Make your freezer your best friend and a great meal is never more than a few minutes away.
You can save time and money by making larger quantities of meals than you need and storing portions in the fridge or freezer – this is called ‘batching’.
We know finding the time and energy to cook healthy meals on top of a busy day can be a challenge. This article explores how you can prepare food in batches and freeze it in a safe way to reduce waste and save you time and money.
Soups, a basic tomato sauce (for pasta or pizza) and/ or a batch of mince are easy to bulk cook. You can use one batch for today’s meal and freeze the second and third batch to use on another day.
Save tubs, foil boxes, food bags and clingfilm to freeze food in. You don’t need to spend money on expensive boxes – you can easily wash out margarine or ice cream tubs and re-use them, saving money and saving the environment too. 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 for you. Are you feeding your hungry teenage child, your toddler or the whole family? There is more information on the British Dietetic Association website about portion sizes.
Food safety tips:
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 – this makes it much safer and helps you plan when food needs to be used by.
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 is steaming hot (75˚C for at least two minutes).
You can freeze most food for up to three months. Meat with a high fat content needs eating within two months.
Time and money saving tips:
A full freezer is more economical to run. If there is a lot of space, fill it with everyday items like bread and milk (shake the milk before you use it after defrosting).
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.
Bread and baked products freeze 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.
You can use grated cheese straight from the freezer and it keeps for up to four months.
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!
Freeze fresh ginger and use straight from the freezer, it makes it much easier to grate.
Freeze fresh herbs, chopped up in ice cube trays with a little water, so you can just pop them into future dishes.
What not to freeze:
- Any sort of egg unless it is in a cooked mixture, such as a quiche or cake.
- Vegetables with a high-water content, such as cucumber and lettuce.
- Egg-based sauces, such as mayonnaise - they will separate and curdle!
- Plain lower-fat yoghurt, lower-fat cream cheese, single cream and cottage cheese go watery.
Useful store cupboard ingredients
. Dried herbs, black pepper, dried spices, vinegar, Worcester sauce, stock cubes, sugar.
Chickpeas, tinned beans, tomato purée, tinned tomatoes.
Dried pasta, rice, noodles, cooking oil (olive, vegetable, mustard or sunflower oil), flour (plain and self-raising).
Smart storage – useful foods to keep in the freezer
- Sliced bread, raw pastry, pizza bases, scone mix, breadcrumbs.
- Nuts, prawns, fish or fish fingers, milk, minced meat, butter or margarine
- Frozen vegetables such as peas, mixed vegetables, stewed fruit such as apple or plums, grated cheese.
Now you know how to batch cook and freeze meals, why not give it a try next time you are cooking!