/ Food & Drink

Freezing your food – separating the fact from fiction

Brits throw away 7.2 million tonnes of food and drink a year – that’s £12bn down the drain. Much of this is completely unnecessary, especially if we made more use of our freezers. But what can and can’t you freeze?

Food waste is a problem: fact. According to research by Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), the average household shells out £480 per year on groceries that end up in the bin, a figure that rises to £680 for a family with children.

When you consider that you’re spending hard-earned cash to populate landfill, it’s a bitter pill to swallow.

And it’s not just the impact on our wallets that gives cause for concern. Every time we throw away a pint of milk, all of the natural resources used to get it from the farm to your fridge (feeding and watering cows, powering the dairy, transporting the milk to the supermarket) are all expended for nothing.

Saving money on food shopping

WRAP estimates that preventing food waste would have the same environmental benefits of removing one in five cars from our roads.

How, then, can we save ourselves money and do our bit for the environment? It all comes down to good planning, preparation and storage. Plan meals in advance and only buy – and cook – what you need:

  • Make a shopping list and stick to it.
  • Store fruit (except pineapple and bananas) in the fridge – it’ll last longer.
  • Don’t buy bagged lettuce if salad isn’t on the menu for the next few days.
  • Make sure your fridge is running at 5°C or colder.

And make more use of your freezer – storing food until you’re ready to eat it is, after all, what it’s there for. You can freeze fresh groceries right up until the use-by date, cook large meals and freeze individual portions, even freeze fruit and veg. Small measures for big gains: it’s a win-win situation, surely?

Freezing food myths

So, what foods can and can’t you store in your freezer? According to the United States Department of Agriculture, you can freeze pretty much anything except eggs and canned foods. And even these foods can be frozen if you remove the shell and can first.

But how long can you safely freeze food for? And what about all those things you ‘just know’ you can’t freeze? Surely you’re not supposed to freeze rice? And what about raspberries and strawberries that turn to mush? Or, perhaps you follow the school of thought that any unwelcome microbes or bacteria are killed once food reaches 0°C, so anything goes?

We’re looking into freezing habits here at Which? to separate the fact from the fiction so we can reveal how you can make the most out of your freezer. So, how much do you use your freezer? And what foods do you think you can and can’t freeze, and why?

Comments
Guest

I just happened to read this tip today – haven’t tried it myself.

Store root ginger in the freezer. Apart from stopping it going off, it is easier to grate in its frozen state.

Guest
Dublin_Don says:
27 April 2012

Peel the ginger first…

Guest

Ah, the voice of experience. Thank you.

Guest
Susan says:
3 May 2012

We never peel our ginger before freezing it. When you grate it in its frozen state the skin just disappears and you don’t notice it.

Guest
Margaret says:
7 May 2012

Ginger is easy to peel with a sharp knife when frozen. I have been doing it for years

Guest
Grandmamoy says:
27 April 2012

I keep hens and recently had a glut of eggs so….broke one into a small dish, covered it in cling film and put it in the freezer…4 weeks later – got it out, thawed and whisked it with a fresh egg and made a cake !! Fine…
Also freeze Strawberries and raspberries every summer…freeze on trays overnight then pack in boxes..with stawberries you can add sugar…Strawberries and frozen gooseberries with a sponge mix poured over and baked makes a wonderful winter pudding

Guest

Don’t trust the oxidation process even if minimised
in cold fridge compartment at 0-5 degrees…as to coconut milk
whether extracted from fresh coconut or from can, any unused
wd immediately store in freezer- divided into individual portions
if necessary- with no diminution in flavour or quality
on subsequent use.

Ex 50 gm spice glass jars are ideal for this purpose.

Guest
Tam says:
29 April 2012

take care putting glass containers in freezer – liquids expand when frozen and can break glass. Plastic or card is flexible.

Guest

A useful warning, Tam. Traditional glass bowls with sloping sides are fine in the freezer because the frozen material just moves upwards. It is important to avoid glass containers with straight sides.

Even full plastic containers can split.

Guest

The emphasis is on very SMALL glass jars- 50 gm capacity – with tight-fitting
plastic lids formerly used to store spices like both white and black
ground pepper, cumin, coriander ecetera.

Have used such jars for years in the freezer w/out there being a problem
though there’s been a very slight crack on lid in one or two cases but that is not
a problem. Of course do not fill jars completely full, to allow for room for
expansion of contents.

