Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet is so much easier if you have the right ingredients at hand which, explains Fiona Hunter, is why a well-stocked fridge and freezer are such an asset!
One thing guaranteed to scupper even the best intentions to eat healthily is not having the right ingredients at hand when you really need them. If, when you open the fridge all you see is a two-week old lettuce and a jar of pickles, it’s unlikely you’re going to feel inspired to knock up a healthy, tasty meal or snack.
“Frozen fruit and veg often contain higher levels of vitamins and minerals than fresh„
Frozen foods require little or no preparation which can be a real bonus when time is short, but they offer other important benefits too. In the UK, we throw away over seven million tonnes of food every year and much of this is fresh food that we haven’t got around to eating. Freezing acts like a pause button and extends the life of fresh food so it’s less likely to be wasted.
Although some people believe that frozen food is nutritionally inferior to fresh, the truth is that frozen foods like fruit and vegetables often contain higher levels of vitamins and minerals than fresh. Freezing also makes some seasonal foods available all year round and extends the life of food without having to add chemical preservatives. So, for anyone who wants to reduce the number of additives they eat, frozen foods are a good choice.
Fresh fruit and vegetables and home cooked meals like Bolognese sauce, curries and soups and ingredients like cheese and breadcrumbs can also be frozen.
The golden rule when freezing home-cooked food and ingredients is to label and date them carefully so you know exactly what you’ve got and how long it’s been in the freezer. Freezing inactivates the bacteria that cause food spoilage but it doesn’t kill them so once frozen food is defrosted, it needs to be stored in the fridge and used within 24 hours.
When you freeze home-cooked food, it’s important to get it cooled and into the freezer as soon as possible. If you’re preparing a large quantity, it’s a good idea to divide it into small portions because it will cool quicker and defrost quicker when you need to use it.
Once frozen food has been defrosted, you shouldn’t refreeze it unless it’s been cooked. For example, if you defrost raw chicken and make it into a chicken curry, you can freeze the curry. Frozen food should be used within three to six months of being frozen. After that time, food will still be safe to eat but the quality may have deteriorated.
“In the UK, we throw away over seven million tonnes of food every year„
Chilled and use-by
Chilled foods offer many of the same advantages as frozen foods but have a shorter ‘use-by’ date. Use-by dates are given on foods that go off quickly. Providing they have been stored in accordance with manufactures instructions, foods can be eaten, and most can be frozen, until their use-by date but they should not be eaten after that date.
References available upon request.
Fiona Hunter began her career as a dietitian, moving on to become Nutrition Editor at Good Housekeeping magazine. Now freelance, she writes for a variety of publications and works as a consultant with the food industry.