Everything You Need To Know About Freezing Leftovers

In an ideal world, we would cook fresh, delicious, made from scratch meals every day for ourselves and our family.

But let’s face it – the world isn’t always ideal! There’s work, bath time, homework, cleaning, soccer practice, sick dogs, and leaking taps to think about too. 

Freezer-friendly dishes aren’t always the kind of food we tend to eat in summer, so winter is the perfect time to pull out the slow cooker or casserole pot, roll up your sleeves and start cooking!

Entire dishes like soups, casseroles and curries are perfect for freezing. But don’t forget that you can also freeze components of dishes or ingredients, such as flavoured butters and pasta sauces, all of which are super time savers in the weekday kitchen.

Equipment and tips for freezing:

Rectangular takeaway containers make for fantastic storage. Not only are you reusing something that would otherwise go to landfill, but they also stack perfectly on top of each other so you use your freezer space very efficiently. By freezing food in portion sizes that are right for your family, you avoid wastage and overeating too.

Make sure you don’t over fill, leaving at least 10% space in the container, as frozen food expands as it chills. To avoid freezer burn, you can use vacuum sealed bags instead, or even wrap the boxes in cling film to avoid any air getting in. By avoiding freezer burn you increase the freezer-life of the food and keep the quality high.

You’ll also need a permanent marker and some masking tape. Write the contents of the box as well as the date on some tape, and stick it on the front small side of the container. That way you can see what’s in each box, even though they’re stacked on top of each other.

Make sure the food you put in the freezer is already at room temperature, as putting hot food in your freezer could warm up the temperature and cause bacterial growth and food poisoning. Also, make sure you properly reheat any food you take out (this is much easier if let it defrost in the fridge a day or two ahead). Freezing doesn’t kill bacteria, it simply inhibits its growth.

Most cooked foods will last up to three months in the freezer.

Dishes and ingredients to freeze: 

  • Pesto and tomato based pasta sauce - especially Bolognese!
  • Cakes, unfrosted. Pull the dessert out for last minute guests, or get ready early for birthdays and special events. 
  • Fresh pasta dough - either in a ball of dough, or already shaped.
  • Short crust pastry  - already rolled out, or in a ball of dough.
  • Stocks. I always make stock out of my veggie peelings and leftover bones, or even prawn shells. You can freeze as is, or cook down to a concentrate and pop in ice cube trays.
  • Cookie dough... actually, you’ll probably eat this raw too!
  • Fruit, e.g. berries, bananas, oranges. They're great for adding to sauces or topping off morning cereal or yoghurt. Brown squishy bananas are at their highest nutritional level, so they are great for popping in smoothies and cakes. Peel before you freeze
  • Egg whites are a fantastic frozen product. Save for crumbing chicken, adding to smoothies, or making meringues.
  • Bacon. If you buy a large portion that you won't eat before it goes slimy or off, throw it in your freezer and freeze in small portions. 
  • Bread or croissants. Just pop in the microwave or toaster when you're ready to eat. Alternatively, ave for a yummy bread and butter pudding! 

Things you can’t freeze:

  • Cream based sauces and many dairy products as they will split.
  • Mayonnaise. This will also split when defrosted.
  • Cooked pasta. Oh no. The texture goes squishy.
  • Fruit and veggies with high water content, such as lettuce, as the cell walls become too damaged as the water expands.
  • Jam. The pectin breaks down and it will no longer be thick.

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