Have put my ex-Vegemite 100 and 200 gm glass jars to similar use
w/out adverse effect….wd not consider using anything larger like 340
gm ex marmalade glass jars for freezing purposes.

Guest

You are right about small straight-sided jars surviving freezing, Argonaut. I don’t understand why this works, but it does. Anything bigger is likely to crack.

Guest
Peter Hulse says:
5 June 2012

I’ve frozen wine (accidentally). It just pushes the cork out – I don’t think I’ve had a broken bottle yet.

Guest
sunbeam says:
27 April 2012

baked potatoes – if you’ve cooked too many, let them cool then wrap them on cling wrap and freeze. Whe you want them get them out, I allow them to defrost, put them in oven on hot for 15 minutes and they’re fine

Guest
Marion says:
27 April 2012

We freeze tomatoes whole when we have a glut in the garden – best if as ripe as possible. I freeze them loose on a tray then tip into large plastic bags When needed for cooking, just hold under a tap or drop into a bowl of warm water and the skin slips off easily. Great for soups and any cooked tomato dishes.

Guest
Vivian says:
30 April 2012

No need even to put them on a tray first as the skins sop them sticking together.

Guest
brenda craft says:
27 April 2012

I grow a lot of hard/soft fruit and vegetables. Surplus pickings I freeze in medium zip up polythene bags the amount is sufficient for a serving for my hubby & I. Apples/pears I core and slice, rhubarb I cut into inch pieces, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, loganberries, blackcurrants, plums and greengages I put in whole, the latter two I sometimes slice. I mix apple & blackberry to give a lovely winter pudding with a crumble buttopping. Except for strawberries and raspberries, I take out what fruit I need, put into a casserole dish pour boiled water over the fruit adding sugar as required & then microwave on high power for approx 20 minutes & its cooked, Rhubarb differs, I sweeten with orange squash only (takes the tart taste away) plus small amount of water & microwave full power for just 7/10 mins. I freeze veggies: courgettes (cut into small pieces excellent for stews), runner/climbing beans (best blanched & cooled before freezing) but can be used without that & after 3 months storage can then be blended into a chilli mix or a stew. Spinach too, washed & cut into small pieces as if you were to cook it straight away. Beetroot after cooking can be sliced & put into serving size quantities in small poly bags & frozen, taking out just the right amount for each salad serving. Herbs such as chives,mint. The fruit, because I grow a lot, lasts me from one season to the next. The veg last approx 6 months max. My hubby is a trout fisherman, & he brings home his allowance each time. He guts the fish on his return, puts them into the freezer (caught & frozen in a day). When required he thaws the fish overnight, finds it is easier to take out the pin bones & fillet it after it has been frozen & then thawed. Because of continual replacement during the fishing season, the fish are only in the freezer for about 3 months. I save a lot of housekeeping money by doing this. I don’t have a very big garden just a 100ft x 30ft which also includes flower borders, a 6’x6′ wild life pond, an 8’x6′ cool greenhouse plus a 60’x20′ lawn. I also grow potatoes, onions, garlic but don’t freeze these & a small amount of cabbage,brocolli, cauliflower which get eaten straight away. The greenhouse produce (Toms, cucumbers, chillies, peppers, lettuce) we have in salads in the summer thru into the early autumn. Surplus crops I use for making chutneys, and surplus apples I use to make chutney as well as my own sweet mincemeat. Some of my fruit crops I also turn into jam. My garden gives me a lot of waste which I turn into compost to feed the garden the following year thus completing the recycling process!

Guest
green man says:
27 April 2012

I have never been one to throw food a way . If canbe i will freeze. any cooked veg left over I put into a bag in the freezer and keep adding to it. When there is enough make bubble an squeak.
or put in oven an roast .
I have a small allotment plot, veg is washed peeled and frozen. never blanched.
I buy use by date food and freeze as well. meat and veg.

Guest

Does anyone know why you should re-freeze food once has been thaw? Also, once it is thaw, how long can you keep it in the fridge if you change your mind? For example: for meat, vegetables, etc… Once I kept tesco value chicken for a couple of days in the fridge after thawing and I had to throw it away… Any experiences in this?

Guest

Have REFROZEN UNused portion of semi/defrosted cooked chicken
meat (but wd do so immediately) for subsequent consumption w/out there
being a taste or whatever problem but I generally consume within
3 months in such cases.

