Making the most out of your freezer is a great way to keep a well-stocked kitchen while minimising food waste. A well stocked freezer also serves to reduce the frequency of supermarket trips.
Traditionally, frozen foods have been viewed as processed or seen as less healthy, however, these days there is so much choice when it comes to frozen healthy food as well as many fresh foods which freeze surprisingly well!
Here are our top tips to healthy, freezer friendly foods and two useful kitchen skills explained.Blanching:
Here is how to blanch vegetables before freezing. Blanching is a process in which you boil or steam vegetables briefly until they are partially cooked. It is an essential step before freezing many vegetables like starchy vegetables (such as potato, sweet potato, carrots and parsnips).
- Place the chopped vegetables in a saucepan of cold water.
- Put in on the stove over a high heat until boiling.
- Once boiling, remove from the heat and run under cold water to cool.
- Place the blanched vegetables into freezer bags or containers and place in the freezer.
Use this method for freezing your own fruit and non-starchy vegetables without them clumping together.
- Chop your veg and lay flat in one layer on a baking tray.
- Place in the freezer.
- Once frozen you can transfer to Tupperware boxes and pop back into the freezer.
Frozen vegetables are equally as nutritious as fresh vegetables. Where they can differ is in texture with some being more suitable for freezing than others. Generally speaking vegetables with a higher water content don’t freeze as well and certain vegetables such as broccoli and asparagus can become stringy in texture. Aside from the usual: frozen peas, sweet corn and mixed veg, there are so many other vegetables that can be frozen to help make life that bit easier! Starchy vegetables (such as potato, sweet potato, carrots and parsnips) freeze best when blanched before freezing.
A great idea for those who want to avoid the tears and save themselves from all that chopping! You can buy bags of frozen chopped onion and add to dishes as needed where they will quickly defrost while cooking.
Sliced peppers freeze very well and can then be thrown into a wok or saucepan as needed where they will defrost while cooking.
Whether shop bought or freeze at home, thinly sliced peppers, onions, carrots, broccoli, sweet corn and beansprouts all work well.
While frozen spinach won’t make for a great salad, it works well in cooked dishes such as pasta, casseroles or soups.
With or without vegetables, these freeze really well. Simply defrost and serve with chicken or fish for a heart healthy meal with minimal effort.
Berries freeze especially well as do grapes. Frozen berries can then be added into warm porridge, grapes can be eaten frozen and bananas added to smoothies.
While you can freeze avocados, it does change the texture of them. They are best used from frozen for sauces or smoothies rather than on toast, for example.
Frozen fish is convenient, less expensive and just as tasty as fresh fish. Salmon, cod, hake, plaice and prawns are just some of the options available to us. Try to avoid breaded or battered fish and instead opt for plain or lightly seasoned. You can bake it in the oven straight from frozen with lemon and herbs and serve with vegetables and potatoes for a delicious, heart healthy meal.
Pre-cut slices of lemons or limes can be frozen and then used to add to dishes such as baked chicken or fish. Lemon juice can be frozen in an ice-cube tray and the cubes added to dishes or to a refreshing glass of water.
Fresh herbs like parsley, coriander and mint can be easily frozen and cut as needed. Alternatively you can freeze them with a little water in an ice-cube tray. Fresh ginger can be frozen and easily grated into dishes as needed. Chopped garlic can also be frozen which is a great time-saver. Equally you can buy herbs and spices frozen, however it is generally more cost effective to do so yourself.
Yes, potatoes can be frozen! It’s best to chop to your desired size and avoid using very large potatoes. Blanch them first then place them in the freezer. You can then microwave, fry, bake or boil them from frozen with reduced cooking time. A great idea to pre-prepare homemade wedges.
It’s best to slightly under-cook rice that you intend to freeze as otherwise it can crumble. Use the tray freeze method to freeze in one layer in zip-lock bags which will then defrost in very little time and can easily be added to dishes as needed.
While some of us freeze bread regularly, most of us defrost it by the loaf which then has to be used in a couple of days. To reduce waste why not store your bread in the freezer and defrost slices as you need them?
Beans and lentils:
You can make a whole bag of dried beans or lentils at once, let them cool and then divide into zip-lock bags and store them in the freezer. When you’re ready to use them, smack the bag on the counter a few times to loosen and add directly to whatever you’re making. For best results, under cook them slightly initially and they’ll cook a little more in whatever dish you add them to.
With more time at home, you may be finding yourself with more homemade treats like cakes, biscuits or buns. A great way to ensure you enjoy the treats in moderation without overindulging is to freeze some to have for later. This was you won’t feel tempted to finish them off while they are still fresh!
Many soups, stews, casseroles, chilies, curries, burgers and meatballs (raw or cooked) and pancakes (defrost in the toaster) are all popular, freezer friendly meals. Milk, raw egg (not in its shell), butter, cheese and nuts can all be frozen as well.Foods to avoid freezing:
- Cream-based soups
- Fried foods
- Vegetables with a high water content such as cucumber and cabbage
- Fully cooked rice or pasta
- Hard boiled eggs.
For advice on food safety while freezing please visit Safe Food.