tray or a small container.

When you are ready to use them just pop a herby ice cube into your dish towards the end of cooking (or when it is needed) and it will quickly melt, adding a fresh herb without the fuss.

Hard herbs such as rosemary and thyme are better dried and do not freeze well.

Now on to garlic, ginger and chillies. These are ingredients that keep for quite a long while so it isn’t often that I need to freeze them. However if you have a bulk that is about to go off or for example you are going on holiday and don’t want them to spoil then yes they can be frozen.

TIPS-

  • Separate out your herbs into different trays or try doing mixed herbs in each cube for a layered flavour.
  • Finely chop the herbs so they are ready to use.
  • Freeze your herbs in wine for added flavour.
  • I find it best to peel and crush the garlic bulbs and peel and grate or slice the ginger, then freeze in a small airtight bag or pot. The reason for this is that it is then easier to only defrost what you need rather than having to defrost a whole piece of ginger.
  • Chillies I just chuck in whole! They freeze well and defrost quickly. You could de seed them and slice them too so that you just defrost what you need if you prefer.

Vegetables

veg chilli3

You can obviously buy frozen veg such as peas, broad beans, sweetcorn etc so I keep these handy in the freezer ready for when I may need them. But you can also freeze any leftover fresh veg you have too.

I find it helpful to freeze roasted vegetables such as peppers, courgettes and onions/ red onions because once defrosted these can be stirred into a rich tomato sauce to pour over pasta or to use in lasagna. This saves all the hassle of having to roast them on the same day as cooking your dish and also means you always have something to use to bulk up a nice sauce.

TIPS-

  • In order to freeze plain vegetables you need to first blanch them and then cool them in cold water to stop the cooking process (otherwise they will lose all of their flavour and dry up).
  • Ingredients like butternut squash, sweet potatoes and other root veg do freeze fine after roasting however are a little soggy so best reheated in the oven and not the microwave. I use them in root vegetable gratins.
  • Add a splash of water when reheating to stop them drying out.
  • Cooked greens are perfect to freeze and reheat later on. They retain their flavour and texture well.

 

Fruits

lemons
I always have a bag of sliced lemons and limes in the freezer because I like to bulk buy them when they are on offer. Slices of lemon and lime can be used in cold drinks to flavour them and keep them cold. They can also be defrosted and squeezed into cooking or served along side dishes that require a little squeeze of citrus zing.

Bananas can be frozen but I have found it best to peel them first. Blend frozen bananas until completely smooth to make an amazing vegan ice cream.

Grapes when frozen make a delicious low fat sweet snack in the summer! You can also put frozen grapes into your drink to act as ice cubes that don’t melt!

Berries are fine to freeze whole. In fact I used to have a blackberry bush in my garden and every autumn I would strip it bare, wash them and then put them straight into the freezer. Then whenever I fancied making a crumble I would take a box of berries out of the freezer and I’m ready to go.

This leads on nicely to stewed fruits, especially apples! If you have some apples about to go bad, or if you are lucky enough to have an apple tree then gather them up, wash them, peel and core them and stew them with a little sugar. Then pop them in the freezer in portions. This can then be a great breakfast served with yoghurt or used in that aforementioned crumble for an even quicker recipe!

TIPS-

  • Wash your fruit well before freezing, especially foraged fruits or berries from the garden.
  • Peel your bananas first, otherwise I find they turn black and the skin is pretty horrible to peel.
  • freeze in batches so you don’t have to defrost more than you need.

Dairy

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I don’t eat a lot of dairy but sometimes I can’t resist having a bit of cheese on toast or adding a bit of cheese to an omelette. There is no point to me having a big block of cheese in my fridge because it will just go to waste so, yep you guessed it, I freeze it!

Milk and cream can also be frozen, I personally find it handy to have a carton of milk in the freezer just in case I am having guests over and I don’t have time to pop to a shop. Just take it out to defrost in the morning and it will be ready for their tea or coffee in the afternoon.

TIPS-

  • Grate your cheese before freezing it so that you can just take a handful as and when you like without having to defrost a whole block.
  • Grated cheese can just be sprinkled frozen directly on to hot food and it will defrost with the heat of the food.
  • You can freeze parmesan shavings too!
  • Do not freeze milk in glass bottles, milk expands in the freezer and will crack the glass.
  • Freeze milk well within it’s best before date and use it quickly after defrosting.

Bread/ Dough/ Pastry

As with the cheese, freezing bread is more of a discipline exercise for me because if it is hidden in the freezer I won’t eat loads of it! The great thing about freezing bread is that it is very quick to defrost so can be taken out moments before using.

If I am going to go to the trouble of making my own pizza dough then I always make double the recipe and freeze half. Then, the next time I want pizza I can have home made without the effort! Make it at the weekend then during the week you can have a quick supper without it taking a long time.

Pastry is the same, it can be made in batches, frozen and then ready to go when you want to use it.

TIPS-

  • You can freeze sliced bread in the bag you buy it in, the slices pull apart easily and can either be left to defrost for a few minutes or you can pop it straight into the toaster.
  • I always make the ends of the loaf into bread crumbs and freeze them in bags. Breadcrumbs are great to use in beany burgers, gratins and to coat things like fish or tofu.
  • Freeze your pizza dough in a ball to fit it in the freezer perfectly. Once defrosted you can roll it out.
  • Pizza dough is best frozen after the first rise.
  • Collect all of your pastry trimmings, if you have any left over, roll back into a ball and freeze for next time!

Drinks

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The main drink you will find in my freezer is vodka, however other drinks can be frozen to help you have less waste. Smoothies and juices can be frozen after making to help preserve them and to make sure you have a fuss free beverage as and when you want it.

Frozen smoothies can make a nice pudding too, serve with fresh fruits as a sort of super healthy, dairy free ice cream.

Juice, both home made and shop bought can be frozen. Juice is something that is always on offer in the supermarkets so why not take advantage of that and just freeze the cartons that you won’t be using for a while.

TIPS-

  • Do not freeze liquids in glass containers as it will expand in the freezer.
  • Freeze your juice or smoothies in lolly molds to create your own ice lollies!
  • Freeze black coffee or black tea to make caffeinated iced drinks. Coffee ice cubes added to milk is delicious (use almond milk for dairy free).
  • Freeze leftover wine to add to sauces and stocks for a lovely rich flavour.

I hope you have found this helpful and maybe even found some freezer ideas that you hadn’t thought of before! What do you freeze?

I will be posting my favourite freezable recipes this week!

I’ve entered this into the “credit crunch munch” blogging event over at ‘Elizabeth’s kitchen diary’, also hosted by Helen at Fuss Free Flavours and Camilla at Fab Food 4 all.

Credit-Crunch-Munch

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10 thoughts on “Making the most of your freezer: Easy Guides and Tips

  1. Brilliant tips! I shall certainly make room for lemons and limes alongside my Absolute! Never knew they could be frozen!

  2. Pingback: My Favourite Freezer Friendly Recipes | veghotpot

  3. This post is fantastic. I especially love the tip about freezing fresh herbs in wine–brilliant! Definitely bookmarking it for future reference!

  4. A fabulous guide to freezing:-) I did try freezing some blocks of cheddar at Christmas that were going cheap but I’m afriad the texture was completely changed by the process and no-one wanted to eat it except the cat! It didn’t even melt nicely on cooked dishes. Maybe grating it would have worked better!

    • I’ve never frozen cheese as a block I’ve always grated it and then sprinkled it frozen onto hot dishes, I think this will work better! Glad you enjoyed the post xx

  5. Pingback: Credit Crunch Munch: 27 Money-saving Recipes

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