Most of us own freezers and they are marvellous inventions but can often be a source of food waste. This is my very quick guide on using your freezer properly and my top freezer tips for reducing food waste. Before we start, a quick reality check. How many of us use our freezers as:-
a) a temporary storage solution for food we have a plan on eating in the not too distant furture or
b)a bit like the cupboard under the stairs except for food?
I'll hold my hand up and say I have been guilty of chucking stuff into the freezer and not having a clue what's in there. I've also bought food it turns out I actually already had lurking in my freezer. And who hasn't rummaged in their freezer only to find something completely unidentifiable? No idea what it is or how long it's been there?
Freezers are great, but they are bad for food waste unless we use them properly. Freezers prevent food from going bad as bacteria cannot grow. The freezer storage times you see on food packets are to do with quality. Food can deteriorate in quality and texture over time, but it will still be safe to eat.
The recommended temperature for your freezer is -18°C
A good place to start is to do an audit of your freezer. Be brave and make a list of everything that's in there. Once you've got your list, organise your freezer into sections so stuff is easy to find and won't get missed. For example, store uncooked meat and fish in one section and ready meals in another. Where possible store food flat. Using similar sized containers will help maximise space and make it easy to look through. Label everything and include the date you put it in there.
Now you have a list of everything, draw up a meal planner to use up your food. When I did this, it took me 3 weeks to get through everything! It also meant I had an easy 3 weeks with very little cooking, not to mention a much smaller food bill.
Top Food Waste Tips for your Freezer
Your freezer is great for helping to reduce food waste. These are my top tips for freezing common foods you might otherwise throw out.
- Mashed potato - mould the mashed potato into a small ball about the size of a tennis ball and freeze flat on a tray. Once frozen, you can transfer the balls into a bag. You can defrost them easily in a microwave. Add a little butter to keep the potato moist. Alternatively, cover and heat up in the oven until piping hot.
- Bread. When you buy a loaf, freeze half of it to make sure you can finish it all before it goes off.
- Pesto. Once opened, pesto will only last a few days in the fridge. You can however freeze it. Ice cube tray are ideal as you can freeze it in smaller quantities.
- Cooked rice. Yes you can freeze cooked rice, perfect if you cook too much. Pack the rice into a container and leave it to cool, then freeze staright away for up to 1 month. Don't leave cooked rice at room temperature for too long as this is when bacteria can start to grow. To re-heat, pop it in the microwave, or cook from frozen in boiling water. Don't re-heat more than once and make sure it is piping hot before eating.
- Cooked Pasta. Like rice, pasta quantities can be hard to judge. Leave the pasta to cool then stir through a little olive oil so it doesn't all stick together. Place the pasta in an airtight container or freezer bag and store for up to 2 months. To re-heat, just place in a pan of boiling water for 2 minutes.
Freezer Do's & Don'ts
Food can be frozen right up to midnight on the Use By Date.
Food should only be frozen and defrosted once in any state. If you have a raw chicken breast, you can freeze it, defrost it, cook it then freeze it again cooked.
Ensure food is piping hot when re-heating.
For more tips on what you can and can't freeze, click here
If you're looking for some great freezer or store cupboard recipes check out my top 5 recipes here
If you have any great freezer storage tips you'd like to share, please leave them in the comments below.