If I can do anything to speed up meal prep while keeping foods fresh I will. Yes you can batch cook and prepare meals to freeze, which act like ready meals, but I don’t think the OH would appreciate them. Plus I’d rather make fresh, then have leftovers the next day for lunch or to go in the freezer. If you’re already eating a frozen meal, you can’t then reheat leftovers again a second time. Instead I’m all about preparing my veg by chopping and freezing ready to use next time.
I use my freezer a lot. Mostly for storing meat and leftovers. But also to avoid waste – I always have breadcrumbs in there if I’ve got bread that’s going a bit stale. And if I make too much crumble topping, I’ll put what’s not used into a bag and in the freezer too. It saves a lot of time next time you want to make one.
N always moans a lot when I chop onions so it’s handy having these ready chopped, and having just one occasion when your eyes are blurry. Rather than multiple times. If I can also make sure foods are chopped and frozen ahead of them going off, then that saves money and waste.
Sometimes I go a bit overboard buying peppers and onions, so once I’m getting near the end of the week, or I know I won’t need those ingredients in the next couple of days, I’ll chop a whole load up. Celery is another veg I’ll chop and put in the freezer. I’m the only one who eats celery (with peanut butter of course), although I do sometimes add it to chicken dishes, or even bolognaise if I want to add more veg. But celery comes in quite large packaging for just one person, so the freezer is my friend.
Food to freeze
Celery – trim either end, then either slice or dice.
Peppers – deseed, then dice or slice
Onions / shallots – peel and chop off the ends. Then have some sliced and some diced.
Carrots – peel, remove the ends, then dice. Personally, I would only use these to add to sauces, soups or to buik out bolognaise. If you want to freeze in bigger pieces as a veg on the side, you need to blanch before freezing (ie cook sliced in boiling water for a minute or 2, then drain and put in an ice bath to quickly cool them down. Dry off then freeze in a single layer before putting in bags).
Breadcrumbs – if I’ve got bread that’s not eaten or has gone a bit too dry to eat, I’ll whizz it in my little food processor to make breadcrumbs, put in a bag and dump in the freezer. I use breadcrumbs a lot – sprinkle over macaroni cheese, or on top of chicken creamy bake, on top of fish pie mash, add a little to really high meat content sausagemeat for making sausage rolls. Or our favourite, making chicken goujons.
Crumble topping – I find it hard to misjudge how much crumble topping to make, so always end up with some leftover. So I just freeze it, and it’s ready to take out and use another time.
Hard cheese – grate then freeze. Good for adding to cheese sauce or sprinkling over pasta bakes.
Stock – I’m lazy and use stock cubes, so don’t have extra. But if you make your own, you can freeze stock in bags, or even better, in ice cube trays. Then just add straight into the dish.
How to freeze veg or other ingredients
With diced or sliced vegetables, usually I just put them in a sandwich bag, close it up, flatten them out and lay them down on a shelf in the freezer. This way I can keep a pile of them easily stacked.
I write in sharpie the date and what the food is on the bag. You could use reusable bags, but make sure they’re air tight Similarly, you could use small tupperware tubs, but again being airtight applies. I don’t find they clump together too much either, so are easy to grab a handful to cook with as needed.
How to use frozen ingredients
What’s great about freezing ingredients for another day, is that it’s rare you need to defrost before using. (frozen fruit would be the only ones I’d worry about, otherwise you get all the juices coming out in your bake which you might not want, e.g soggy berry pie!). Just take out a handful of chopped veg and drop it in the pan in some hot oil and fry off in the usual way.
Similarly with breadcrumbs and crumble topping. Just use out of the bag.
It saves so much time when cooking daily and saves on washing up. The only disadvantage is that celery really smells when chopped. I found that even after a while, the freezer still smelt of celery each time I opened it.
There’s plenty of other ingredients you can freeze – chopped herbs in oil, garlic (whole cloves unpeeled) etc. They’re just not ingredients I worry about going off.
How do you use your freezer?