1. Divide foods into smaller portions before freezing
Most food you pack into a bag or container before freezing will join together as it freezes, so divide into serving-sized portions to avoid defrosting more than you need. Or, arrange veggies or berries on a tray, freeze, and then transfer to a large bag, so they won’t clump together.
To ensure meat fillets separate easily, wrap them individually in cling film before freezing in a bag or container.
You can freeze fresh herbs, too! Wrap a few washed sprigs in cling film, before placing multiple bundles in a freezer bag.
2. Freeze leftovers in serving-sized portions too
This isn’t just for convenience sake, but having your leftovers in ready-to-serve portions helps avoid waste because you can’t refreeze defrosted leftovers due to the risk of food poisoning.
And while you shouldn’t put piping-hot food in the freezer (it’ll raise the freezer’s temperature!), only let it cool until it’s just stopped steaming before freezing. To cool, separate big quantities into smaller portions, place food in a shallow dish, or put in a plastic bag and place under cold running water.
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3. Prevent freezer burn by storing food in airtight containers
Freezer burn is what happens when food like raw meats are not properly and securely wrapped up in air-tight packaging, leading to dehydration and oxidation as they’ve been exposed to air. To prevent this from happening, store raw meats and leftovers in an airtight freezer bag or container, and remove as much air as possible from around the food.
If you buy meat from the supermarket, remove it from the tray and repack in a freezer bag before freezing, or at least put the meat, tray and all, in a freezer bag.
It’s also worth noting that while freezer burn affects some aspects of the food’s quality – like texture – it doesn’t make food unsafe to eat.
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4. Freeze quickly to maintain freshness
The nutritional value of store-bought frozen vegetables is just as good, and sometimes better than fresh, because they’re frozen immediately after they’re picked. The same applies at home: the freshness of the food at the time of freezing affects the condition of the frozen product.
So freeze things you won’t use quickly sooner rather than later!
Also remember that freezing deactivates bacteria but doesn’t kill them. When a food starts to defrost, any bacteria begins to multiply again. So don’t freeze it if you’re already suspicious of the quality, and never refreeze thawed food unless you cook it thoroughly in between.
READ MORE: How To Defrost And Refreeze Chicken Properly So It’s Safe To Consume
5. Avoid overpacking your freezer
To maintain the nutrients and texture of your ingredients, the freezing process needs to be fast in order to minimise the size of the ice crystals that form in the food as it’s freezing. To achieve this, check that your freezer’s temperature is between 15 and 18 C and avoid over-filling as too many items prevents air from circulating properly.
Both strategies save on running costs, too. Free space means the freezer doesn’t have to work overtime, while every degree lower than -18 C uses five per cent more energy. However, an empty freezer is less efficient than a fuller one. The trick is to keep about 20 per cent of your freezer empty, which allows enough cold air to circulate.
6. Blanch veggies before freezing to lock in flavour
You don’t need to do much to prepare foods you want to freeze – except vegetables. Blanch them first by scalding in boiling water before plunging into cold water. Blanching deactivates a vegetable’s enzymes, chemical compounds that cause loss of flavour, colour and texture. It also helps prevent the loss of water-soluble vitamins as they freeze.
If you can’t blanch a vegetable because you’re going to eat it raw – think lettuce, tomatoes and celery – it’s not a good freezing candidate. The high-water content means it will turn mushy when defrosted.
7. Know your ingredients' shelf life
MEAT: Red meat and pork can be frozen for up to 12 months, chicken pieces for nine months and whole birds for a year.
FISH: Whole, cleaned non-oily fish (like snapper) can be frozen for up to six months, but whole oily fish (like ocean trout), as well as any type of filleted fish, is best eaten within three months of freezing.
FRESH PRODUCE: Frozen fruit and vegetables retain their quality for eight to 12 months.
Tip: It’s a good idea to label and date any food you put into containers or freezer bags, so you know how old it is and can identify it easily.
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