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How to make the most of your freezer to cut energy and waste

BY Gill Hasson

21st Jul 2023 Food Heroes

How to make the most of your freezer to cut energy and waste
Overstuffing your freezer is one surefire way to lose food and raise your energy bill. Use these simple tips to organise your supplies and reduce food waste
It may not be the most exciting appliance in your kitchen but no matter its size, if you know how to make the most of it, your freezer is a food hero, helping you save time and energy and reducing food waste.
Here’s five top tips to unlock your freezer’s full potential.

1. Declutter and start again

Do you end up shoving food into whatever space you can find without ever being sure of what else is and isn’t in there? There's no point aiming to use your freezer more efficiently while you still have food stashed away in there. It’s time to declutter!
Those unlabelled containers with unknown soups, sauces and stews must go. Commit to spending a week or two regularly defrosting and using up what’s in there so that you can have a fresh start.
"Keep a notebook near the freezer and write out everything that’s in there"
Once you’ve done that, you can start keeping track of what’s in your freezer. Keep a notebook near the freezer, write out everything that’s in there (or start a list on your phone) adding and crossing off as you go.
This will make it much easier to plan meals and avoid time spent rooting around trying to find something.

2.  Package well

Use freezer bags and rectangular storage boxes to maximise space in your freezer
To make effective use of the space in your freezer, place food in square or rectangular containers that can stack up. Use shallow containers for freezing liquid-based foods such as soups, stews and sauces, as they freeze more quickly.
However, with liquid based foods such as sauces and stews, you’re likely to save more space if you use freezer bags rather than containers. Simply fill the bags with one or two portions and lay flat in the freezer, one on top of the other. Or use gusseted freezer bags that stand up once filled.
"With liquid based foods such as sauces and stews, you’re likely to save more space if you use freezer bags"
You might also consider using reusable freezer bags to reduce your single use plastics.
Make sure that you label everything. It’s tempting to skip this stage, thinking you’ll remember what’s in that plastic container or freezer bag. But you won’t!

3. Batch-cook

It’s a no brainer—whenever you make soup or meals such as casseroles, stews, chilli, bolognese, make double then pack and freeze in usable portions.
They are then ready to defrost for the days when you don’t have the time or inclination to cook dinner that night.

4. Keep the little bits

Use an ice cube tray to preserve liquids like lemon juice and milk
  • Dairy, oat, almond and coconut milk, wine, stock and lemon juice can all be frozen in ice cube trays, then transferred to freezer bags. Freezing even small amounts of gravy means you’ll always have some for meals that don’t create their own pan juices.
  • Ends of cheese can be grated and stored in a bag for cheese sauces or toppings.
  • Only using half a lemon? Slice it up and freeze in a bag so that when you need a few slices, they’re ready to go straight into drinks.
  • Freeze champagne in an ice cube tray and use another time to pop into a glass of orange juice for an instant mimosa.
  • Put bits and pieces—such as a parmesan rind, half a sliced lemon, a single pastry, a small amount of grated cheese, breadcrumbs and gravy, together in a large plastic container, rather than let them get lost in the freezer.

5.  Foods you didn’t know you could freeze

Make extra cookie dough to freeze in batches for easy baking later 
  • Nuts. Freezing nuts keeps the oils in them from going rancid. Make sure they’re in an airtight container and they’ll keep for up to a year.
  • Ripe bananas. Peel over-ripe bananas and place them into a freezer bag. Thaw before using in cakes and bakes. Or slice up and pop just enough for one smoothie into one freezer bag. They can be used straight from frozen.
  • Uncooked bacon. Bacon thaws really quickly at room temperature. Wrap three to four slices side by side in parchment paper before freezing in a bag.
  • Butter. Butter can be frozen in a block or cut into small squares to make it easier to defrost exactly what you need. 
  • Cookie dough. Freeze individual frozen portions on a baking sheet and once frozen, store in freezer bags. You can then bake any number of cookies, straight from frozen, whenever you want to. Just add one to two minutes to the bake time.
  • Chopped onion. Freeze onions by chopping them up and, so they don’t freeze in a lump, spreading them out in a freezer bag. To use, there’s no need to defrost, you can use the amount you need straight from the freezer.

Finally, do remember the rules

  • Don’t over fill. Although a full freezer retains the cold better than an empty one, don’t overfill, or the air won’t circulate as well as it needs to in order to maintain its optimum  temperature of 18˚C.
  • Cool it. Always cool cooked food before freezing it. Putting hot or warm food in your freezer increases the temperature and could cause other food to start defrosting.
  • Defrost thoroughly. Ensure meat, fish and prepared dishes are properly defrosted before cooking or reheating. Defrost food in your microwave or in the fridge to slowly defrost the night before you want to use it.
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