Make life easier – love your freezer!
Most freezers are underused and undervalued. It’s not just a place to store ready meals – I don’t buy any! Your freezer is your friend and will make your life so much easier if you use it to its full advantage. I try to use fresh produce as much as possible but I have absolutely no problem whatsoever with keeping and using a supply of ‘prepared’ ingredients such as sliced peppers, chopped onions, crushed garlic and ginger cubes as well as freezer staples such as peas, sweetcorn, edamame and a selection of fruits. Frozen fruit is brilliant for crumbles and smoothies!
I have no time for food snobs that won’t entertain frozen. It is better to cook home-made meals using basic frozen ingredients – if you cannot face frequent chopping, slicing and dicing – than to not cook at all. It’s also worth remembering that frozen food contains as much (if not more) nutrients as fresh. Food frozen soon after picking has all the goodness locked in whereas produce that has undergone storage, transport and shelf display for lengthy periods will have lost many nutrients.
When it comes to frozen vegetables etc, you just measure out exactly what you need so there is no waste, especially if you have halved a recipe – say, if you’re cooking just for yourself. Also, when you’re cooking with fresh ingredients and find you have an excess, don’t be afraid to chop them up and freeze them. (Some things such as fresh herbs, peppers, onions and fruits can be tossed straight into the freezer – others such as root vegetables should be blanched first.) Leftover cream, coconut cream, sauces etc freeze brilliantly too. I find a silicone ‘giant ice-cube’ tray perfect for this purpose. Baby food storage organisers are also great for small portions. When my daughter was small I regularly batch-cooked chickpea curry, risotto and macaroni cheese for her and froze in individual portions.
Try to keep your freezer organised. Know where everything is and keep an eye on stock levels! Theoretically frozen stuff keeps for years but flavours and textures do deteriorate after prolonged freezing. Be sure to wrap foods carefully or store in freezer-safe containers to avoid freezer-burn and to avoid smells travelling. No wants garlic-flavoured ice-cream! I’ve listed the average contents and order of my freezer below as an example but you should do whatever works best for you.
I have a fairly normal freezer with four drawers. In the top drawer I keep things like excess bread, rolls and pastry – sometimes I make or buy too much so I’ll pop it in the freezer. Frozen bread defrosts in no time and it’s also good to know that frozen bread, buns, bagels, pittas etc all toast perfectly, straight from the freezer. If you’ve got too much bread, freeze it! There’s just no reason to throw bread away. I often make breadcrumbs out of leftover bread first then freeze. In this drawer I also keep ziplock bags full of
egg whites aquafaba (2018 update – chickpea juice also known as aquafaba is amazing for vegan meringues!) and other ‘excess’ stuff such as cubes of coconut cream and passata (ideal for pizza bases).
Next is a drawer full of bags of chopped vegetables. We eat a good mix of both fresh and frozen vegetables, but frozen veg is brilliant. I am frequently cooking small handfuls of vegetables for my daughter, and it can be easily incorporated into pasta dishes, omelettes etc with minimal waste. Generally speaking I keep frozen peas (petit pois), spinach, sweetcorn, sliced mixed peppers, edamame and a bag of diced ‘mixed veg’ – my daughter used to love perfecting her pincer grip by picking up small chunks of pepper, carrots and peas from her plate! I also keep garlic, ginger and bags of herbs, chopped onions and leeks. Sometimes there is grated cheese in here too, vegan and dairy. (My daughter is vegetarian). People are always throwing out cheese – it’s ok to freeze it, people! You just use it straight from the freezer in your dishes (or on your toast) and no-one would ever know.
In the third drawer I keep a stash of vegetarian ‘meats’. We love Fry’s best, for their chicken strips (amazing in stir fries) and spookily meaty burgers! We also keep a selection of vegan Quorn and Linda McCartney products (mainly sausages and pies). Soya-based veggie mince is a staple – this can be found in any supermarket and is the best, simplest mince-meat alternative. I have written a little bit about adapting meat-based recipes, using meat substitutes and why vegetarians want these products here.
The bottom drawer of my freezer is the fruit and smoothie drawer. Here I keep bags of fruits such as raspberries, chopped bananas and kale. I also tend to prepare green smoothies in bulk for my husband – they are prepared from fresh, bagged in individual portions and frozen. It’s so easy to grab a bag and blend the contents with a cup of water to make a perfectly measured smoothie! In this drawer I also keep ground chia seeds and occasionally leftover nuts – as these tend to deteriorate quite quickly in the cupboard. Ground chia is a great egg substitute in certain recipes (works in exactly the same way as ground flaxseed) and is also handy to add to smoothies.
This drawer was where I used to keep frozen toddler-sized meals, either portions left over from family meals or measured portions from specific child-friendly batch-cooked food. It was great knowing there was always a good nutritious meal for my daughter when I just didn’t feel like cooking.
So there we have it – I hope you’ll find this guide useful!