As much as I moan about paying an extortionate amount in rent for our tiny, but superbly located, house it does come with one feature that I love. We have a huge chest freezer in the garage. It is so handy to have such a large space for storing food bought on offer, foraged or precooked for later.
Having such a large freezer means that I need to be organised and make sure everything is carefully labelled to avoid UFOs (unidentified frozen objects) and also that I know what is in there and needs using up. It is tempting to "throw it in the chest freezer for later" and for later to never come.
I have sections of the freezer for each group of frozen items. There are sections for meat, fruit and veg, precooked meals, baking and ingredients. This way I know where things are and I don't spend ages hunting for something whilst getting rather frozen myself. I also make sure I go through what is in there on a regular basis so that I don't waste food by not using it up.
I also make sure that I package foods properly to avoid them being damaged by freezer burn and put the date and contents on the packaging, as well as a best before date. Foods can be frozen for between a month and three months depending on what they are.
The freezing process may affect the texture of some foods: fruits or vegetables with high water content or a with a delicate cell structure do not freeze well. These include lettuce, tomatoes, watermelon, citrus fruit and cucumbers.
Cakes iced with butter icing freeze well but whisked egg-white based icings do not.
Milk freezes well and so do most natural cheeses but they may crumble more when you defrost them.
Semi preparing vegetables can save time and money. Sauté mushrooms or courgettes in butter and freeze, sauté onions and garlic and freeze, make pesto and freeze in ice cube trays and freeze surplus tomato paste so it doesn’t go to waste.
Mashed potatoes are handy frozen in small mounds for use as required to top casseroles. I also freeze stuffed jacket potatoes by wrapping them tightly in cling film.
Freezing is a great way to store glut of fruit or fruit bought cheaply on offer. Stewed, sliced, mashed, baked or whole fruit can be frozen. Cover fruit in a sugar syrup made from 1 cup of sugar to 3 cups of water and then freeze for use in smoothies, sorbets or ice lollies.
A full freezer uses less power than an empty one – pack empty space with plastic bottles filled with water, this will keep the power usage down and help keep everything frozen in the event of a power outage - a full freezer may remain frozen for 2 days or so, a half full freezer will start to defrost within 24 hours.
How long I freeze foods for:
Fruits for up to 12 months,
Vegetables for up to 6 months.
Meat roasts and whole poultry for up to 6 months
Beef and lamb steaks or chops for up to 4 months
Mince meats or stewing meats for up to 3 months
Baked yeasted bread, scones and rolls are best used within 3 months. Unbaked yeast bread dough within one month or less – Unbaked and frozen dough will probably require more yeast than usual in the recipe as freezing damages some yeast cells.
Un-iced cakes also freeze well, but storage times vary. Store angel food, chiffon or sponge cake for up to 2 months. Freeze cheesecake for up to 2 months, chocolate cake up to 3 months, and fruit cake up to 12 months.
Nuts also freeze well. I freeze salted nuts for up to 6 months and unsalted for up to 9 months.
I'm sure you can probably freeze these foods for longer but those are the guidelines I use.
Always defrost frozen frozen meats in the fridge because if you thaw them at room temperature it will give bacteria a chance to multiply and you run the risk of food poisoning.
For more helpful information about how to get the best from your freezer check out the Love Food Hate Waste website. They have loads of fab recipes and other advice too.