what to keep in your freezer for easy, healthy dinners
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 to keep in your freezer but how to freeze, and how to make something you grab from the freezer special when you re-heat it.
What to keep in your freezer to help you save money, avoid waste and enjoy healthy, delicious meals quickly
Once you get into the swing of knowing what to keep in your freezer you’ll save time and money and will find it easy to make healthy, fast meals with fewer meltdowns all round.
How to organise your freezer
There’s no point nailing what to keep in your freezer if you then can’t find it. To keep things organised I keep food from the same food group in the same drawer of my freezer. My freezer is tall and thin with drawers. I divide my storage up 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
- a desserts/ice cream drawer (where I try not to look too often).
If your freezer isn’t divided up into drawers, use heavy duty carrier bags or small storage boxes like these to keep things together and avoid too much of a jumble.
What to keep in your freezer
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.
What to keep in your freezer – things to buy
Toast it from frozen. Make sandwiches from frozen – they’ll defrost by lunchtime. That way you won’t waste any 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 random leftovers of bread 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 pangrattato to top pasta or vegetables.
Flavour boosters – Parmesan rinds, kaffir lime leaves, bay leaves, sage, horseradish, fresh whole chillies.
These are ingredients that you tend to buy and then only use a small amount of. So freeze them – I keep them all in one bag so that I can grab something when I need a flavour boost.
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. Cook sage leaves from frozen.
Cubed pancetta and chorizo
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
Great your own cheese and pop it into a bag then grab handfuls to make cheese toasties, quesadillas or cheese sauce or to top pasta. Keep the bag topped up with any odds and ends of leftover cheese so you always have some on hand.
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.
What to keep in your freezer – things to make
Get into the habit of always making double (or triple) when you are cooking 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.
Freeze them raw and cook them in the oven or in pasta sauce. Here are all my meatball recipes.
Pulled pork or lamb
Chicken bones and chicken stock
It may not be the most obvious answer to what to keep in your freezer but trust me – 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
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.
Number one of what to keep in your freezer – especially if you work from home and need easy lunches. Make a big pan of soup every week, divide it up into containers and grab one out each morning. 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.
As well as knowing what to keep in your freezer – learn what to add to make your frozen meals 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, dukkah 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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