A freezer is an essential item for meal planning and its job plays a vital role in preserving the quality and freshness of food products. Bacteria will grow in food that has not been preserved and can make food products quickly turn rancid and inedible for human consumption. Fortunately there are many ways of preserving food and freezing is one of them. The temperature in a freezer is too cold for bacteria to grow and food is frozen to prevent this from happening and to keep it fresh for longer.
The contents of a freezer can give the chef of the household endless ideas for tasty meals as well as saving time and money over a period of time. Once a person has a freezer and relies on it for preserving food, it becomes difficult to go without one in today’s modern world.
Key ingredients such as vegetables, meat and fish can make meals for a single person or a family are ideally stored in a freezer. Here are some suggestions of food products to keep in a freezer, on ‘stand by’ for making delicious meals when unexpected guests arrive for dinner and for preparing every day meals.
* Vegetables *
The majority of vegetables (apart from vegetables which have a high water content like cucumber and raw tomato) take well to freezing and retain their freshness and colour. A selection of vegetables from carrots, green beans, broccoli, peas, cauliflower and corn on the cob should be kept in the freezer for daily consumption. Having a supply of vegetables to hand in the freezer will save time as the peeling and chopping have already been done. Broccoli and cauliflower can be made into quick and easy meals such as Broccoli and Pasta Bake or Cauliflower Cheese. Corn on the cob makes a superb ‘entree’ or ‘starter’ dish and can also be used as a side dish to compliment any meal. Vegetables are so versatile and can be made into a side dish, a bowl of soup for a cold winter’s day or a meal in their own right.
Tomatoes and potatoes can be stored in the freezer only after cooking them first. If one is fortunate to be given a glut of tomatoes during the summer months, chop and cook the tomatoes, making the raw tomato into a delicious pizza base sauce or a rich tomato sauce, let the sauce cool down completely before freezing for use on a later date.
Potatoes need to be cooked before placing them into the freezer. Potatoes that have been already cooked can make very quick meals as they only need re-heating when time is limited. A bag of oven chips or home-made potato wedges which have already been cooked and are kept in the freezer can be very useful when teenagers bring friends home for a meal without prior notice. Other potato based dishes which have been frozen, for example, (potato) Gratin Dauphinois can provide a wholesome meal in a short space of time and are always worth keeping in the freezer.
* Meat *
It is useful to have a selection of versatile meats in the freezer, which can make various different meals. Chicken and minced steak beef can be turned into several easy meals with just a few additional ingredients. Chicken can quickly be made into Chicken Kiev or Poulet Bonne Femme. Minced steak beef can be made into a family favourite meal of Homemade Beef Burgers or Spaghetti Bolognaise. Smaller sizes of meat like chicken breasts take up less space in a freezer and can be quickly defrosted in a microwave, if necessary.
* Fish *
Fish in portion sizes is another good idea to have on hand in the freezer. Choose fish like cod, prawns, calamari rings or salmon that can make several meals with minimal effort, like Fisherman’s Pie or curried prawns.
Meat or fish compliment so many vegetables dishes and can be preserved perfectly in a deep freezer, ready to make a nutritional meal. It is essential that both meat and fish are defrosted properly before cooking, cooked thoroughly and are not re-frozen again, to avoid any potential risk of food poisoning.
* Bread *
Bread comes in all shapes and sizes and having a selection of different breads in the freezer to hand will see a family through the day from breakfast to dinner. A loaf of sliced bread can be quickly defrosted and made into toast for breakfast or turned into sandwiches for lunch. A French baguette is a perfect addition with soup or making home made garlic bread to compliment more substantial dishes like chilli con carne.
* Convenience foods *
Convenience foods or ready-made meals are always a practical solution if one has a busy week and time is limited to prepare a meal. A small selection of ready-made meals such as lasagna, pizza or cod in a parsley sauce can be stored in the freezer for quick and instant meals for occasional use.
* Milk *
Pasteurised fresh milk in plastic bottles can be kept in the freezer and only requires to be defrosted overnight to save going to the store to purchase milk on a daily basis. Milk stored in this way is convenient to have to hand if one has a family with children who enjoy having cereals and milk for their breakfast.
A freezer which is full runs more efficiently than a freezer which is half full. Most foods are acceptable to a freezing process and will keep in the deep freezer from three months to one year, depending on the nature of the food product. (Read the product label of the food item for further information on freezing.) Once food has been frozen, it must be stored in a freezer at a temperature below -18 degrees centigrade.