I hate waste, hence my love of recycling, composting and repurposing of things as much as possible. One of the ways I avoid waste (and also save money!) is using my freezer constantly and effectively. In my future dream life, I will have a chest freezer, so that I can store all the things, all the time! Ah, imagine the buying in bulk that could occur … Alas, our house doesn’t really have the space (and as my logical husband points out, 2 people probably don’t require it either – darn logic!!) So, instead, I try and operate a rotation system to ensure that we use everything we freeze and create space for more!!
What sort of things do we freeze?
Everything!! Ok, not everything, some things don’t like to freeze very well, ie certain fruits and veggies that are already pretty watery like cucumbers or lettuce, or liquidy dairy like milk or yoghurt but those are in the small majority, most other things freeze!! I often say if it’s not tied down I’ll freeze it – I think it’s a really good way of ensuring there are always bits and pieces on hand to use!
I freeze fruit, as you already know, particularly berries, as well as other bits of fruit to make Yonanas. I freeze baked goods, ie when I make a pile of muffins or scones, then at least half go in the freezer for later. We freeze bread – I find that bread (particularly home-baked) doesn’t last very long, only a few days, so I tend to throw the rest of the loaf in the freezer so we always have bread on hand. We also freeze meat that we’ve bought and not used, either in its packaging, or if we’ve used part of it, then in a freezer bag, with date and quantity clearly labelled! We also freeze whole meals as well as parts of meals.
I also highly recommend freezing the small bits of leftover stuff that might otherwise sit in your fridge for a couple of weeks, going bad, until you throw it out, so that you can instead use it later, as it saves money and reduces waste – we often have the best intentions when it comes to using things up, but it is better to freeze it and have it available fresh for a few more months rather than discover after a week that you still haven’t used it up and it’s gone bad. In that vein, I freeze bits of tomato paste, salsa, stock, meat, where they don’t seem big enough for a whole serve, but can come in handy combined with other things, ie often you need a little bit extra tomato paste in a soup, and that little frozen bit comes in handy! Also, I find although we use a lot of cheese in different ways, we may not use the whole block before it goes mouldy, so we have recently frozen half the block, to be used later!
I also got a tip from a fellow blogger (http://trkingmomoe.wordpress.com/2012/08/25/pork-chops-and-potatoes-with-brussels-sprouts-and-water-chestnuts/)about freezing fresh herbs, that you can then cut off the bit you need and use in a meal like soup when making it, so I froze a bag full of our freshly grown basil for future cooking!
What do you need?
* Freezer bags – I love the sandwich size as well as the mini size with the snap-lock close, as they’re easy to use and stack.
* Plastic containers, for bigger/bulkier items, although beware this takes up more space in the freezer, so rotation becomes key!
* Permanent marker (for the labelling of the freezer bags), and labels (for the labelling of the plastic containers).
One of the things that I highly recommend is freezing things in pre-separate portions, so that they can be used as single meals for dinner or lunch without having to defrost a large amount and potentially wasting food. Anytime we cook something like pasta sauce, or pasta, or lasagne, or pies, or soup, or casseroles, or anything in the pressure cooker etc, we tend to make enough portions for 6-8 rather than just 2 – my mother has taught me well, that if you’re already cooking, it’s almost the same effort to do double as single, and then you have plenty of leftovers!! We frequently take leftovers for lunch the next day, but if we’ve got more than that, or are going to be out etc, then we will freeze them.
We freeze in two main types of containers – if the food is a fairly sizeable portion, then we’ll freeze in a plastic container, so it’s ready to just take out and take to work or use for an easy dinner.
If it’s something where things will be added to it, like meat for burritos/tacos, or spaghetti sauce, or burger patties, or something else needs to be done to it, like uncooked meat or sauces, then we tend to freeze them in portions in freezer bags, so they’re ready to take out and defrost and be added to the rest of the meal. Labelling is very important – I label with minimum date and contents, and also size of things like stock or sauces, so I know how much I’ve got to work with!
How long can you freeze things for (ie when do I need to use it?)
This is why I always label things – both with the name of the contents (you’d be amazed at how much things start to look alike when frozen, and using burrito mix instead of spaghetti bolognese sauce on your pasta, while experimental, may not be the most enjoyable experience!), and with the date that it was frozen, so I have an idea of how long something has been in there, and don’t have to rely on my memory! We try and use frozen meats and meals with meat in them within about 4-6 months. Fruit, around 6-8 months. Bread, I find it can go for almost a year. Basically, if it doesn’t seem to have freezer burn (where it looks more ice than food), or have drastically changed its appearance, I will give it a go. I also find this website helpful – http://www.eatbydate.com/- it seems to be pretty accurate, and points out that most things last a lot longer than we think!
So, that’s my freezing tips – some of you may already be doing these and more, so please share your freezing tips in the comments!