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?… 

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.

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

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.

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.

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.  
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.

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!

My 10 step guide to you know what…

I’m not going to mention it… Nope, not going to mention it… But if I was going to mention it, then this would be my 12 step guide on how to survive ‘it’…

  1. Fighting the urge to stockpile is hard (don’t worry, I feel it too) but running around Sainsbury’s picking up any old can of rice pudding isn’t the answer. Before you even attempt to go shopping, take stock of what you already have and go from there. Of course prioritise long-life items such as beans, pasta and toilet roll but only buy what you think you might need and use – do you really need 24 toilet rolls? I think not.

  2. Bigger isn’t always better. Once you know what you need, avoid the big supermarkets and go to your local corner shop or independent grocer. It might be a tad more expensive but you may find this encourages you to only buy what you need. Plus, these smaller shops seem to be better stocked than the supermarkets currently and far less stressful!

  3. Don’t try and get everything in one go. Shop little and often until you feel you have what you need to self-isolate for 2 weeks – not 2 years! Then squirrel it away and save it for if/when you need it.

  4. Fresh produce is far easier to come by for obvious reasons, but it’s not a bad idea to sign up to a vegetable delivery service just in case. I use Oddbox, a fresh vegetable delivery box that sends us surplus fruit and veg directly from farms once a fortnight. This could be a real lifesaver if you and your family are self-isolating and start to get sick of beans on toast. Riverford and Abel & Cole are also great options. Recipe boxes could also be a good choice – I like Hello Fresh and Gousto. Failing that don’t panic. Fresh produce doesn’t seem to be an issue at the moment but if you are concerned, opt for vegetables that have a long shelf-life such as root vegetables, squash, celery, onions, garlic, citrus fruits and apples.

  5. Check to see if you have a local milkman – yes milkmen are thing again and growing in popularity. I use Milk & More and I’m utterly obsessed. Not only do we get a rather pleasing glass bottle of milk on our doorstep once a week, but you can also add other items to your order such as eggs, bread, cheese and yes, even toilet paper!

  6. It’s no secret that the hospitality industry is going to be hit seriously hard by the current crisis so it’s important to try and support your local restaurants. In the coming weeks, most restaurants will be closing their doors but may start to offer delivery services they didn’t before. So help them out and treat yourself to a slice of local business.
    Additionally, delivery chains are providing ‘contact free’ delivery, so you can still have that Friday night Dominos cross contamination free – appetising.

  7. This may sound obvious but eat fresh foods first and freeze leftovers as you go along. This will avoid waste and leave you with home cooked meals when you might need them most. It’s also always good to freeze a loaf of pre-sliced bread – ever tried slicing an unsliced frozen bloomer? It’s a literal nightmare.

  8. Banana shallots, just buy them. They last for ages and one banana shallot can be used to substitute half an onion in a recipe. The bigger the better though – peeling a tiny banana shallot isn’t fun at all. It’s also not a bad idea to buy potted herbs, they last much longer and can replenish themselves, given the right care and attention.

  9. Avoid buying things you wouldn’t usually buy. If you don’t normally buy biscuits, then why do you have three packets of bourbons in your basket? Put them back!

  10. Medicines. Again, avoid buying these from the big supermarkets, independent pharmacies and high-street chains such as Boots and Superdrug are far better stocked. There are restrictions on certain products, so check what you have already, before running out and attempting to purchase ten boxes of Tixylix.

  11. I know I said this was a ’10 step’ guide but I thought of another one. Certain cheeses can be stored in the fridge for up to three months and can be a great addition to most meals. Purchase varieties in quantities you think you will consume – I use a lot of feta, parmesan and cheddar in my cooking so that’s what I’ll be buying. Again, it’s about being a mindful and considerate shopper so others don’t miss out.

So good luck and try not to let panic buying get the better of you.