Those cooked meat that are already defrosted I wd eat on day of defrost
OR within 24 hours if kept in fridge at 0-5 degrees w/out
(noticeable) impairment of flavour.

Such are my personal experiences, PR.

Guest
John says:
28 April 2012

Hi, I bought a food saver from one of the TV shopping channels, JML sold something similar as well. What it does is sucks all the air out of the special bags and then seals the bag. The bags are quite thick plastic which prevents freezer burn. They also sell the plastic in tubes so you can make different sized bags. They also sell jars which can have the air sucked out so other foodstuffs last longer as well.

Guest
Suzi says:
28 April 2012

When kids were at school we made up a loaf of sandwiches with various filling, including tuna mayo, egg mayo and these were sent to school in lunch boxes frozen. Safe sandwiches and no waste. I freeze most left overs for re- heating at work (shift workers). I tend to batch cook – chilli, including rice, bolognese sauce, pasta al-dente, extra cheese sauce for macaroni cheese (rue method), mashed potatoes especially good – reheat in microwave or oven, add extra milk when stirring half way. Onions and leaks washed and chopped ready to use in zip lock bags – no blanching and just pour out required amount. Like the earlier comment about the tomatoes for coooking so will give this a try. Blockers of cheddar cheese are also fine but used for grating, then sandwiches/ sauces – is crombly after freezing.

Guest
Kristian says:
28 April 2012

We invested in a banana bag and food storage bags from Lakeland recently and now never throw away any fruit, vegetables or bananas. The banana bag is excellent: stores in the fridge, bananas keep for up to 2 weeks…

Guest
Hillary says:
28 April 2012

I cook Basmati rice and if there is any left over I freeze. I reheat thoroughly in microwave and have never had any ill effects.
I cook Indian food frequently and use tinned coconut milk. I only need half a tin and freeze the other half in a plastic container.
I do the same with tomato puree or passata. In both cases the frozen milk or tomato can be added to the dish without the need to thaw. Am grateful for the ginger tip!
I freeze semi skimmed milk. Whole milk separates. I thaw 4 pints during the evening & overnight. If it is too warm indoors I put it in the shade in the garden to thaw!

Guest

I have frozen rice and reheated in the microwave many times and it has never been a problem. Big fan of freezing left over chilli, stews etc, especially if you bag them up into smaller portions you can get several meals out of them and no waste.

Guest
Hillary says:
28 April 2012

I prefer veggie meals but my partner enjoys meat. I keep a pack of free-flow veggie mince in the freezer and if I have a small amount of mince left over I add veggie mince for chilli or spag bol and he doesn`t even notice!
I also freeze very small amounts of left over cooked meat for pies and pasties as you can`t get much meat in individual pies and it makes a decent meal especially when served with fresh vegetables. I keep ready to roll pastry in fridge for meals in a hurry as it has quite a long use by date.

Guest
Kirsty says:
28 April 2012

I cut up bananas and freeze with a 1/4 cup of frozen berries – in the morning just dump the entire bag’s contents into the blender with milk, all bran, honey and some chocolate for a delicious and ice-cold smoothie. I actually prefer the fruit frozen for this, makes sure the smoothy is as cold as can be.

Frozen vegetables are a god-send, as a 2 person family with very different eating habits, it’s the easiest and least wasteful way of getting good veggies, and since I’m convinced that the “fresh” from supermarkets has been sitting around for weeks (why else would it go off within 2 days in my kitchen?) I reckon I’m getting better nutrition too.

The big exception – spinach, much prefer that to be fresh.

Guest
Gil.Glos says:
28 April 2012

During times of plenty I put any friuit in the pressure cooker all mixed up but only half full cook on max for 20 mins, allow to cool, place in a cut down plastic milk container and freeze-it keeps for a full year and can be kept in the fridge for 2 weeks when thawed- smashing with custard.

Guest
Jenny says:
28 April 2012

When I was working I would put frozen raspberries or tayberries in an individual pot with some plain yogurt in the morning, by lunchtime it was a great, cold, flavoured yogurt. I freeze lots of blackcurrants in the summer, which I use for jam making in the winter when I don’t want to be outside. I freeze blackberries, raspberries, tayberries, gooseberries and blackcurrants; I just pick them, put them in boxes and freeze on the same day and have never had a problem. Except when the freezer broke down! Also I keep my bananas wrapped in bubble wrap at the top of the fridge getting out in the morning just what I want that day. Have kept them for a week to two weeks; sometimes the skin changes colour but the fruit itself if fine, obviously the longer you keep them, the riper the fruit but the process is much slower.

