The freezer is a vastly-underused resource in most homes; simply a dumping ground for expired products and extra loaves of bread, the freezer can, in fact, be used extremely well to help you with your meal planning and preparation if you just pay attention to what you put in it. To Freeze or Not To Freeze makes the job easy.
When to use the freezer
Almost every ingredient you keep in your home can be frozen in one state or another and then defrosted and used when convenient.
Firstly, I highly recommend buying frozen vegetables to use in soups and stews. They can be cooked from frozen (great for kids!) or a handful can be added to bulk out any dish. I also keep bags of frozen fruit ready to make into smoothies or desserts.
Secondly, a good habit to get into is to start preparation for your meals as soon as you get home from the store. If you are buying fresh ingredients to freeze, you will benefit greatly from doing the chopping and portioning before freezing, as then you can then add them with ease come the cooking.
Furthermore, once you have cooked your chosen dishes (whether you have leftovers or you’ve batch cooked for an entire month) you can return them to your freezer to preserve them for future use and guarantee you have a homemade “ready meal” when you need it most.
To Freeze or Not To Freeze?
So, here’s the lowdown on what you can (and can’t) freeze and how best to do it.
Things that freeze well:
- Basics that you likely need to keep in your house should also be kept in the freezer for emergencies: milk (leap a gap in the top of the bottle for expansion), and butter will keep well.
- I keep bags of frozen chicken breast, fish fillets, minced beef and prawns to add to meals nightly.
- Frozen vegetables such as peas, baby broad beans, sweetcorn and carrots are great for adding to stews or for the children; fresh vegetables such as onions, peppers etc. can be chopped and then frozen.
- Raw pastry and cookie dough and cooked pancakes and waffles can be kept for future use.
- Pre-cooked proteins such as breaded chicken strips, meatballs, schnitzel, fishcakes and burgers are an easy grab. NOTE: if you defrost a raw protein such as chicken, you must COOK IT before you can refreeze it. DO NOT refreeze raw meat and fish.
- Lunch dishes such as made-up sandwiches, quiche and tarts.
- Liquids such as soups, stews, sauces and stocks. Pour them into freezer bags and lie them down flat to save room.
- Full meals that you have batch cooked (or leftovers); my favourites are chilli con carne, beef curry, beef bourgignon, shepherd’s pie, chicken chasseur, fish pie, fish chowder, pasta bakes, enchiladas, taquitos, lasagne, tuna casserole and sweet & sour chicken.
- Potato products such as cooked mash and sweet potatoes.
- Cooked rice and pasta – just spread them out flat to freeze first, then scoop up and store in freezer bags.
- See: How to Organise your Freezer
Things that do not freeze well:
- Raw eggs still in the shell, as they will crack. They will freeze, however, if you crack them into a freezer bag or ice-cube tray. Defrost before using. You can also freeze cooked eggs, although they will go rubbery – so it depends what you need them for.
- Fresh herbs, as they lose their texture. Simply wash and dry them when bought, chop finely and put into an ice-cube tray topped up with water. Then you can just grab a cube of “fresh” mint or basil and add it straight to your dish with no need to defrost.
- Cream and yogurt, as it can split/curdle. It’s not so bad when cooked in a dish, though.
- Watery vegetables, such as cucumber and lettuce. These are best eaten from fresh.
Download my Freezer Guide
For a printable list of everything you can (and can’t) freeze, click here. Pin the list somewhere prominent in your kitchen so you can refer back to it when you come to store your food.
A final word of advice
Whatever you decide to store in your freezer, make sure that it is organised well with a simple inventory (see: How to do an Inventory). You can download my free template and keep track of everything you’ve stored.