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frozen berries

Making friends with your freezer

It seems we're all a little confused by what we can and can't freeze - and it's contributing to food going in the bin when it doesn't need to. That's not just wasting food, it's wasting your money! 

Research for Food Safety Week has found two thirds of us have thrown away food in the last month, with past its sell by date (36%) and having too much (30%) the main reasons. Worryingly, a number of freezing myths also contributed to the waste with two in five people thinking you can't freeze food more than one day after purchase and a third wrongly thinking they couldn't refreeze meat after it has been cooked.

We asked Justine Pattison, Cookery Writer and author of Freeze, to share her tips for reducing food waste and saving money by freezing. Over to Justine…

I reckon that your freezer is your best friend in the kitchen. Solid and reliable, you can trust your freezer to take care of leftovers, bulk buys, impulse buys, batch-cooked dishes, near their use-by date foods and almost anything else that you don’t want to waste.

Although food will freeze almost indefinitely, deterioration will occur over time, so it is best to use most foods within about 4 months. That doesn’t mean you should chuck out anything that’s been in there longer, but just try and get in the habit of using what you have regularly. A freezer night at least once a week is a useful way of using up your freezer contents rather than shopping for fresh food.

If you have a small freezer and need to save space, I recommend my method of flat-freezing your food in zip-seal bags – this technique works brilliantly for anything saucy, such as soups, stews, curries, bolognese, stocks, poached fruit and purees. Find out how on my website.

Wrap it well

Always wrap and label food really well. You need to keep out as much air as possible to protect the surface from icy patches and freezer burn and to prevent flavour transfer between foods or discolouration. I use thick freezer bags and reusable plastic tubs. Liquids expand when frozen, so leave a 2–3cm gap at the top of containers.

Waste-not, want not

Perishable items, such as meat, poultry and ham, can be successfully and safely frozen up to their use-by date, so don’t leave them lurking at the back of the fridge for days once opened. Wrap tightly before freezing and thaw in the fridge.

Freeze your leftovers

Freeze leftovers rather than wasting them. Make up single portions of meals such as spaghetti Bolognese, or stew and freeze in reusable plastic containers for home-made ready meals. Even meat leftover from a roast joint can be sliced and made into sandwiches for freezing. Leftover vegetables can be made dishes like bubble and squeak or thick soups.

Ensure that any meals that have been frozen are thoroughly reheated until steaming hot before serving.

Buy one, get one in the freezer

Make the most of supermarket offers by freezing BOGOF items. Anything from meat, chicken, ham, bacon, cheese, butter, breads and pastries freeze well. Make sure you wrap tightly to expel as much air as possible.

Try frozen fruit instead of fresh

Frozen fruit represents great value for money and can be used for topping yogurt for breakfast, making into quick smoothies, pies and crumbles. Because you only take out what you need and it’s fully prepared for you, there’s no waste. The same applies to frozen vegetables, which have been shown to contain more vitamins than most fresh veg too.

Portion control

Catering size cans usually represent better value for money. Freeze the contents in handy portions and take out just what you need. Canned tomatoes, baked beans, soups and canned fruit can all be frozen. You can buy cheap, reusable plastic containers in pound shops and online, or flat-freeze in freezer bags and reheat from frozen.

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