/ 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

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.

Dublin_Don says:
27 April 2012

Peel the ginger first…

Ah, the voice of experience. Thank you.

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.

Margaret says:
7 May 2012

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

Vivian says:
30 April 2012

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

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!

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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…

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

D J Anderson says:
28 April 2012

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

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.

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

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?

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.

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!)

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.

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.

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.