We’ve all seen the figures. In June 2019, the Environment Journal reported that UK households are throwing away a whopping 281,000 tonnes of edible vegetables every year. In total, every year, we bin millions of tonnes of food that could have been eaten.
There are some fantastic projects aimed at redistributing food surplus to those who desperately need it, and it’s great to get on board with those if we can. There are also plenty of ways that we can reduce our own food waste. I hold my hands up here – I’m guilty of throwing perfectly good food away, partly through laziness and partly because I didn’t know how to preserve it properly.
The great news is our household freezer is capable of so much more than we thought possible! Did you know you can freeze eggs, bread, cakes, cheese, cake & biscuit dough for example? All it needs is a little know-how as to the best way to go about it. If we have food that is getting near the end of its life, or we want to batch cook to save time & energy, our freezer is our friend.
Bread, cakes, biscuits, muffins… Pretty much all baked goods can be frozen. I slice up our sourdough bread and freeze it immediately after cooking. It’s so easy to defrost individual slices and it means we never throw away stale bread (which we used to do…). Most cakes can be frozen whole or cut into slices, and the same goes for pretty much every type of biscuit.
Homemade stock: You can freeze chicken bones and bits until you have enough to make a homemade stock. It’s brilliant for soups and tastes so much better than stock cubes. Alternatively, if you’re cooking a roast chicken, make a stock from the bones after you’ve finished the chicken, and freeze it into ice cube trays to add to casseroles etc. I also freeze vegetable peels and waste to make vegetable stock. You can use carrot ends, green beans that are a bit soggy, onion ends, tomato cores, asparagus ends, cauliflower stalks, runner bean ends – the list is endless. When you have enough, put them in a pot with water (they will shrink down a bit when cooking, so you don’t have to cover them completely). Add some herbs and seasoning. Simmer for about half an hour, then strain the liquid.
Cheese: Freeze lumps of cheese whole, or grate, freeze and use as required. If you’re grating the cheese, a tablespoon of cornflour or flour in the container will stop it sticking together when it thaws.
Eggs: If you want to use them for baking, separate the eggs and whites into the compartments of an ice cube tray. Otherwise, crack the eggs into a bag or container and freeze. Thaw them out in the fridge and use as normal.
Potatoes: You can make frozen homemade oven chips, all ready to use. Part boil in salted water, drain and cut into wedges or chips. Freeze them on trays before putting into a container. You can add oil and seasoning into the container before freezing if you like – then they’re completely ready to go. When you want to cook them, take them out and cook for 20 minutes or so in a hot oven. You’ll need to spray them with oil before they go in if you didn’t freeze them with oil. If you can, keep the skins on – it’s healthier.
Fruit: Raspberries and blackberries freeze very well. I just put them on a baking tray (see top picture) to freeze and then transfer to a container when frozen. They defrost brilliantly. Some other types of fruit, such as strawberries, blueberries, blackcurrants tend to go soggy when defrosted. I just use them in smoothies, jams, summer pudding and other desserts. For apples, I always peel, chop and cook them with a little honey and freeze in containers. I use the apple ‘stew’ on porridge, with yoghurt or as an apple sauce with meat. Bananas can be frozen whole and defrosted to use in banana cake. Otherwise, peel and chop and freeze in a container.
More ideas in my next blog post and I’ll also be talking about plastic free freezer containers.