Making friends with your freezer
Make the most of your freezer with these hacks
Dietitian Ashleigh Jones shares how to get the most out of the food you’ve already bought and use your freezer like a pro.
Food waste is a huge problem in Australia, and with the current health crisis it’s more important than ever to avoid unnecessary trips to the shops. The good news is that you can unleash the power of the freezer to make the most of what you already have, which will also save you time and stop food waste.
1. Healthy meals
Keeping ready prepared, pre-portioned frozen meals in your freezer is absolutely key to eating well when you don’t have the time or energy for cooking. Freezing meals, rather than storing in the fridge, is a great option because it locks in the taste and nutrition of the meals on the day they are prepared. It also guarantees the quality and food safety of the meals until you’re ready to eat them.
Most bread, except some crusty varieties, will freeze well for up to 3 months. It’s a better option than storing in the fridge, which tends to dry bread out. Sliced bread can be toasted from frozen. It can be tempting to throw away the end piece of bread, but these pieces are perfect for making bread crumbs. Just put them in the freezer until you’re ready to use them. Add them to a food processor and then add to roast vegetables or pasta bakes in the oven. Everything tastes better with that delicious crunch.
Believe it or not, you can freeze eggs! Buying eggs by the dozen will work out cheaper and mean you don’t have to head to the shops as often. Simply beat your eggs, separate into useable portions and pop in the freezer. They can then be added to meals later or used for omelettes. This is also a great trick for storing leftover egg yolks or egg whites when recipes only call for one part of the egg.
You might not know it but milk freezes really well. You can freeze it for 1 month, just defrost in the fridge and give it a good shake before using. If you only use milk for tea and coffee, use an ice cube tray and fill with milk. That way you have individual portions, rather than a whole bottle of milk going off in the fridge. Frozen milk cubes can be a great addition to smoothies and will help ensure you’re getting enough calcium each day. We’ve also heard that you can do this same trick with leftover wine (the freezing part, not the smoothie) to cook with it later, but we’re a bit confused about what “leftover wine” is.
Tomatoes are perfect to freeze especially if you notice when they start to get sightly soft. Chop them up and put them in a freezer bag, they can stay like this for up to three months. You won’t be able to use them in your salad, but they make a perfect addition to sauces, soups and relishes.
There is nothing more frustrating that buying an entire bunch of celery when a recipe calls for only one or two stalks. If your celery tends to spend the end of its life rotting in your crisper, be proactive and wash and dice the whole bunch up when you get back from the shops. You can freeze diced celery in reusable containers or freezer bags, ready to be added to your soups, casseroles.
Berries and bananas are great fruits to freeze, they’re also a nutrient packed way of getting more vitamins in your day. If you think you won’t get to eat them before they overripe, chop them up and freeze them. You can add them to smoothies which add a delicious, thick consistency. Or even make healthy ice-cream by blending frozen fruit with a splash of milk. So handy and healthy!
Don’t banish fresh herbs to perish at the bottom of the crisper, instead you can freeze them and use them later! Wash them, chop them up, then pop them in ice cube trays, cover with water and freeze. This way you have a perfect portion of fresh herbs ready to cook with whenever you need them. You can also add these herby ice cubes to drinks to make your water (or other beverages) just a little bit fancier.
9. Stocks and broths
The solution to extending the life of leftover stocks and broths is, you guessed it, ice cube trays! This is perfect for those times a recipe calls for a half cup or less of stock. For larger quantities, use a freezer bag with a good seal or a reusable container, and you’ll be able to whiz up a healthy and delicious soup in minutes.
10. Label everything
While your freezer is an amazing tool when it comes to reducing food waste, you want to avoid playing Russian roulette with mystery meats and other unknown foods. Get around this problem by ensuring you label everything. Using freezer labels or a permanent marker, make certain you include important information such as: what it is, packaging date and the number of servings.
Ashleigh Jones is an Accredited Practising Dietitian with extensive dietetics experience working across hospitals, corporate health, private practice and the food industry. A published researcher, she has collaborated actively across several disciplines including genetics, multiple sclerosis and sports nutrition. Ashleigh specialises in endocrine disorders with particular interest in weight management, pituitary and thyroid disorders, and management of diabetes. Ashleigh is passionate about promoting healthy habits, especially for busy people and offers simple and sustainable nutrition solutions.