Make the Most of your Freezer

Your freezer may not be the most exciting appliance in your kitchen, but it sure is the hardest-working. Use it wisely and it will save you time and money.

Make the Most of your Freezer

Your freezer may not be the most exciting appliance in your kitchen, but it sure is the hardest-working. Use it wisely and it will save you time and money and reduce food waste. Don’t give it the cold shoulder; follow our advice on how to make the most of your frosty friend.

Keep a list of what’s in your freezer and stick it on the door. Update it every single time you add or remove anything. It will stop you doubling up on ingredients and will help you keep track of what’s actually in there. No more mystery bags!

Label, label, label! Whether you freeze items in freezer bags (reusable if possible) or plastic containers, always label and date the item. Treat yourself to a freezer-safe marker pen. Bag clips are a handy buy; you can use them to seal freezer bags tightly so no air is left inside to avoid freezer burn.

Ice cube trays have many uses, not just for making ice cubes, but for freezing purées and last drops of stock, gravy, wine, even the juice from the unused half of a lemon or lime. Stackable plastic containers in assorted sizes make efficient use of freezer space; use small ones to save that half tin of coconut milk or half tin of passata from a recipe.

A simple tip: flatten the bags of food before freezing. Food freezes and defrosts more quickly when stored flat because its surface area is great. It also takes up less space in the freezer.

Organise the freezer space into dedicated sections for meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, bread, baked goods and so on.

Bread in all its forms is a freezer staple. Freeze leftover slices for toasting later; cut them into cubes for croutons; or blitz them into breadcrumbs for when you next need a crunchy topping on a gratin or pasta bake. If you splash out on a nice loaf of sourdough, be realistic about whether you’ll finish it; far better to freeze a few slices now than end up with a tough, stale heel of bread later.

Some things you might not think to freeze but can: root ginger (you can grate it from frozen); fresh chilli (ditto); curry leaves; lemongrass; horseradish; grated hard cheese (save for your next lasagne or fish pie); the other half of an onion, chopped; overripe bananas (for muffins or banana bread); egg whites for meringues (you can’t freeze the yolks); milk; butter; mashed potato; leftover pasta and rice; the end of a jar of pesto, salsa or curry paste.

Shop around when stocking up. Don’t stick only to the big supermarkets. Explore the freezer aisles of smaller international stores. These are just a few of the frozen treats you’ll be glad to have on standby: dumplings, udon noodles, flaky paratha, puff pastry, edamame, spanakopita, bao, and spring rolls.

Got a glut of summer fruit such as strawberries, raspberries, cherries? Freeze them so you can enjoy a taste of summer all year round. Use in smoothies, pies, crumbles, cakes. Note: berries are best frozen spread out on baking trays before being transferred to bags. It will stop them sticking together..

Thrifty home cooks love to batch cook. If you’re making one batch of ragù, soup, or tomato sauce, why not make two? It saves you time and fuel. Freeze the extra to enjoy later. Your future self will thank you.

It’s more economical to run a full freezer. Just watch it doesn’t get too full or the cold air won’t be able to circulate inside.

Finally, a few food safety reminders. The Food Standards Agency recommends freezers be kept at -18℃. Never put warm items straight into the freezer as it raises the temperature of other foods. Defrost meat, fish and any ready-to-cook meals in the refrigerator overnight. When reheating food, make sure it is piping hot.

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