You can save time and money by making larger quantities of meals than you need, and storing portions in the fridge or freezer for future use. We call this ‘batching’. Meals like cottage pie and soup are easy to freeze, defrost and reheat so you always have something tasty to eat. It’s quicker, cheaper and healthier than buying a ready meal or a take away.
Here’s our guide to freezing food safely and effectively…
Get the right kit
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. But remember to put it back in a container when you defrost it.
How to freeze, defrost and reheat food:
- 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.
- A full freezer is more economical to run. If there is a lot of space, fill it with everyday items like bread and milk.
- Freeze food when it’s fresh, to keep it in prime condition.
- Always freeze food before the use-by date.
- Wrap foods carefully to exclude as much air as you can.
- 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).
What to freeze
- You can freeze most food for up to three months. Meat with a high fat content needs eating within two months. Check your freezer regularly so that food isn’t wasted, and write the date on food before you freeze it.
- Meat and fish can usually be frozen for up to three months, but check the guidelines on the packaging.
- 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.
- Think about portion sizes when you’re making large batches of food – smaller portions can be frozen, defrosted and reheated more quickly than larger ones.
- 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.
- Keep a couple of cartons of milk in the freezer and you won’t run out. Shake it well before using.
- Grated cheese freezes well – you can use it straight from the freezer and it keeps for up to four months.
- Some people prefer to blanch vegetables before they freeze them. Briefly boil (blanching) the veg for 30 seconds and then plunge it into cold water. It’s not necessary but veg prepared this way will look and taste fresher for longer.
- You can 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!