Ideal for avoiding waste and making ingredients last longer.

These are unprecedented times indeed. And suddenly, a new perspective on our store cupboards, fridges and freezers is forming. Wasting even a little carrot peel feels frivolous, new, delicious recipes are emerging out of necessity, and food waste has become the ultimate enemy. Well, perhaps not the ultimate enemy. That title is reserved for something else we won’t mention by name right now.

Anyway, we digress. If you’re to prevent food going off and limit those unnecessary trips to the supermarket, then responsible freezing is essential. It’s not just a matter of stuffing everything in there like Tetris and hoping it survives. There’s an art to this thing. Here are 7 tips on freezing food properly, IDEAL for avoiding waste and making ingredients last longer.

LABEL & LIST

A methodical approach to your storage is hugely helpful when you’re more stocked up than usual and you’re having home cooked food for every meal. Responsible documenting of what’s gone in and when will ensure no food goes to waste, and you’ll know exactly what’s in there without having to get elbows deep in ice

Label everything, and include the date of freezing, too; contrary to popular belief, that frosty treasure chest doesn’t preserve food for eternity. Make a list of all the things you have in your freezer – both raw products, and leftover meals you’re looking to get more legs from – and stick it on the fridge for any easy reference point.

PACK IT PROPERLY

Food in your freezer needs to be packed properly to avoid spoilage. If it’s not stored well, its properties will deteriorate, leaving you with an unpleasant texture upon reheating or worse, an inedible product. 

Freezer burn, in particular, is the enemy of sustainable storage. To avoid this unfortunate occurrence, you should reduce your food’s exposure to air; double wrapping with cling film is great, but tin foil and an airtight freezer bag provide even better protection.

PORTION SIZE CONTROL

If you have the freezer space or willpower to find it, then freezing ingredients and portions separately, into small, single units is the best way to avoid waste. Consider the quantities you’re likely to need for recipes or mealtimes, so when you need to use them, you’re not defrosting surplus stuff that might then end up in the compost. Now is not the time to waste food, you don’t want to have to defrost a whole pack of mince when you’re only cooking for two. 

THE 6 MONTH RULE 

While different types of food have varying freezer lives, as a rule of thumb you shouldn’t keep stuff in your freezer for longer than 6 months. After around three months, the signs of freezer burn may start to appear, regardless of how diligently you wrapped the product. Like professional food operations and restaurants, keep a ‘first in, first out’ mantra in mind to maintain stock rotation according to how long it’s been stored. 

DOES IT FREEZE WELL?

Some ingredients and complete dishes freeze beautifully, ready to bring out at a moment’s notice and warm up. Some don’t. Raw eggs, for instance, will expand and crack in the freezer. And that’s a mess you don’t want to be dealing with. 

What’s more, mayonnaise and other egg-based sauces will curdle, as does cream cheese, single cream and cottage cheese. That said, other dairy products like butter and margarine, and most hard cheeses freeze well.

What’s more, courgettes, cucumbers and other veg with a high water content end up limp and mushy, and fried food will go soggy and lose that crispy reason you fried it in the first place. Research before freezing to avoid waste.

DEFROSTING & THAWING

Not only do you need to freeze your food properly to avoid waste. You also need to defrost it in the safest, most efficient way, too. 

So, ideally, take things out the day before you want to use them, and for meat or fish, this is pretty much essential to give it the time it needs to thaw in the fridge safely. When you’re thawing meat, always leave it on a plate.

Never refreeze food that has been defrosted. If you need to defrost something to cook with immediately, you can use the suitable setting on your microwave. You should, however, check your microwave manual for appropriate time specifications. 

MAINTAIN IT 

To ensure your freezer is working efficiently, it’s important to defrost it from time to time and give it a proper clean. If your freezer isn’t effectively freezing food, or if it’s leaking water, it means it’s not working properly. 

Be aware that a freezer functions more economically when it’s full, so fill the gaps in there with water bottles to keep everything ticking along nicely. 

And with that, we wish you happy, economical, nutritious cooking ahead! Check out our tips on storing meat safely for more of this sustainable content.