Whether taking advantage of reduced food and special offers, trying to avoid food waste, or building up an emergency stockpile, your freezer is a fantastic money saving device.
I love my freezer for one simple reason. It saves me money. Lots of money. It’s probably the biggest money saver in my kitchen – even when you factor in the upfront cost, running cost and even buying things like freezer bags.
So here’s why you should be thinking more about what you put in your freezer, and some tricks that’ll not just save you cash but make your life a little easier too.
Five ways a freezer can save you money
1. You can snap up reduced food and special offers
I rarely buy any fresh food at full price. Instead I take advantage of the reduced shelves or special offers to stock up and store in my freezer. This is a big money saver. Say between the two of us we’re using four packs of fish or meat each week. At full price we’re looking at £4 or £5 for each, if not more (I buy high-welfare and sustainable options), which is near enough a grand over 12 months. If I’m saving a third, and I’m often able to save more, that’s £333 less I’m spending.
I think this is a pretty conservative estimate. And that’s just fish and meat. Add in bread, veg, leftovers, cakes… you can probably freeze the bulk of the food you buy. So make sure you’re not just filling it with ready meals!
2. You can find lower prices
There are some things you can get cheaper already frozen. Things like frozen berries or fillets of fish. They might also ultimately be fresher as they are frozen at the source. Here’s an interesting article about what to look for with frozen fish.
3. You’ll cut down on food waste
The average UK household throws away £800 worth of edible food every year – that’s £70 a month. Not all of this can be saved by using your freezer, but a huge chunk of it can. So whether that’s freezing leftovers after cooking or fresh ingredients before they go off, it’s a decent amount of money back in your pocket.
4. You’ll have emergency supplies
We’ve all had times when we’re short of a vital ingredient, which often then results in a trip to an expensive corner shop or giving up and getting a takeaway. Which cost more money. To avoid this you can freeze things like portions of cheese, herbs, wine, butter, milk… ready to throw into your pot.
I always like to have some food that can be cooked from frozen – and if you’ve bought that on offer or reduced even better.
5. You can protect yourself against price increases
If you’re worried about price hikes making your regular purchases unaffordable, perhaps as a result of a no-deal Brexit, then stocking up the freezer is a way to avoid paying more. For example, if there’s no deal then there will be a default 40% tariff on imported beef and 21% on tomatoes (90% of the ones we buy have come from the EU). Ok, so you can’t freeze whole tomatoes, but you could make sauces and soups and freeze them.
Freezing food is pretty simple, but here are a handful of simple rules so you’re not wasting cash.
When to freeze food
Anything that’s fresh should go in the freezer before the use by date (you can read more on the different dates on packs here). Of course, if it’s looking or smelling a bit dodgy then it’s best to bin it.
If you’re freezing leftovers or are pre-cooking meals to freeze make sure it’s cooled down first.
If you can, put it in the coldest draw so it freezes faster. If you’re adding a huge haul then put the freezer on fast-freeze (just remember to switch it back to no
How long to freeze food for
The guidance seems to be read the packaging and go with the advice there. If there’s nothing on the pack then it’s best to search online. I wanted to share a simple list but the three most comprehensive ones I found all contradicted each other! Even so, if something’s been lurking in there for around nine months to a year, it’s best to eat it or bin it.
Make sure you rotate the contents of your freezer, especially if you have a large chest freezer, so you’re using the oldest stuff first. A list helps too. I keep in on the notes app on my phone and update it when I shop or use something.
How to defrost frozen food
Meat and fish should be defrosted in the fridge, ideally overnight, though I’ve seen some articles say it’s ok to use the defrost function on a microwave. Either way, make sure you put it on a plate and covered to prevent cross contamination and check it’s fully defrosted before cooking.
You can also cook lots of items straight from frozen, including some I didn’t realise like sausages. You can even make your own pizzas to freeze. Just top the bases as normal and cover in clingfilm. Then whack it straight in the oven when you want it.
Now you know the rules, it’s time to use some of these tricks. They’ll save space so you can store more and help you avoid further waste.
Take food out of packets
The more reduced food and leftovers you can get in your freezer the more money you’ll save. But if you overstuff your freezer it can force the motor to work harder – increasing the chances of it breaking down.
So it makes sense to utilise the space as best you can, and one of the best ways is to cut down unnecessary packaging. Though some supermarkets are getting better at reducing the size of plastic trays or removing them completely, not all are. So move your mince and anything else that could take up less space.
Make sure you put it in airtight containers or bags to avoid freezer burn. If you’re using bags, squeeze out as much air as you can, and seal with a twist-tie.
Separate before freezing
This is a good trick to ensure you’re taking out only what you need, not the full pack.
Take fruit for example. Freeze a pack and it’s one giant mass of berries. Instead put them on a baking tray on some baking paper in the draw to freeze. The berries will all freeze separately so when you combine them into a bag the won’t join together.
You can do something similar for things like raw chicken breasts. Wrap them individually in clingfilm and put into a bigger freezer bag. For cooked items, like slices of ham, you can put pieces of baking paper in between.
When you freeze leftovers, try to keep it as square as possible to help stack them in the freezer. I’m going to start putting things like a bag of chili into a square box. Once it’s frozen I should be able to take the bag out of the box, which I can use again for the next portion.
This is really important. Of course you want to know what’s in the pack, but don’t forget quantities, the date it’s frozen and cooking instructions. You can write this on with a sharpie marker pen, or tear off the label from the packaging.
You can also make your life easier, and use up random leftovers, by chopping them up ready to use. This is good for things like herbs and onion – just make the latter is sealed tight to stop the smell. Cheese can be frozen grated too so you can sprinkle it on to hot dishes straight from the draw.
You can also save time by increasing how much you cook when you prepare a meal. So last night rather than making chili with one pack of mince, I made it with two (bought on special offer). This means I’ve got a few extra portions to throw in the freezer. And later this week I’m going to poach some (reduced) chicken breasts and shred them before freezing, great for quick tacos at a later date.