Make your freezer your best friend and a great meal is never more than a few minutes away. You can save oodles of time and money by making larger quantities of meals than you need, and storing portions in the fridge or freezer – this is ‘batching’.
Save plastic tubs, foil boxes, plastic bags and clingfilm to freeze food in. You don’t need to spend money on expensive boxes – you can wash out margarine or ice cream tubs and save other food containers. If you’re planning to use them in the microwave, make sure they’re safe for this.
Think about what portion sizes will work best – are you feeding your hungry teenage son, your toddler or the whole family?
If you’re short of containers, put a plastic bag or clingfilm inside one, pour the food into it and put it in the freezer. Once it’s frozen, take the food out of the container and store it in the clingfilm or plastic bag. You can re-use the container – just remember to put it back in a container when you defrost it.
- Make sure food is completely cold before you freeze it, (warm food will raise the temperature of your freezer)
- Label food with its name and the date – there’s nothing worse than hunting through a drawer full of frozen, unrecognisable packages
- A full freezer is more economical to run. If there is a lot of space, fill it with everyday items like bread and milk (just shake the milk before you use it after defrosting)
- If a recipe needs egg yolk or cream, add these just before serving or reheating after you have frozen and defrosted the dish
- Thaw food overnight in the fridge, not at room temperature.
- Never refreeze food if it’s already been frozen and thawed
- Reheat food once only until it’s steaming hot (75˚C for at least two minutes).
- You can freeze most food for up to three months. Meat with a high fat content needs eating within two months
- Wrap chicken breasts, lamb or pork chops and fish in individual portions in clingfilm or plastic bags, so you can remove them and cook them one at a time
- Bread and baked products freeze really well. You can toast slices of bread from frozen; slice bagels and bread rolls before you freeze them – it’s easier to pop them in the toaster that way. Breadcrumbs can be used straight from the freezer
- You can use grated cheese straight from the freezer and it keeps for up to four months
- Freeze chopped onion in plastic bags, then use it for soups and casseroles quickly when you don’t have time to chop. But be warned – it can make your freezer smell of onions, so double wrap the bags!