Food freezing 101: How to make the most of your freezer
Save food for longer, and say "laters" to leftovers…
24 Jun 2021
These days, we need to be careful with our cash. So rather than splashing out on takeaways, we’re doing a lot more home cooking from scratch. And we’re being a bit smarter when it comes to leftovers. They don’t go straight into the bin anymore – they can be saved for some other time.
That’s where your freezer comes in. So if you’re in the mood for chilling, check out our hints and tips below…
Which foods freeze best?
Meat, fruit, veg and grains all freeze well. If you’ve made a stew from scratch, the leftovers will be great for freezing.
Milk freezes just fine, so if you’ve bought one pint too many, you can freeze it rather than waste it.
Whole herbs like parsley, basil and mint don’t freeze well, but here’s a tip – chop them up, squeeze them into an ice cube tray, and freeze them. Then next time you need to add a hit of herbs into a soup or stew you’re cooking, pop in one of your ‘herb cubes’.
Fresh berries tend to stick together if you just chuck them in the freezer, so put them on a baking tray, freeze them all on a single layer, then put them in a freezer bag. It’s a little bit of extra work, but it does keep them in good shape!
Safety tip: Always let cooked food cool before freezing. When it’s stopped steaming, it’s safe to freeze. Don’t leave it sitting on the counter for too long, as bacteria that causes food poisoning could start growing.
What shouldn't I freeze?
Things that don’t freeze well are creamy sauces, whole eggs (why would you even try?) and canned goods. Although you can freeze veg like sweetcorn and beans once you take them out the can.
How long does frozen food last?
The length of time you can freeze food for varies quite a bit. Here’s a quick guide to the most common foodstuffs:
- Fruit and veg can last up to 12 months
- Steak and large cuts of beef can last 10-12 months
- Chicken breasts and pieces can last 6 months
- Soups can last 4 months
- Leftover stews with meat or veg can last 3-4 months
- Fatty fish like salmon can last 2 months
- Bread, rolls and cakes can last 2 months
- Milk can last 6 weeks
How do I defrost food properly?
When it comes to defrosting, the most important thing is safety. Some foods can be cooked from frozen - but to be on the safe side, we recommend moving them from the freezer to the fridge, and letting them defrost thoroughly. Larger pieces of meat like steak and whole chickens can take a day or more to defrost, so plan ahead and give yourself enough time.
Safety tip: Don’t refreeze leftovers after they’ve been reheated. That’s a big no-no. And it’s a good reason for freezing leftovers in small portion – see tip 1 below!
8 top tips for freezing
- If you’re cooling food before it goes in the freezer, use a shallow dish. Your food will cool quicker.
- When freezing leftover meals, divide up big batches into smaller portions. It saves time defrosting, and cuts down on waste.
- Use proper freezer bags and freezer-friendly containers. And to prevent freezer burn (those icy marks on your food), squeeze air out of the bags and wrap everything up well.
- Liquids expand when they’re frozen, so leave some room in the container. If you’re freezing a pint of milk, pour a little out (into a nearby cuppa, perhaps) before you put it in the freezer.
- Label all your freezer food packages with a ‘use by’ date. Have a permanent marker on standby!
- If you’re undecided on what to eat, we’ll make it easy for you - use up the oldest items first.
- Put older packages in the front of the freezer, so they’re easier to reach.
- Don’t overload your freezer, and leave space between packages so that cool air can circulate.