I love a good tip from someone else. Over the years I have learned many things from many people that have been very useful at one time or another. So today I thought that I would share some of my tips with you. I hope they will be of use to you.
Being a household of two I used to find that I would buy a whole pack of something and we could not get through it before it went out of date, or worse, it went icky.
This is how I approach things now.
Meat - I try and buy all of my meat for the month - remember I plan my months meals, you can read about it here - and then it all goes into the freezer. Make sure that your meat is in the portions that you will need to actually use it in. There is no point buying 10 chicken breasts all in a bag together then having to try and chisel just one off of the big frozen lump. Bag them up, excluding as much air from the bag as you can or wrap them well in cling film (glad wrap) and then put them into a bag. That way you can defrost what you need as you need it.
This saves money because I can benefit from cost savings of buying larger packs of things, and I don't have meat going off in the fridge. Remember though if you have put something into the fridge and then don't use it you can still freeze it before the use by date. Just make sure that when you defrost it that you cook and eat it straight away.
Baked goods - I freeze bread rolls for hubby's lunches and things like crumpets and hot cross buns. They can then be taken out individually and used as and when. We don't eat a whole pack of crumpets at once and this way they last really well - as an example. I also freeze cooked cornbread muffins. If we have bread left over after the weekend that goes into the freezer too. If you slice it before freezing you can take a slice out for breakfast in the week and toast it from frozen. Or you can make breadcrumbs and freeze those ready for breading something - again you can use them from frozen.
Veggies - this is the best thing of all. Few of us think to actually freeze veggies ourselves. I buy frozen peas and spinach and I used to buy frozen onions and an onion, celery and carrot mix for casseroles and so on. Apart from the peas and spinach I rarely buy veggies to freeze, but if I buy a large pack of something or have things left that I am not going to use, this is what I do.
Chillies - freeze whole and then grate over things from frozen.
Ginger - freeze whole and again grate from frozen.
Garlic - chop finely and then freeze in small amounts. If you buy one pack of frozen garlic cubes you can then wash and reuse the tray if you are careful. Again use from frozen.
Herbs - if you have fresh herbs left over, chop them and freeze either in ice cubes as they are, or with a little bit of water. Drop them into your cooking as if they were fresh. Things like thyme, mint, coriander and parsley work well. I don't think that I would freeze basil, but if you make it into pesto that freezes well.
Cherry tomatoes - yes, you can freeze these! They will not be of any use in your salad, but you can just freeze them whole and then pop them into things like chilli or a bolognese sauce. They will cook down well and it saves throwing them away. I have a bag in the freezer that I just add any to as and when I have any left over.
Celery - we never use a whole head of celery at once. So I buy a head, use what I want and then slice the rest and just freeze it. Not for salads or eating raw, but great as a base for all sorts of things. Chilli, bolognese, casseroles, soups all sorts of things.
Onions - just the same as celery. Although I rarely have onions "left over" as they last much longer than celery does. So a money saving alternative for soups, casseroles etc is to buy them chopped and frozen from the supermarket. Cheaper than fresh onions for things that you don't need a fresh onion for.
Peppers - as with celery I often buy a multi pack and don't get to eat them. So again, slice and freeze and use in the same way as celery.
Carrots - now I have to say that I have never actually chopped and frozen carrot, but you can do, and I plan to start doing this with any old carrots I have. You can buy them chopped and frozen as casserole base with onions and celery.
Mushrooms - slice, freeze and well, you get the gist by now!
Apples - cook them down and freeze for crumbles or apple sauce.
Plums - cut in half, remove the stones and freeze for crumble or stewed plums.
Bananas - make banana bread! It is delicious with some chocolate chips added.
Parmesan cheese rinds - yes, really! Freeze and then add to anything that you are going to cook slowly for a long time. They add a savoury note to the dish and the cook can then remove the rind and eat the sticky lovely cheese!
If you have space in your freezer you could "open freeze" things on a tray which keeps them all nice and separate and when they are hard you can then bag them up. I don't do this because I simply don't have space in our freezer as it is quite small. It is quite possible to do though and works well for things like fruit.
Just to prove that I really do follow my own advice here are three bags that I pulled from the freezer to show you.
Peppers (bell peppers)
Of course the time saving comes in the fact that things are already sliced or chopped and are to hand just ready to add to things. For example chilli, I put everything in the crockpot, frozen veggies and everything else, and add the meat - make sure that is defrosted, that is really important, and then leave it to cook. It takes minutes in the morning to assemble with no chopping!
You can also save time by making big batches of things and then freezing them. Chilli, soup, tomato sauces. These are just a few of the things that freeze really well.
This might all sound like a 1970's freezer cookery book, but these things really do work and they really do save time and money. We very rarely throw any food away because of the freezer!
I hope that these tips will be of some use to you! If you would like some more suggestions let me know - yes, I am afraid I probably have more! - and I will do another post on the same theme in a little while.
As I said yesterday, I am rather full on busy right now, so I apologise for the lack of reply to comments - and e-mails! - I will get there please bear with me. Also I am behind with blog reading, so I might miss commenting here and there if I am really far behind. Thank you for bearing with me!