Get the most out of your freezer


Still feeling the Covid-19 pinch on your purse strings? Me too. As the UK economy plummets into its deepest recession in more than three centuries, it’s imperative we adapt and adjust to a more economical mentality. Wasting food is wasting money and if, like me, your funds are dwindling before your very eyes, then learning how to get the most out of your freezer could help you pinch those pennies.

It may surprise you to know that you can freeze pretty much anything; eggs, rice, pasta, human heads and even cheese! I know right? Who knew you could freeze cheese? So, stock up on Tupperware and sticky labels, it’s time to get your freezer working for you.


The big Freezer guide:

Step 1.  Have a good clear out and bin that two-year-old packet of fish fingers. Defrost the freezer if necessary – there’s no point having a clear out if there’s so much ice build-up, you can’t fit anything in your freezer.

Step 2. Purchase a roll of sticky labels and keep them near your freezer with a pen (I’ve had my roll of sticky labels for 5 years now and it’s still going strong). Every time you freeze something, write out a label stating what it is you’re freezing and include the date you cooked it. Trust me, you may know what it is now, but in a few months, you won’t have a clue what that brown stuff is in the mystery Tupperware.

Step 3.
Cool food fully before freezing. Freezing warm food can raise the temperature of the freezer and cause other frozen items to partially thaw and refreeze.

Step 4. Consume frozen items within 3 months as over time the quality of food deteriorates and may affect the taste. This varies between foods, but three months is a good guide for leftovers in general.


So, what can you freeze?… 

Bread/cakes
Freeze: Bread and cakes needs to be pre-sliced and wrapped well in plastic, foil or in freezer bag – ever tried tried slicing a loaf of frozen sourdough? I rest my case. Muffins, cupcakes and scones require individual wrapping in a few layers or cling film or foil.
Defrost: At room temperature or in the fridge (in warmer climates) or toast sliced bread directly from the freezer.

Nuts
Freeze: Wrap well and freeze in a freezer bag
Defrost
: At room temperature and use that day. 

Pasta
Freeze: Cool cooked pasta, drizzle with oil and toss. Spoon into airtight containers or freezer bags for up to 2 weeks.
Defrost: Directly in boiling water or tip into a simmering pasta sauce until piping hot.

Bananas
Freeze: Over-ripe bananas in their skins in a plastic bag for up to 6 months.
Defrost: In a bag in the fridge. Slide straight out of the skins into cakes or pancake batter.

Soups and stews
Freeze: Leave to cool fully before transferring to an airtight container. If using glass, leave a 3/4-inch space between the top of the food and the lid – you don’t want it exploding. Label with the date and consume within 3 months.
Defrost: In the fridge before heating thoroughly and consuming.

Eggs
Freeze: Freeze fresh eggs for up to one year. Simply beat together and pour into a small Tupperware and freeze. Eggs frozen this way are great for using in cakes – I tend to freeze two at a time, as most recipes tend to require two eggs ­­­– don’t forget to label your Tupperware with how many eggs you have frozen. You can also freeze egg whites, simply separate from the yolks and pour into a Tupperware or ice cube tray. Egg yolks can’t be frozen due to the gelation property of the yolk, causing it to gel and thicken when frozen.  
Defrost:
In the fridge and use in baking or for scrambling.

Cooked rice
Freeze: Cool the rice quickly by removing it from the pan and spreading out on a baking sheet. After 10 mins, portion out into freezer bags and label with the date. Use within one month.
Defrost: In the fridge and use within 24 hrs. Always serve piping hot.

Hard cheese
Freeze: Grate the cheese and pack it in an airtight container or bag. Use within 9 months.
Defrost: In the fridge and use in cooked dishes and cheese sauces.

Flour
Freeze:
In an airtight container or plastic bag. Flour does have a ‘use by’ date so freezing it is a great way of not wasting it.
Defrost: No need! Flour can be used straight from the freezer. Magic!



Waste not want not

Panic buying already a distant memory? Well, it was an excellent lesson in ‘waste not, want not’. Now more than ever, we are being encouraged to be resourceful and to use up what we already have in the cupboards before we slink off to the supermarket. This pleasant side-effect of the current lockdown measures has been welcomed by the economically minded, but where to start if your basil constantly turns to sludge and your mushrooms get covered in fuzz within a blink of an eye.