Guest
D J Anderson says:
28 April 2012

You CAN store bananas in the fridge. In a ‘Banana Bag’ from Lakeland.

Guest

You don’t even need an overpriced Lakeland ‘Banana Bag’ to store bananas in the fridge – you’ll find that simple bubble wrap does the job just as well.

Guest

Used to do it wrapped in several layers of newspapers
stored in veg compartment to good effect.

Guest

I think this is one of the most informative and useful conversations I have seen on this site – so many excellent tips and recommendations. As soon as new posts stop coming in at a rate of knots I shall print it off and keep it for future reference. Where else could you get several lifetimes of practical experience in such a handy digest?

Guest

John

Daily Telegraph Saturday edition used to pay (dunno now) 20 quid for
each useful household or money-saving tip published and submitted by
their readers.The distillation of all that wisdom (?) may also have been
published in a book available for purchase.

Guest
Jan says:
30 April 2012

I always have a couple of cartons of milk in the freezer for emergencies – particularly useful when we arrive back from holiday. I also make my own bread and I slice this and freeze it, so that I can just take out as many slices as I need. (When a loaf is finished, I wash the bag and use it again!)

Guest
Peter Hulse says:
5 June 2012

But remember that it takes about three days for a carton of milk to thaw fully in the fridge.

Guest
elsey says:
5 July 2012

Please don’t store milk in the freezer without decanting it first. Plastic milk bottles are not intended for freezing. They contain plasticisers (chemicals) which leach into the milk. These are known to affect the brain, causing dementia type symptoms. Our friend used to do this every week, and we were concerned about his loss of faculties. He stopped freezing his milk and, fortunately, his brain recovered. I believe there is also a difference between freezer bags and some brands of sandwich bags so please stick to plastics which are meant for freezer use.

Guest

There are a lot of scare stories on websites.

Milk cannot be kept frozen for any length of time without spoiling and the rate at which plasticisers leach into milk will be LOWER at lower temperature.

I had a very painful knee for weeks and all a consultant could offer was an exploratory operation. One day I wakened up and the the problem had almost gone. Had I been doing something (or not doing something) I would have been very likely to have assumed that this was the reason. Many conditions including dementia can change for no apparent reason.

Guest
Elmo says:
1 May 2012

I store my ground coffee in the freezer. It helps to keep its fresh-ground smell & flovour for a longer time.

Guest
Annie says:
1 May 2012

I find that frozen cheddar cheese whilst still tasting the same, tends to cumble easily therefore
is difficult to grate, (it breaks off into lumps – sometimes the lumps are okay for cooking) but no good
for sprinkling on top of cooked food. Any tips or is this just the result of the freezing process?

Guest
Em says:
1 May 2012

Grate the cheese before you freeze it and store in a plastic bag. You can sprinkle with a bit of cornflour to help stop it clumping and just take out what you need.

Guest
Em says:
1 May 2012

A pastry chef showed me how caterers make up a chocolate souffle mix, that can be placed in the freezer in ramekin dishes until required and cooked straight from frozen. It’s a great tip time saver for dinner parties, plus you can have chocolate souffle for dessert when you fancy one (if there’s any left!).

Guest
Sara Jayne Slocombe says:
1 May 2012

Lots of good suggestions so far.

We freeze lots of food. Problems arise with rice – usually it turns to mush, except in this one recipe: http://www.food.com/recipe/mexican-rice-117892 which has fabulous texture and taste after freezing and thawing. I’d be interested if Which could contact food scientists to narrow down what the problem with rice is, and why that recipe overcomes it. Pasta also gives me trouble, always turning mushy.

I batch cook to a degree, so I’ll cook up a whole kg of dried beans and freeze what isn’t used immediately; the texture’s fine. I prepare a batch of 8 or so spring rolls at once, and freeze what we don’t need that night; refrigerate overnight first on a wire rack (such as a grill pan) to let dry a bit, then wrap individually in cling film, and then it works a treat to pull out two or three when we want them – can even deep fry them from frozen.

