Can it be frozen?
Ever wondered if you could just freeze all the extra stuff that you buy in a big shop, but when you get home, it doesn’t fit in the fridge or cupboards. Like the ‘free’ items you get with the special offers such as buy one get one free. You know, the ones where you get an extra bag of something, but you end up having to throw it away as it goes past it’s use by date. Well, why not freeze it? Most foods can be frozen, but if you’re new to it, here’s a little know how.
Below is a list of foods that I have tried and tested frozen. It’s a great way to save money and time when preparing foods, although you will initially need to set some time aside to get it all done. I would suggest you get all your perishables such as fruit/ veg etc on the day you plan to freeze them. Then, spend a good half an hour washing, peeling, chopping then portioning them up into servings. This time will be reimbursed when you come to cook, as most ingredients can be used straight from the freezer.
For items such as meat and fish, they will need to be defrosted before use. The safest way is in the fridge for 8-12 hours, but there are other ways, such as microwave defrost or soaking in warm water. I personally can’t advise as I’m old school, and usually place stuff on a plate in the fridge to defrost overnight. Life hacker has some useful advice for quick ways to defrost stuff, to find out more, click here.
The good, the bad, the mushy!
The vegetables that I’ve tested are carrots, peas, green beans, leeks, celeriac, parsnips, sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower. They all freeze really well, but sprouts and cabbage will soften when defrosting so you may not need to cook them for as long. If you prefer a crunch to these veg, then try freezing a small sample first to see what you think.
Remember to wash/ peel your veg first and chop into required size, then place in a labeled freezer bag.
I’ve never frozen this whole (and wouldn’t recommend it), but I have frozen it (and pumpkin) when peeled and cut into small chunks. It’s easiest to defrost first, as it helps to soften the flesh, so it takes less time to cook, which is perfect it you’re using it in a soup or broth.
Potatoes and ‘Mash’
I’ve only ever frozen mashed potato before and cooked it from frozen in the microwave (it took a little longer than cooking from defrosted). It turned out really well, even when made with milk and butter. As I no longer eat potatoes, I often make my ‘mash’ from butternut squash or cauliflower. This also freezes really well and cooks fine from frozen or defrosted.
If you cook a lot with onion, then freezing big bags of diced / sliced onion will save you a load of time and energy. It won’t work if your after onion for your salad, but it’s perfect in cooking such as curries. The down side is peeling / cutting them all in one go. Advice? – use gloves and wear swimming goggles!
These can be a little floppy on defrosting (so not great in a salad), but if you don’t mind them a little soft, throw them into a stir fry.
I wouldn’t recommend freezing them whole, but if you need them for sauces or puree then liquidised before freezing. You may choose to remove their skins first (score the skin with a knife then place in a bowl of boiled water for a few minutes and the skin will peel away).
Strawberries and blackberries
Berries go really soft once they defrost, but, if you’re planning on using in smoothies or pies, then it’s no problem. If you want them for smoothies, it’s easiest if you portion them up first, so you don’t have to try chipping some off when you need them.
It’s best to freeze ripe bananas, as they are most called for in recipes (such as breads, muffins or pancakes). When you’ve peeled off the skin, chop or mash them and transfer to a freezer bag. I tend to cut to into button shapes, so that when I use them in smoothies, it’s easier to get the amount I want. I firmly bang the bag on the wooden chopping board and the pieces break apart.
This is a great way of having fresh herbs for recipes, without having to buy them on the day. Wash and pick the leaves from their stalks and pat dry with some kitchen roll. You don’t have to chop them, as when they freeze, they’ll harden. All you need to do is ‘scrunch’ the bag they’re in when you fetch them out the freezer, and it’ll crunch them into small pieces.
Alternatively, you can chop them finely and freeze them in a little oil, in an ice cube tray.
Once you peel the skin from your ginger, you can choose to either chop it up into inch chunks, or you can grate it. I usually grate it (using a normal cheese grater) and transfer it to a freezer bag. When I need some from the freezer, I firmly bang the bag onto the chopping board and the ginger breaks up into small pieces. Just throw it into the pan with whatever your cooking and it will defrost in no time.