Storing food
This may seem obvious, but how you store your food can have a big impact on the food you waste. Store food correctly, and it will not only last longer but it will taste better too. If you keep your tomatoes in the fridge for example, they will taste of almost nothing. Keep them in the fruit bowl however, and they’ll be juicy and sweet. Ever wondered why your potatoes begin to sprout new life within days of purchasing, even when kept in a cool, dark place? Well, if you also happen to store your onions in that same cool, dark place, then we may have found the culprit. Follow my simple guide below to get more out of your fruit veg and to put a stop to mindless wastage…


Cool, dark and dry
Potatoes / sweet potatoes / shallots / onions / garlic.
Potatoes and onions need to be kept away from each other as they can both cause each other to spoil.
Bananas: Get the bananas out of the fruit bowl and remove any plastic packaging. Keep away from other fruit. If ripe, transfer to the fridge to prevent from over-ripening.
Squash / pumpkin: Keep cool but not refrigerated. 


Room Temperature
Apricots / kiwi fruit / mango / melon / nectarines / passion fruit / peaches / pineapple / plums.
Basically all fruit with the exception of berries.
Tomatoes: Tomatoes don’t like the cold, so keep then out of the fridge. Treat them like a fruit and keep in the fruit bowl.
Avocado: This is a tricky one, as most imported avocados ripen in transit so they’re ready for us to eat straight off the shelves. If your avocado is under ripe, keep it in the fruit bowl and transfer to the fridge when it becomes softer. If you’re in a hurry to ripen your avocado, put it in a paper bag with a banana for 48 hours. Bananas give off high levels of ethylene which will help your avo ripen faster.
Basil: Trim the stems and keep in a glass of water at room temperature and consume quickly.


Refrigerate EVERYTHING else
Artichokes / asparagus / aubergine / beetroot / berries / broccoli / brussel sprouts /carrots / cabbage / cauliflower / celery / cherries / courgette / cucumber / figs / French beans / grapes / kale / leeks / lettuce / peas / peppers / radishes / rhubarb / spinach / spring greens / spring onions / sweetcorn / turnips.
Mushrooms: Store in the fridge, either in original packaging of a in a cloth bag.
Fresh herbs (excluding basil): Keep herbs like you would keep flowers. Trim the stalks and place in a jar with an inch of water at the bottom in the fridge. Alternatively, wrap the herbs in damp kitchen towel and store in the fridge, in a plastic bag with a few punctured holes in.
Speaking of herbs, if you’re interested in growing your own at home, then check out Dr Rachel Petheram’s online course with Learning With Experts to really get the most of your herbs.

Tips & Tricks: #1 Freezing Fresh Bread

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I love fresh bread because I’m human and all humans love bread, if you don’t then you’re obviously some sort of weird duck. Ducks love bread though right?… Whatever.
Anyway, I love fresh bread but tend to buy it, eat one glorious slice of it and approximately five minutes later, it’s covered in green powdery mould. Eww.
So to avoid this, I’ve started buying fresh loaves, cutting them into slices on the day of purchase and then freezing them. If you do this they can last months (well not in our house because we eat it all). It’s lovely to wake up and know you can have freshly toasted bread with your eggs for breakfast or a defrosted piece of soughdough with soup for lunch. So here’s how you do it…

1. Quick: It’s very important to cut up your loaf and freeze it as soon as possible, don’t wait for it to go stale. The fresher the bread the fresher it will freeze. Once defrosted or toasted, it will taste the same as the day you bought it, marvellous.
2. Wrap: Slice your loaf as evenly as you can and either wrap several slices in a few layers of cling film or pop them into airtight freezer bags and freeze. You can wrap a whole loaf up together if you like but I find it easier to store them around other frozen items if you do it in batches.
3. Eat: Once frozen simply pull the slices apart and pop straight in the toaster for toast. We don’t have a ‘from frozen’ button on our toaster, so I just toast it how I would normally toast a piece of bread. I don’t even extend the time but if you think it needs a bit longer, then an extra 30 seconds should do it.
To defrost the bread for sandwiches, simply remove the slices you want from the freezer but keep them wrapped in cling film. If you’ve taken a slice from a big batch then wrap it up in a fresh piece of clingfilm. I tend to do this the night before so it’s ready for me in the morning. Defrosting on the day only takes a few hours at room temperature.
4. What else can I freeze? I freeze all my bread including pitta bread, rolls, wraps, tortillas and even hot crossed buns. Just make sure you wrap them correctly to prevent any air getting to them and use within 3 – 4 months.
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