What’s behind your freezer door?

by Karen Hall  Recycle for Greater Manchester‘s Communications Officer 

We are great supporters of the Love Food Hate Waste campaign here at R4GM and when I was asked to write a ‘how to use your freezer’ blog, it got me thinking, do we as a team follow the rules? Do we the ‘converted’ follow the advice of the LFHW freezer campaign?

In order to find out, me and some of the team went behind the freezer door to see if we are as food savvy as we should be! The findings were interesting. Our freezers ranged from the chaotic (sorry Phillippa) to the sublime (well done Amy, can you come and sort mine?) and somewhere in the middle was mine. To be fair Phillippa has a chest freezer so it is a little more difficult to organise and get to, as it’s in her basement!

So let’s start with Phillippa’s audit, this showed she had loads of the same types of food (mostly home grown so we didn’t make her feel too bad, honestly!) as well as stuff that she had completely forgotten about and not labelled.

Phillippa’s freezer was completely full and included:

  • 7 packets of fresh (not labelled or dated) and shop bought frozen fish.
  • 4 packets of potato products, such as chips, hash browns, chunky chips etc. all open!
  • Fruit and veg from her allotment from last year (not labelled) including apples and blackberries; sweetcorn that had fallen out of freezer bags and was strewn all over the place.
  • A number of miscellaneous bags of ‘stuff ‘ from soup and leftovers to bits of bread.

Amy’s audit showed that she followed all of the golden rules below and was a shining example to all of us giving us the motivation to do a little better.

Looking at Amy’s desk we think there may be a theme emerging here…

My audit was eye-opening and unlike my green fingered colleagues my fruit was shop bought and spread out over different drawers! I plan to use up the raspberries in this delicious summer drink.  A lot of what I have in my freezer wasn’t that helpful for making meals for my family, this combined with the fact that some of my fridge food had to be binned as it was well past the sell by date and beyond using up. I needed to think about how I could use my freezer more to preserve leftovers and create quick family meals.

The great thing about getting hands on and daring to expose our ‘freezer frights’ is that we all learned a little more about ourselves and some top freezer tips from each other.

We learnt that Phillippa should be bringing fruit pies into the office for the next couple of weeks! Amy’s simple but genius use of different drawers for different types of food worked well. That labelling food is really important as it’s difficult to tell once the frost has set in, what’s fish and what’s fowl.

Most of us decided that we needed to do it better, to start adhering to some of our own advice and we were surprised to find we could feed our family for a week without the need to shop once, just by visiting the freezer first! Phillippa has already turned over a new leaf, having found a quick and simple fish curry recipe.

We all have busy lives, with work, family and hobbies. The freezer and how it’s organised inevitably drops to the bottom of our priorities.  By changing small things we found that we can make huge savings and help ourselves on those frantic – ‘I have nothing in the cupboard, I haven’t got time to shop’ days. Just like I had yesterday (and more frequently than I care to admit).

LFHW ifreeze campaign v2

LFHW ifreeze, isave campaign

The leftover spag’ bol’ I found fed the family in no time at all.Just defrost, reheat in the microwave, whilst boiling a pan of pasta. Et voila a meal for three and in time for my toddlers eating schedule! In the past, prior to this freezer audit, I would have ordered a take away. So it saved me £20, multiply this by roughly 52 (my once a week dilemma) and the savings soon mount up. Plus if I use my freezer more often I will save extra money by not throwing fresh food away that has gone off.

So if you’re thinking of giving your freezer an overhaul or maybe using it more, remember LFHW’s ifreeze, isave 4 golden rules:

  1. You can freeze pretty much everything! The only exception is soft cheese as the texture goes very strange.
  2. The freezer acts like a pause button on food and so you can freeze it right up to the use-by date. It also stores safely for years – it’s just that the quality will start to deteriorate after 3 months. Ideally use within 6 months but don’t panic if it’s been there longer. It may just need longer; slower cooking and a bit more added flavour likes herbs and spices.
  3. Always wrap the food well in the freezer and don’t forget to label everything with the date and what it is.
  4. When you want to make use of it defrost overnight in the fridge, use within 24 hours and cook til piping hot. If you need it quickly food can be defrosted safely in the microwave.

If you have any freezer tips that work for you, please share them with us as we are determined to be much more freezer friendly from now on.

Recycle for Greater Manchester