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A Guide to Freezing Food

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A Guide to Freezing Food

Did you know that Britons throw away 7 million tonnes of food and drink every year, costing families up to £700? That’s a lot of waste and a lot of wasted cash. As part of Food Safety Week 2016 (July 3-10), the FSA are encouraging people to cut back on wasted food by freezing better. In a FSA survey of 1,500 consumers, 68% of respondents said they had thrown away food in the past month, with 54% of people feeling guilty having done so. Bread, fruit and vegetables and leftovers were the foods most often binned.

With a better understanding of how to freeze food, a lot of the stuff that we throw away could instead be frozen and used at a later date. So let’s get down to it: what can be frozen, when and for how long?

The Golden Tips of Freezing

Love Food Hate Waste is a campaign set up by charity, WRAP, to raise food waste awareness and provide information on how we can cut back on the amount we throw away.

When it comes to freezing, Love Food Hate Waste suggests recommends sticking to these four golden tips:

1. You can freeze pretty much everything! Fruit, chillies, potatoes, milk, cooked meat and bread.  You can even freeze cheese with the exception of soft cheese as the texture goes very strange!

2. The freezer acts like a pause button on food and so you can freeze it right up to the use-by date. It also stores safely for years - it's just that the quality will start to deteriorate after 3 months. Ideally use within 6 months but don't panic if it's been there longer. It will just need longer, slower cooking and a bit more added flavour likes herbs and spices.

3. Always wrap the food well in the freezer and don't forget to label everything with the date and what it is.

4. When you want to make use of it defrost overnight in the fridge, use within 24 hours and cook till piping hot. If you need it quickly food can be defrosted safely in the microwave.

Good Practice

Besides those golden tips, there are a few others things you should look to do to ensure your food, and freezer, stays in tip-top condition.

·  Always cool foods before freezing. Hot food placed in the freezer could cause surrounding foods to defrost.

·  Keeping the freezer full is more economical so look to fill space with everyday items.

·  Defrost your freezer at least once a year or when there is 1cm of ice built-up across a large area. Don’t worry about your food thawing; it should remain frozen for 24 hours – plenty of time for a freezer to fully defrost.

·  Freeze raw meat or fish right up to the use-by-date. Guidelines no longer state that food must be frozen on day of purchase.

·  Never re-freeze raw fish or meat that has been defrosted.

·  Cooked meat is perfectly safe to re-freeze once. Just remember to cool it first.

·  Frozen food is best defrosted overnight in the fridge and used within 24 hours; however, it is perfectly safe to defrost using the microwave. 

·  When defrosting meat, stand it in a bowl or container to stop bacteria in the juice spreading to other foods.

·  Freezer burn is not a food safety risk and foods not wrapped can be eaten safely. They may not taste as great, though. Any brown patches caused by food burn can easily be cut away.

·  Food stored in the freezer for more than three months should be cooked slower and longer.

·  Remove as much air as possible from meat packaging and trim off excess fat to avoid spoiling.

Cooking from frozen

Not all frozen foods have to be defrosted before cooking. The following foods can be cooked straight from the freezer without losing any of their great taste:

·  Soup and stews

·  Casseroles

·  Potato-topped pies and gratins

·  Bakes

·  Small fish and fish fillets

·  Burgers

·  Sausages

·  Seafood (when added to a hot dish)

Never cook raw meat or poultry from frozen!

Re-freezing food

Re-freezing is a grey area. Many people are unsure about it, and if you’re unsure the best thing to do is play it safe and throw food in the bin. Here’s the lowdown on re-freezing from the NHS:

Never re-freeze raw meat (including poultry) or fish that has been defrosted. It is possible to re-freeze cooked meat once, as long as it has been cooled before going into the freezer. If in doubt, don't re-freeze.

Frozen raw foods can be defrosted once and stored in the fridge for up to two days before they need to be cooked or thrown away. To reduce wastage, divide the meal into portions before freezing and then just defrost what you need.

Cooked food that has been frozen and removed from the freezer must be reheated and eaten immediately once fully defrosted. When defrosted, food should be reheated only once, because the more times you cool and reheat food, the higher the risk of food poisoning. Bacteria can grow and multiply when food is cooled too slowly, and might survive if food isn't reheated properly.

When reheating food, make sure it is heated until it reaches a temperature of 70C for two minutes, so that it is steaming hot throughout.

Foods stored in the freezer, such as ice cream and frozen desserts, should not be returned to the freezer once they have started to thaw. Only take out of the freezer what you intend to use for that meal.

For more information on freezing food on preventing waste, check out the Love Food Hate Waste website.

Will freezing more help save you money? Do you have any great leftover food recipes? Let us know in the comments. 

Did you know that Britons throw away 7 million tonnes of food and drink every year, costing families up to £700? With a better understanding of how to freeze food, a lot of the stuff that we bin could instead be frozen and used at a later date. So let’s get down to it: what can be frozen, when and for how long?