This is the best way to cut down the cost of the family food bill when you take advantage of the special offers. However, buy cuts that your family likes, in reasonable quantities that can be used within the storage period. When you buy fresh meat, don’t forget to place it at the bottom of the pile so that you can use the meat you already have in the freezer first, checking the date and the storage time. It is a good idea to buy some tape special for freezers, so that you can seal the polythene bags and protect the meat from freezer burn as much as possible.
When you bring the meat home, trim excess fat or gristle from joints before placing in polythene bag, (you can use two bags so that the meat is better protected). Weigh the joint, seal with tape, label and freeze. Storage time for beef and lamb joints is 12 months, and for pork is 8 months.
You should pack steaks, chops and cutlets in small quantities (two or four pieces in one layer, the one piece next to the other, not touching) in polythene bags, seal, label and freeze. This way you can use as many pieces as you need each time you want to use these particular cuts. Storage time for bee and lamb is 6 months and for pork 3 months.
Offal – trim excess fat, wash and dry well, weigh and pack in labeled polythene bags. Storage time is 4 months.
Minced meat – Weigh, place in polythene bags, label and seal. Storage time: 5 months. DO NOT just shove a ‘ball’ of minced meat in a bag. It will take a lot of space in the freezer, will take longer to freeze and will take ages to defrost. It is preferable to pack smaller quantities of minced meat (250 gr.) in each bag. Then flatten it with your hand. This way you will be able to stack the bags neatly and there will be no space wasted. Furthermore, if you need more than the contents of the bag, you can either use two bags or more, or you can easily break off a piece of frozen mince from another bag, reseal and replace the remainder in the freezer for future use.
Bacon – cannot be kept for very long, so you shouldn’t buy very large quantities, except if you can use it within the stipulated storage time. If you buy pre-packed bacon and you open the package to use a few slices, you can freeze the rest. Cut a large piece of aluminum foil and lay the slices of bacon the one next to the other. Wrap the slices and place in a polythene bag. Make small packages using up all the leftover bacon, place them in the polythene bag, label and freeze. Whenever you need some bacon, you can take out as many slices as you need and pop the rest again in the freezer. Storage time: 3 months.
Sausages – again line up the sausages on a piece of aluminum foil, wrap tightly and place in a polythene bag. You can take out as many as you need and pop the rest again in the freezer. Storage time: 3 months.
Poultry – Buy whole chickens, or pieces when they are on offer. You can freeze whole chickens, or you can cut them up yourself and pack together the legs, breasts, wings in labeled polythene bags. Don’t throw out the carcass! Place it in a polythene bag and you can use it to make stock.
Again, always place the chicken pieces in single layers, so that they freeze quickly and they thaw quickly too. You can also remove and use pieces of chicken as you need them, and pop the rest again in the freezer. This way you don’t thaw out and/or cook more than you need.
Seafood also freezes well. You can buy already frozen shrimps, octopus and whatever else you and your family like to eat and just pop them in your freezer. Apart from already frozen fish, you can buy fresh fish and freeze it at home. You must always scrape off the scales and gut the fish, place it in polythene bags, label and freeze. If you are a fisherman, your freezer will become your best friend. Storage time: For ready frozen seafood check the instructions on the packaging. For fresh fish storage time is about 2 – 3 months.
It is a good idea to plan meals ahead so that you know what to defrost from the previous evening. You can then let the meat/chicken/fish you wish to cook, thaw out overnight in the fridge.
Next week: How to make your freezer your best friend – save time and more money!