Some long forgotten frozen peas, those emergency pizzas and last Christmas’ leftovers that your mum insisted you take with you but you had since forgotten about?
On average, ingredients for 11 meals are stored in each home freezer so if you don’t know what is in yours or there is still space, chances are you're not yet using this unsung hero to its full potential. In fact, half of the country’s food waste is from private homes and the majority of this is food we don’t even need to throw away.
Whilst we all know that reducing food waste goes hand in hand with saving money and caring for the environment, what seems to keep us from tackling the issue are myths about food storage life as well as what can actually be frozen.
What can I put in the freezer?!
Truth be told – almost everything can be frozen, and I bet you some of the following you did not know about!
No soft cheeses, no eggs in shells
The list of non-freezable items is not very big and pretty much ends here. Whilst the time that items can be frozen for, and the best way to freeze them differs by category, your freezer can press the pause button on almost everything you would otherwise throw away, not knowing you can easily keep it for another time if you don’t use it now. It’s a common misconception that you should freeze early – as long as you can still eat it when fresh, even when it is on the day of expiration, you can still freeze it.
You probably already know meat can be frozen, but this is an ingredient that often sits in freezers until a time when – despite good intentions – you no longer trust and bin it. It's true that you should ideally use frozen meat within 4-6 months (seafood should be consumed earlier). Whilst it does not get harmful beyond that time, the quality of frozen meat does decreases after 3 months. To keep this frozen staple handy and accessible, consider dicing the meat in strips before freezing. That way you can pop it straight from freezer to pan and your next lazy stir-fry is spiced up with some protein!
Pretty much all vegetables freeze well and are a welcome addition to any meal, often without needing to thaw it first. You can freeze veggies in most “states”, i.e. cooked, mashed or fresh, but fresh vegetables should best be scalded first (put in hot water for 1-2 mins), then cooled in cold water and dried before freezing to make sure they are clean and keep their colour and consistency. The next time you are lured into a buy-one-get-one-free offer or those 20p broccolis reduced heavily at end of day because they are about to “expire” – embrace it!
Every household should have some frozen fruit in their freezer. It adds to your five-a-day without any effort and spikes up your usual breakfast, snacks, cakes and desserts in a million ways. Freeze fruit when it’s at its best – your bananas are turning brown? This is when they are perfectly sweet. Peel and freeze them for a thick and creamy milkshake (just blend straight from frozen with some milk and peanut butter) or banana ice cream. Berries should be washed and dried before frozen “open” – this is separated on a baking tray so they don’t stick together. Once frozen they can be put in a freezer bag or box for easy portioning. Blend with some water and sugar for an easy sorbet, cook with some balsamic until thick and saucy to top your waffles, ice cream or yoghurt or stir into oats and milk and leave overnight for some delicious, berry-infused bircher muesli the next morning.
How to become a freezer-ninja:
- Always label!
- Keep track – If you feel your freezer is some sort of bermuda triangle, try and keep a list of its contents. There are also some great apps that allow you to keep track, and that can alert you when something has been in there for a long time.
- Regularly review the contents of your freezer– from 3 months some foods will start losing taste and consistency so you'll want to use these up before that happens.
- Freeze “flat” in bags to save space. It lets you stack the bags once frozen plus you can break off portions if you don’t use the entire bag’s content at once
- Freeze “open” for any items that might stick together otherwise. This means freezing them separated on a tray before popping them in bags and boxes for the longer freeze.