Tons of food is being wasted daily with over 40% of the total waste happening at the consumer level. According to Food Standard Agency fish and meat top the list with 2.1 billion pounds worth being wasted. We can all do our bit by planning our food shopping better, not preparing excess food and of course preserving it before it goes bad. One of the best and easiest methods is freezing.
Benefits of freezing your food
1. Avoiding food waste
Too much of fresh produce in the house and you know you will not be able to use it all before it goes bad?Freeze it! Almost all foods can be frozen and their life prolonged. Saving produce you already purchased not only make financial sense but also huge environmental impact. Most vegetables,fruit, meats, cheese, herbs can be frozen and saved from being wasted.
2. Time saving
Having some already cooked food in your freezer can be a lifesaver on a busy day. In my house I often “double” the dinner deliberately creating leftover = meals for the freezer for another day. I find one pot meals are the best for cooking extra however all leftover meat, vegetables, fruit can become an ingredient to add to another meal. If you have extra time on a weekend you can batch cook.
3. More economical
Cooking extra quantity of food and freezing some of it definitely saves some time as well as fuel. Re-heating a meal will take fraction of the time and energy than cooking from scratch. You can also save a small fortune on take always or ready meals! Coming home tired and hungry after long day and the last thing you want to do is cooking? Before you order an expensive take away open your freezer.
4. It makes environmental sense
When it comes to produce on the shop shelves , instead of buying fresh produce that are out of season and flown from the other part of the globe opt for frozen. You will help to reduce the carbon footprint while saving yourself a small fortune. Better still, stock up on seasonal fruit and veg when they are at the best.
How to safely freeze leftovers
1. Type of storage
There are many ways you can store your foods in the freezer. I personally moved away from single use plastic bags while ago and use re-usable silicone bags instead. They are freezer friendly, leak proof and most importantly you can use them time and time again. Zip top solution means you can re-open to keep adding to your bag. You can easily squeeze excess air to prevent freezer burns.
If you already have plastic containers or boxes after your take away that are freezer friendly, you can use them too however they will hold air which high cause freeze burns. Liquids can be also frozen in glass jars (just don’t fill them up to the top as the liquid expands as it freezes and you are risking the glass being broken) however jars can take up a lot more space. If an in idea of glass appeals to you find freezer friendly glass containers that will help you better manage space and will last you for years!
2. Don’t put hot food in the freezer
Before freezing any leftovers let them cool down. Although it is not recommended for food to sit at the room temperature for more than 2 hours from the moment it’s cooked you don’t want to risk raising temperature in your freezer by placing hot food inside. This can also cause surrounding food to partially thaw, which could lead to freezer burn and food waste.
3. How long can you keep your food frozen?
Depending on type of food, you can store your produce anything in between 1 to 12 months. Here is a useful chart that I found very helpful. The general rule is that single and raw ingredients (fruit, vegetables,raw meat, cheese) will keep in your freezer for months. Leftovers such us cooked meat, already processed vegetables or fruit, open packets of partial cooked foods or full meals will last around 1-2 months.
1. Keep it all labeled
I have learned not rely memory when it comes to freezer. Once frozen, things magically become very similar to one another and there is a high chance you will not recognize your favorite stew. Label every time with name as well as date the food was frozen to keep you in control. Not only it’s more efficient way to find things but also allows better food management when it comes to what needs to be eaten first.
2. Organize your shelve
It’s always good idea to divide your freezer into sections. One draw or shelve for fruit and vegetables, another for fish and meant. Ready made meals should not be tacked too far back as those have the be consumed sooner. If you like to be super organizes keep an inventory beside your freezer.
You can download you free Freezer Inventory here. It can be simply printed and used straight away or you can laminate it and use non- permanent marker to keep writing and erasing.
3. Freeze small portions
Once meals are defrosted they can not be frozen again! You do not want to take huge bag of soup, eat half and be left with the rest to go off. Freeze appropriate amount for a single meal for your family.
Defrost first or Cook from frozen?
The best and safest way is to cook from frozen. There is no need to defrost food prior to cooking. Ready meals, leftovers that has already been already cooked before (lasagna, soups, stews, cooked meat) can be cooked from frozen safely, just make sure you do re-heat it properly so it’s piping hot throughout! All fruit and vegetables, sausages, pizza, raw meat (fish, chicken, mince), bakery good or desserts can all be cooked from frozen too.
If you however wish to defrost your food (perhaps you want to marinate your meat or take less time to cook it) the best way is to place your food in the fridge. For lots more useful tips on how to do it safely with various products visit Food Standard Agency website.
Foods you can not freeze
That list is luckily very short! Those products are not recommended for the freezer:
- cream cheeses
- ricotta or cottage cheese
- cooked eggs
- mayonnaise and sour cream based salads
Surprising foods you can freeze
- Bread – this is one single produce we waste so much of! Defrosted bread tastes just like fresh. For quick defrost slice your bread and pop a slice in your toasted when required.
- Chilies – Freeze them whole and than grate on a fine grater into your favorite dish
- Nuts – If kept too long they can go stale. Prolong their life and use whole or chop to top up your favorite crumble
- Dough and cake butter – Made a butter for your favorite pancakes but only need half? Freeze the rest. The same goes for cookies dough.
- Herb stems – Don’t discard them! They hold plenty of flavor. Find out here how to use them to add flavor into your dishes!