Sauces (though I never try cream sauces, have heard that it doesn’t work) tend to freeze great. I’ll freeze citrus juice and zest in ice cube trays, works a treat. I make bacon bits and keep them in a bag in the freezer, handy for adding to jacket potatoes, etc, as desired. I use the cartons from juices and uht milk, once empty, to freeze food into – once frozen, remove from carton and place in plastic bags – so that the blocks then fit better in the freezer and make better use of the space. Most often I do this with stock I’ve made, but it’s also handy for future ready meals when I’ve made a double batch of some dish.

Smoked salmon doesn’t suffer when we freeze it, so I get a side from my fishmonger a couple of times a year and freeze it in small portions – works out much cheaper than buying the small packs individually, plus makes a lovely standby.

I tend not to freeze fresh fruits and vegetables, since I can usually buy as little as I want from my greengrocer (really hate the packs of things in the supermarket, really wonder at this incessant need to package fruits and vegetables up in the supermarket). An exception is wimberries, since they have such a short season: I popped those straight into the freezer two years ago, in plastic bags, and they’re still fine for pies. Will have to get some more this year, one way or another, as we only have enough left for one pie!

Guest

Can you restore my comments to response to Sara Jayne Slocombe’s
that were removed OR never got posted?

Guest

Typo: ‘in not ‘to’ re above’.

Wish yrs has an editing facility after clicking ‘Submit’
like they have elsewhere.

Guest

Hi Argonaut, I’m sorry, I’m not sure which comments you are are referring to. Thanks.

Guest

Patrick, there’s only one comment I made in response to Sarah Jane’s posted
1 May 2012 at 2:19 pm as to her problem with defrosted rice. Certainly
no potentially problematic word(s) I used.

A quick message flashed up that I did not get to read and then it was gone.

Had happened once before just days ago that I told you abt.

Guest

When I use half a jar of pasta sauce (say) I pop the jar (+ contents!) into the freezer so save on decanting. Freeze fresh whole ginger and grate from frozen. Freeze all jars of spices and herbs in a box and use as required, preferably whole. They keep very much longer. Whizz whole spices in a coffee grinder. Amazing aromas and extra flavour to cakes and curries.

Guest
Joe Story says:
5 May 2012

The problem with rice is not in the freezing but in its condition before it is frozen. If rice is overcooked or if it is left for some time in a warm condition it will become mushy when frozen and defrosted and there is also the danger of it becoming toxic (rice left in warm conditions can be a health and safety problem).I always cook rice before I need it and remove from the heat about a minute before it is cooked. I then plunge it in cold water immediatley to chill it. I drain it for a few minutes and then toss it in a little oil (about one level dessertspoon per person).This can then be frozen or stored in the fridge to be used on the same day. To reheat pour on boiling water, drain and then microwave for a couple of minutes (depending on quantity) until piping hot. The grains will be just firm and each one will be seperate.

Guest
Polly says:
5 May 2012

I frequently freeze portions of cooked rice (Basmati) and never have a problem when I defrost it; also biryani – a brilliant ‘convenience meal’.
When I have extra lemons (I never need the whole bag full!) I juice them and freeze the juice in a spare ice cube tray.
Coriander is also a good freezer standby. Just take out the biggest stalks, then put the herbs into a freezer bag, removing as much of the air as possible (I use a drinking straw). Once frozen, just crush the bag lightly and it is ready to add to soups, stews, curries etc.

Guest
watching the pennies says:
5 May 2012

I freeze most things, excess fruit and veg from garden, milk and butter, and when I shop at the end of the day and get the reduced items I check for the freezer sign and then pop them all in allowing me to get more bargains to last through the week. Also any food on offer I will do the same. Bread I freeze sliced and get out as I need it, it quickly defrosts, but allows the loaf to keep fresh.

Guest
Peter Hulse says:
5 June 2012

Some things are safe to freeze, but taste disgusting once thawed. Kidneys and brussels sprouts come to mind.

Guest

We’ve busted some of the myths posted here, featuring some of your comments! Join the latest freezing food debate: https://conversation.which.co.uk/energy-home/freezing-food-myths-busted-freezers-safety/

Guest
Ardbarron says:
12 August 2013

I freeze excess cream in ice cube trays, perfect for when you just need a little amount in sauces. I freeze peeled garlic too, VERY convenient.