To make the most of your freezer you shouldn’t just pack raw food. You should make it work so that you save more time and money. Hence, you should start planning your meals, menus, and cook ‘in bulk’ so that you can put dinner on the table in a matter of minutes. Follow these steps and in no time you will become an expert!
What does ‘cook in bulk’ really mean to me? When you buy a few kilos of meat or chicken for example, you can cook all or most of it, divide it into portions, label and freeze them. This way you have almost ready meals and you can finish cooking in no time. You also save on your electricity bill if you cook a large quantity once a week or fortnight, and of course you save time when you have to prepare dinner after work.
If for example there is an offer on minced meat, you should buy say 5 kilos, depending on the size of your family. You can sauté the three kilos with finely chopped onion, add tomato sauce and simmer until it is almost done. Let it cool, place polythene bags in containers – the size depends on how many people you have to feed every time and the quantity you will need to make a particular dish. However, it is much better to freeze in smaller quantities, and if necessary you can defrost two packets – which will thaw out much faster than if you have a hug slab of frozen minced meat! You finish cooking the minced meat adding herbs or spices, according to your recipe and it will be ready in a few minutes.
To give you some ideas: you can make spaghetti bolognaise, lasagna, pastitsio, shepherd’s pie or you can add some rice and make stuffed tomatoes or green peppers.
NOTE: Don’t add salt, pepper or other herbs and spices before freezing, because they lose their potency when frozen.
The rest of the minced meat can be made into burgers and meatballs. You can either open freeze them before cooking and then store them in polythene bags, or you can grill them or fry them, and after cooling down you can pack them in polythene bags.
To open freeze, cover a baking sheet with greaseproof paper and lay the burgers and meatballs on it. Then place in the freezer, and leave them until they are frozen solid. You then pack them in labeled polythene bags. You can also open freeze them when they are cooked, and then place them in labeled polythene bags. This way you can really serve a dinner with burgers in literally a few minutes. Or you can boil spaghetti and serve it with meatballs in tomato sauce.
If you buy a piece of veal or pork, you can cut it up in pieces (a little bigger than bite sized). Sauté them in a little olive oil with onions, add a little water and simmer until almost done. Cool and pack in labeled polythene bags placed inside polythene containers. When you wish to cook the meat, you thaw out a packet, and you put the finishing touches to the dish.
You can buy chickens, separate the legs, breasts and wings, pack, label and freeze. Freeze the carcass and when you have two or three of them, boil them so that you make chicken stock for soup or cooking. Pack and label in small polythene containers. Pick the meat from the bones and pack it in bags. You can use it for omelets, pies or salads. Buy cheap cuts of beef with bone, boil and make stock for soup or cooking. You can pack the meat in bags and add them to soups, or you can make a nice ragout and serve with pasta.
When the tomatoes are in season buy in bulk. Boil them and keep some plain tomato sauce. You can prepare marinara sauce with the rest. Pack them in small containers and use them whenever necessary.
Bread and bread rolls freeze very well. You can freeze a whole loaf of bread after wrapping it tightly in membrane, or you can slice the loaf and again wrap the slices tightly in membrane. Leave the bread to thaw out and then you can pop it in the oven for a few minutes and you have freshly baked bread. The slices defrost quickly, and you can either put them for a few seconds in the microwave or the oven.
Croissants, sweet rolls like hot cross buns etc., all kinds of cakes freeze beautifully too. Don’t forget to wrap them in membrane. You can also freeze cakes with frosting or whipped cream. Cut them in slices and open freeze them. Wrap the slices in membrane and pop them back in the freezer.
Freeze dishes such as moussaka. Cook it in disposable aluminum pans, cool, wrap in membrane, label and freeze. Defrost the dish in the fridge overnight and to serve it, put it in the oven for 10 – 15 minutes to warm up.
Of course nobody needs to freeze all these things – you know best what your needs are, what food your family likes, and what you want to keep in your freezer to make your life easier. These are just a few ideas to help you get organized so that you have more free time every day, cut down unnecessary trips to the store for things you have run out of, and cut down on your electricity bill.