Your freezer can be your best friend

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This week I’m looking at how to stock up your freezer to make family meals easier. If you aim at making sure the freezer is fully stocked at all times, it’s cheaper to run. The list below means you will have a varied selection of useful foods that will last you about a week if you aren’t able to get out shopping in the colder weather. I have included instructions on defrosting as well, as many people are nervous about what you can and can’t get away with. Basically if you are particularly careful about shellfish and poultry, and make sure all foods are thoroughly cooked through before eating, then you should be fine.

If you haven’t got a freezer, chest freezers are the cheapest to buy and can be bought quite cheaply second hand as not much tends to go wrong with them.

One thing to avoid is tucking lots of unlabelled tubs and plastic bags full of leftovers in there, however, otherwise your heart will sink every time you open the door. Aim to keep a lot of basics in stock so you can use them as a basis for proper meals. Try cooking some home-made ready meals if you like, but do label them with the name of the recipe, date, and cooking instructions so family members bother to use them.

MEAT AND FISH

Pork chops/Steaks

Defrost overnight or soak in a bowl of cold water for 30-60 minutes until floppy. Grill or bake in the oven until cooked through.

Beef mince

Can be cooked from frozen by breaking it up and turning it over repeatedly whilst heating in a frying pan. Must be completely brown before you eat it.

Prawns

Must be thoroughly defrosted before use. Can be defrosted in a bowl of cold water before use, or in the fridge overnight (minimum of 10 hours). Can then be added to pasta sauce, curry sauce or fried with butter, lemon and herbs. Also useful for stir fries.

Seafood mix

Must be thoroughly defrosted before use. Can be defrosted in a bowl of cold water before use, or in the fridge overnight (minimum of 10 hours). Can then be added to pasta sauce, curry sauce or fried with butter, lemon and herbs. Also useful for fish soup – cook with chopped onion, tins of chopped tomatoes and 1-2 cloves crushed garlic.

Chicken or poultry portions

Must be thoroughly defrosted before use . Defrost in the fridge overnight or for 10 hours. Do not take short cuts. Grill or bake in the oven until thoroughly cooked through.

Sausages

Defrost overnight  or soak in a bowl of cold water for 30-60 minutes until floppy. Grill or bake in the oven until cooked through.

Fish fillets

Can be cooked from frozen. Grill or bake in the oven until cooked through. Can also be microwaved, allow about 1-2 minutes per fish.

FRUIT, VEGETABLES AND POTATOES

Cook from frozen, or follow the instructions on the packet.

Roast potatoes

Potato and vegetable mix

Peas

Brocolli

Spinach

Packet of frozen raspberries or forest fruits

GENERAL

Ham

Defrost in the fridge overnight or for a minimum of 10 hours before use. Do not take short cuts.

Hard cheese

Defrost in the fridge overnight or for a minimum of 10 hours before use. Grated cheese can be used from frozen.

Olive or sunflower spread

Defrost in the fridge for half a day minimum, until it is spreadable.

Butter

Defrost in the fridge for half a day minimum, until it is spreadable. Can be used from frozen, if you can!

Pizza

Cook from frozen according to the instructions on the packet.

Vanilla ice cream

Good as a dessert topping instead of cream

BAKERY

Bread

Can be reheated in the oven (20 minutes, watch it doesn’t burn) or in slices in the toaster.

Rolls

Can be reheated in the oven (20 minutes, watch it doesn’t burn) or in slices in the toaster.

Cakes and buns

Defrost for about four hours, or in an emergency reheat in the oven as for bread and rolls.

Strudel

Cook from frozen, follow instructions on the packet.

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6 thoughts on “Your freezer can be your best friend

    whollyghost said:
    13 November, 2011 at 8:22 am

    I had no idea that a packed freezer was easier to run. In terms of budgeting, I wonder is it cheaper to visit frozen foods specialists (Iceland/Farmfoods) or a standard supermarket…

      Sandra Bradley responded:
      14 November, 2011 at 9:51 am

      I think you have to do a bit of legwork on this one. For high nutritional standards, you are aiming for frozen foods that have been interfered with as little as possible, so basically frozen ingredients rather than ready meals (unless you have cooked them yourself, of course). You also need to be aware of taste and variety. So you might want to shop around and experiment – one might be best for frozen butternut squash, another for frozen meat in general and yet another one for joints of meat for roasting, for example. If you have a massive freezer, then catering suppliers and cash and carries are probably the way to go.

        whollyghost said:
        14 November, 2011 at 11:51 am

        Okay, so I can report back that I plugged my freezer in and went to Iceland for the first time – I’m not sure about price comparisons, since I never normally buy frozen food, but I was able to fill my freezer for <£40, including lots of fish. Some things seemed very reasonably priced e.g. frozen ham.

        Sandra Bradley responded:
        15 November, 2011 at 6:04 pm

        That’s great!

    Virginia said:
    14 November, 2011 at 12:13 am

    Brilliant guide: very timely (I have a baby due in the next 3+ weeks)!

      Sandra Bradley responded:
      14 November, 2011 at 9:47 am

      Glad you like it! Best of luck with the new baby.

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