Your freezer is your best friend when it comes to saving time and money in the kitchen. We have all the tips and tricks you need to make the most of it.
Whether it’s storing delicious batch-cook meals, ready to use whenever you need them, fruit and veggies that are on-the-turn for future soups/smoothies, or those essential bags of frozen veg (no broccolis slowly going off in the fridge), ready to pop into whatever recipe needs a veggie boost, the freezer is there for you!
From learning what you can and can’t freeze and how to keep it organised to the dos and don’ts of defrosting and reheating, you’ll find everything you need to know to make your food budget go further. Follow our top tips and tricks to make the most of your freezer and save money.
Before you start – get organised!
Our freezers are underrated; most of us have one, but few of us use them to their full potential. To do this, it’s essential to keep your freezer neat and organised. So, have a big clear-out, group foods onto different shelves, and always be a stickler for labels. Perhaps even post a list of all frozen food (with dates) nearby and check off what is used. And make sure you regularly eat what’s in your freezer, so nothing gets wasted. Follow these guidelines and you’ll never be short of a good last-minute meal.
DON’T FORGET When transferring food to the freezer, make sure it’s properly wrapped to prevent freezer burn. And leave some space in whatever container you’re using to allow for expansion as it freezes.
- Love your leftovers Access to a good, hearty, instant midweek meal can be a life-saver on busy weekdays when there’s no time to cook from scratch. Whether it’s lasagne, curry, chilli or soup, getting into the habit of freezing the leftovers is a game-changer.
- Get into batch-cooking Take the leftovers vibe a step further and plan to cook up big pots that you can then portion out and freeze – it’s one of the easiest ways to save time and money in the kitchen. No matter how large or small your family, preparing a double batch when you’re making a casserole, curry or soup will help you cut waste and save time. Plus, it will save energy, so you’re reducing your fuel bill too. Find our Top 5 budget-friendly batch-cook dishes here.
- Buy in bulk If you have freezer space, buying meat or fish in larger quantities can be more cost effective. For example, buying a whole side of salmon or a whole chicken and portioning it up yourself will be cheaper than buying ready-prepared cuts/pieces.
- Budget-friendly 5-a-day Frozen fruit and vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh, yet offer an instant, low-prep standby when you’re short of time and they’re often cheaper too. With a longer shelf life, they’re great for reducing food waste. And if you grow your own, freeze a glut of fresh, seasonal produce (peas, broad beans, cauliflower, carrots, broccoli, spinach, sweetcorn and green beans all freeze well), for whenever you want to add a veggie hit to your dinner. Try throwing a handful of frozen peas, sweetcorn or spinach into soups, adding frozen broccoli when you’re cooking pasta, or microwaving frozen butternut squash chunks for a speedy, nutritious mash. You’ll find more ways to cook with frozen veg here.
WHAT TO FREEZE…
Have a banana mountain? Don’t worry. Either peel and freeze them to use in smoothies, or cut them in half and stick a wooden stick in them to enjoy later. Especially good with a little melted dark chocolate and chopped nuts over the top!
Don’t throw away fruit that’s overripe – chop it up, bag it, and freeze it. Very ripe fruit is ideal for a morning smoothie or a quick frozen yoghurt. You can even freeze grapes whole and use them as ice cubes, or as part of an easy after-dinner dessert.
Got a loaf of bread you know you won’t use before it’s stale? Slice it up and freeze it for emergency toast, or try blitzing it into breadcrumbs – they can be used immediately on pasta bakes, parmigiana, or to bind mince into meatballs and burgers.
Next time you’re making pizza from scratch, think about making an extra batch of dough. Divide and roll it out into rounds, pile them up with a layer of greaseproof paper between each, wrap in clingfilm, and freeze. Pizza bases can make a quick and delicious meal – just throw on whatever odds and ends you have in the back of the fridge and bake straight from frozen.
DAIRY AND EGGS
While yoghurt and whole eggs don’t freeze well, milk, hard cheese and egg whites do. Try grating hard cheese into a reusable freezer bag or container and sprinkle it directly onto pasta bakes, twister breads or pizzas before cooking. If you’ve made something with egg yolks, like carbonara or aïoli, pop the leftover egg whites in a reusable freezer bag (labelled with the number of eggs used) and freeze for making meringue.
Homemade stock is invaluable to have sitting in the freezer. Make a batch of it with the bones from your Sunday roast, freeze it (clearly labelled), and use it to add wonderful flavour to risottos, soups, paella, couscous or pasta dishes. Remember to save and freeze your vegetable peelings, too – next time you’re making stock, you can add a couple of these handfuls of frozen scraps to the pan along with a few fresh trimmings and you’re good to go!
CHILLIES, GINGER, HERBS & PASTES
Reserve a space in your freezer for the extra tidbits that can easily be used from frozen and will add a punch of flavour to your meals. Freeze chillies and odds and ends of ginger that are on the turn – they can be grated straight into your cooking.
To make the most of your herbs, turn them into simple herb butters. Combine soft herbs, such as coriander, parsley or mint, with softened butter and crushed garlic, wrap in greaseproof paper, and pop in the freezer. Alternatively, you can make flavoured oil cubes: tear herbs into ice-cube trays and fill each compartment with olive oil before freezing – they’re perfect for starting off your cooking, straight from the freezer.
Your freezer can also save half-empty jars of curry paste or pesto from going mouldy – spoon them into freezer-safe containers and keep them for livening up a mediocre meal straight from frozen.
How to safely freeze and defrost your food
If you’re batch cooking, remember to let food cool thoroughly before freezing – break it down into portions so it cools quicker, and get it into the freezer within 2 hours. Make sure everything is well wrapped, and labelled for future reference. Thaw in the fridge before use, and use within 48 hours. If you’ve frozen cooked food, don’t freeze it again after reheating it.
When it comes to freezer use-by dates, the general rule is dairy products and leftover meals are safe in the freezer for up to three months. Although it really depends on the efficiency of the freezer, how well-stored your food is, and how fresh it was when frozen, it’s important to remember that quality will always deteriorate the longer it’s left. So go by the three-month rule and you’ll avoid any problems down the line.
To defrost your food safely, always pop it in the fridge to thaw, and use it within 48 hours. Then reheat it until piping hot and only reheat once.
Now you’ve stocked your freezer, have a look at our favourite freezer-friendly recipes for inspiration!