how to embrace your freezer and enjoy chilled mealtimes

I feel a bit twitchy if my freezer isn’t stocked with things I can easily turn into a quick meal. The secret is not just knowing what and how to freeze, but knowing how to make something special when you re-heat it.

Once you get into the swing of using your freezer you’ll save time and money and will find it easy to make healthy, fast meals with fewer meltdowns all round.

To keep things organised I keep food from the same food group in the same drawer of my freezer. So I have a bread drawer, a drawer for meat and fish, a drawer for meals I’ve made, a drawer for fruit and veg and my flavour boosters and a desserts drawer (where I try not to look too often). If your freezer isn’t divided up so you can do that, use carrier bags in the freezer to keep things together and avoid too much of a jumble.

Stock up your freezer with these meal-building goodies

Think beyond Bolognese, ice cream and fish fingers – essential as they are. I always have salmon fillets, sausages and minced (ground) meat in my freezer. I usually stock up on them when the supermarket has a special offer or when things are in season and are cheaper. That way, some weeks I don’t need to buy any meat or fish, just the veg to go with them.

These are the most useful things I keep in my freezer…

Sliced bread

Toast from frozen. Make sandwiches from frozen – they’ll defrost by lunchtime. That way you won’t waste any bread. In the UK I buy Vogel’s bread. In the US I buy Trader Joe’s sprouted or wholegrain sourdough bread.

Flatbreads, chapatis and tortillas

Make baked tortilla chips, speedy pizza bases, nachos, quesadillas or wraps. I buy my chapati and flatbreads from our local Indian supermarket as they are cheaper and much better quality. I buy wholegrain tortillas at the supermarket.

Leftover bread crusts

Break into chunks then freeze. Make breadcrumbs in a food processor from the defrosted chunks – crumbs can be refrozen once blitzed. Use the crumbs to coat fish or chicken or fry make pangratto to top pasta or vegetables.

Flavour boosters – Parmesan rinds, kaffir lime leaves, bay leaves, sage, horseradish, fresh whole chillies.

Drop frozen Parmesan rinds and bay leaves into soups and stews to add depth of flavour. Use kaffir lime leaves from frozen in Thai curries. Chop chillies and add them to soups and stews and curries from frozen. Grate frozen horseradish over steak, beef stew or smoked salmon.

Cubed pancetta and chorizo

Add to pasta sauces, pilaf or soup, fry and add to an omelette. Make this store cupboard chickpea and chorizo stew, or make this fast chicken and broccoli chorizo stir fry.

Peas, spinach, corn, avocado

Drop frozen veg into hot pasta sauce, stew or soup. As the veg defrosts it brings the temperature of the meal to child-friendly levels. Frozen avocado can be used to top tortillas or can be blitzed into smoothies or mashed into guacamole.

Raspberries and blueberries

Buy the frozen fruit or freeze it from fresh when it is in season. Stir into porridge, muffin or pancake batter, blitz into smoothies. Top this cake. Make this speedy dessert with white chocolate sauce. Make this yoghurt bake for brunch or dessert.

Grated mature Cheddar

Grab handfuls to make cheese toasties, quesadillas or cheese sauce or to top pasta.

Cookie dough

Make balls of cookie dough and freeze so you can grab one at a time and bake from frozen without the temptation of a whole batch being baked at once.

Make these freezer fillers

Get into the habit of always making double (or triple) and then freeze half in individual servings for speedy defrosting. Find how to store and defrost safely here.

Cooked brown rice

Read how to cook and freeze brown rice here. Use it with curries, pasta sauce or stew. Make speedy fried rice or rice bowls with frozen veg and eggs or leftover meat or fish. I also add brown rice to my pancake batter.

Meatballs

tuna polpette

Freeze them raw and cook them in the oven or in pasta sauce. Here are all my meatball recipes.

Pulled pork or lamb

Stuff wraps or tacos (from the freezer) with pulled meat, plain yoghurt, roasted carrots, rocket, toasted pine nuts and harissa. Or mix the meat with a tomato pasta sauce.

Chicken bones and chicken stock

Freeze bones from raw or roast chicken and cook into this easy stock. Then chill and freeze the stock in bags to make delicious soups and risottos.

Peeled chunks of overripe banana

banana bread

For smoothies or my easy banana ice cream or banana bread.

Bags of crumble mixture

Make a big batch of crumble topping, freeze it in a bag and sprinkle it (still frozen) onto fresh or frozen fruit before baking.

Soups

Bulk it out for dinner with avocado or cheese on toast or topped with crumbled feta, chopped chilli and coriander. Here are all my soup recipes.

Chilli, stews, pasta sauces and curry

spanish chicken

Serve with baked potatoes, pasta, nachos or frozen brown rice.

Make your reheated dinners sing

Defrosted food served without adornment can feel flat. A final sprinkle of something fresh, crunchy or cool immediately makes each mouthful more interesting. Add a sprinkle of lemon, lime juice or red wine vinegar and fresh herbs just before serving to brighten flavour. Add crunch from toasted nuts, seeds or breadcrumbs. Scatter plain yoghurt or feta, or grated raw veg so each mouthful has a mix of temperatures. My recipes always finish with simple final flourishes that make all the difference.

If you’d like to learn more about how to freeze and defrost safely, read this article.

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