Chillies and scotch bonnet
Ok, WARNING first! Before chopping ANYTHING spicy, put gloves on. You’ll be glad you did, especially when your rubbing your eyes at the end of the night!
I freeze chillies in a two different ways (chopped and whole), because different recipes will call for different amounts of chilli. For whole chillies, you need to decide if you want to keep the seeds in. Chillies with the seeds left in are hotter. If you want to remove the seeds, just cut down the middle of the chilli (just below the stalk so that the top keeps the two sides joined together) and scrape out the seeds. For small pieces of chilli, I cut each whole into quarters, remove the seeds then dice as small as possible. When my recipes calls for chilli, I generally use two big ‘pinches’.
With scotch bonnet, because it’s so hot (hotter than peppers), I freeze them whole. That’s mainly because I know my ‘cooking head’ gets over excited and I would likely use too much if it was chopped into pieces. I would use too much of a ‘pinch’ and I would end up blowing my poor husbands tastes buds out of his handsome head (haha!)
I prefer to use frozen garlic than fresh, as it’s easier to squeeze through a garlic crusher. The only down side is that peeling 4 or more garlic bulbs can feel like forever and your left with garlic fingers (unless you wear gloves. If you have no gloves, a friend of mine told me that rubbing your fingers/ scratching your nails on stainless steel – such as the kitchen tap- after washing your hands, helps remove the garlic smell. You can actually buy ‘soap’ bars made of stainless steel that remove garlic and onion smells from your hands)
I don’t eat rice now, but my mom swears by this method. Her advice is “ensure its cooked and cooled properly before freezing. Portion in takeaway tubs (with lids) and remember to label/ date. When you need it, cook in the microwave until piping hot. ** now I used to prefer to defrost it in the fridge over night rather than cooking from frozen.
Do NOT keep any left over rice once you have cooked it. Rice is one of the worst foods for food poisoning (I should know, I did my food and hygiene certificate, and so did my mom)
Separate the burgers with some baking paper so they don’t stick together. When you come to defrost, place the burgers (in their wrapping) on a plate, in the fridge and allow 8 hours approx, to defrost.
I’ve only tried this once before and it worked quite well. After baking a batch of muffins, once cooled, I wrapped them individually, then frozen them. When I wanted a muffin I left it in the fridge over night. Before eating, I heated my muffin in the microwave for a few seconds, until it was warm. Now, you can also freeze braes, but I personally don’t like frozen bread. It might be a preference thing, so you might just have to give it a try.
I freeze my stock pots all the time, mainly because I don’t know when I’ll be needing one. To defrost I leave one in a (covered) bowl, in the fridge overnight. I have tried making gravy with one frozen and it worked really well.
If you cook your soup from fresh then you can freeze it with no problems. To keep it simple, portion into servings first, then freeze. That way you can take out and defrost what you need. Please note that if you make your soup with defrosted ingredients, there is no harm in re freezing once you have cooked them. (See the advice from Lifehacker)
Meats and Fish
I usually buy my meat and fish already frozen. I watched a documentary which suggested frozen food equalled fresher, as the process from farm/ boat to factory freezer was quickest. As a result, I can’t advise on freezing fish, but I do freeze whole chickens, breasts/ thighs, minced meat and goat (with the bone). It’s easiest to wash and season on the day, then wrap it up and freeze it, mainly because you’re locking in the freshness. I tend to put the unopened packet straight in the freezer, washing and seasoning usually happening on the day I defrost it. The advantage of seasoning before freezing, is that the meat/ fish gets time to really marinate in the herbs and spices.
So, there you have it, hopefully it will inspire you to make your food shop go that little bit further… Do you have any helpful tips or tricks that could help stretch the pennies? If so, please get in touch. I’m always looking for ways to save food going to waste or little tips on saving time in the kitchen.