Most of us have a freezer at home. Sometimes this may be used just to store convenience food, frozen peas and ice cubes, but for many people it is also a way of having good, home-cooked meals (without all the added salt and sugar) available fairly easily. Preparing and cooking 2 or 3 times the quantities you need for your favorite recipes doesn’t take much more time and you can then freeze what you have left in suitable batch sizes for when time is short. If you’re really organised, you could spend, say, one day a fortnight on a cooking blitz, then enjoy your efforts for the next two weeks. If you enjoy entertaining, then making effective use of the freezer makes a lot of sense and frees up time for any last minute preparations on the day.
Some people are nervous about the potential health risks of freezing down food they have cooked themselves and it pays to take note of common-sense guidelines such as those from the NHS on . Facts like keeping raw meat and cooked meat separate are already fairly well-known and it is easy to keep a record of when food was prepared and frozen to ensure you continue to make the best use of the long storage times available from your freezer.
Whilst there is no need to go to these lengths for domestic use, it really does make sense to label everything you freeze accurately, with not just what it is, but either the date it was prepared or by when it should be used. We’ve all opened that carton we thought was chicken soup, only to find that it was something else, which can mean a quick change of plan for the evening meal, or even going to the nearest take-away in a real emergency.
It’s surprising how alike totally different foods can look when they’ve been frozen in a plastic container, or freezer bag. This is especially true for raw meat if, like me, you like to buy in larger amounts. Minced beef can look remarkably like stewing beef when it’s been frozen and it’s even more difficult to distinguish between lamb, pork or beef steaks. Another problem can be home-made soups. You’ve carefully used up all those left-over vegetables in the fridge to make vegetable soup, divided it up into three plastic containers, then frozen it once it has cooled down. Of course you’d remember what was in those containers – wouldn’t you? The trouble is that, once frozen in the container, it can be very difficult to distinguish the vegetable soup from the butter squash or chicken soup and remembering when you made it is well-nigh impossible.
The answer, then, is to label all those carefully prepared home cooked meals with at least the contents, number of servings if that’s not obvious and the date by which it should be used. If you don’t, you run the risk of leaving food for too long so that it isn’t as delicious as when you first cooked it, or even having to throw food away, which is a total waste of all that time and effort spent in preparing it in the first place. A freezer is an indispensable adjunct to modern living, so make the best use of it and label that food!