A well-stocked freezer opens up a world of delicious possibilities for the clever cook. With just a few simple steps in terms of preparation, you can make mealtimes a breeze, freeing up more evening and weekend time.
With busy lives a freezer is a cook’s best friend. You can pack your frozen space with homemade meals, plus fresh and frozen ingredients, ready for quick meals at the end of a long day. One of the best ways to use your freezer effectively is to write out an inventory. It’ll help stop you forgetting what’s in there, make it much easier to plan a ‘freezer night’, and should reduce the time spent rooting around trying to find something too! Use your freezer wisely and you can store all the vital ingredients for time- and money-saving meals.
Freezer bags are great for storing loose food, like berries or burgers – both raw and cooked hamburger patties store safely in the freezer for up to three months. Scatter berries on baking trays and open-freeze first before transferring to bags, to stop them clumping together. Use marker pens to write on the bag what you’re freezing, how many portions, and the date. You can also layer your raw ingredients in a zip-lock freezer bag – once defrosted, empty the whole lot into a large saucepan, stir for a few minutes, add 200ml boiling water and leave to simmer until the meat is cooked through and the sauce thickened.
Portion-sized food storage boxes make it easier to dish up your meals later. You’ll find that most are freezer-friendly, microwave- and dishwasher-safe, as well as great for bringing leftovers into work for lunch. Plus, measuring portions before freezing is a great way of making quick and portion-friendly packed lunches for kids! Have a go at these simple tuna mayo pittas or this Greek salad wrap with full-of-flavour sundried tomato and butter bean salad.
Any air left in with your food can result in freezer burn, which dulls the taste and texture (although the food will still be safe to eat). To prevent this, it’s important to wrap things well before freezing; using bag clips helps ensure your food is tightly sealed.
It’s easier to get ahead with meals than you might realise. Preparation though is key but put in the work early and you can put your feet up for the rest of the weekend. Try this vegetarian green lentil curry which can be eaten as a standalone meal or used to top naan breads with wilted spinach and poached eggs. Or batch-cook this fiery chipotle mashed sweet potatoes recipe, a versatile dish that can be used to top fish pies, applied in wraps and sandwiches as a smoky base or even used as dough mix to make fragrant potato bread.
Plastic or silicon, square or loved-heart-shaped, your ice cube tray is your friend and you’ll find it a versatile tool for making a variety of recipes. From 3-ingredient frozen yogurt bites to these fancy peach, lime and basil-infused ice cubes, there are endless possibilities waiting to be frozen – just pop them out when the time is right, for a cooling treat in the summer months or as a quick, melt-in-the-mouth breakfast on the go.
If you find that you’re not getting through the milk in your fridge, then don’t waste it and instead, freeze it! Household needs such as milk, bread and grated cheese all freeze well. Why not pour milk into an ice cube tray and remove as and when needed for a cup of tea (or when you just need a splash in baking) or have a go at these creamy cereal milk ice creams, sprinkled with cornflakes and honey.
Make mealtimes a breeze by limiting freezer-friendly recipes to only 3 ingredients, ensuring affordable dinners are within reach when needed. Try this easy meatball and red cabbage bake, which requires very little prep and can be ready in 30 minutes, or a creamy ham and potato casserole topped with crispy potatoes. Both recipes can be frozen, and any leftovers reheated for another time.
Why not prepare a fruit dessert in advance, such as this frozen strawberry trifle for an easy-to-serve, refreshing summer show-stopper – simply layer creamy custard, sweet jam, soft sponge fingers and fresh berries. If you have a round tin, have a go at this vibrant no-bake frozen yogurt cheesecake.
Generally, the fuller your freezer, the more effectively it will work, as it retains the cold better. There’s a fine line though: don’t overfill, or the air won’t circulate properly. The ideal temperature for your freezer is -18˚C – ensure it’s at the correct temperature before adding to it.
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