Batch cooking and freezing food could is a great cost-cutting solution with the charity Wrap estimating having an efficiently stocked freezer could save us a whopping £730 a year in food waste
But many of us aren't using our freezers well, with 20% of us throwing things away because they've been in there too long
Most of us are also guilty of not stocking our freezers correctly, but an almost full freezer could actually save energy and money
Read on for everything you need to know about correctly using a freezer as well as how to defrost what's in there safely
The cost of living crisis has got us all stressing about our household bills this winter, but the humble freezer could become something of a hero when it comes to saving money and helping reduce food waste.
Experts from the charity Wrap estimate having a more efficiently stocked freezer could save us about £730 a year in food waste, a real plus point in the age of crippling household costs.
The same survey also found that UK freezers contain UFOs (unidentified frozen objects) with over a third of people admitting their freezer is sometimes a total disaster, and extremely hard to work out the contents.
Meanwhile almost a fifth (19%) of people threw away something frozen in the past two weeks because it has laid dormant for too long.
But knowing how to correctly stock your freezer could save energy and therefore money, so it's pretty important knowledge to have right now.
"For so many foods, the freezer simply acts as a 'pause button', to help make food last longer," explains Jenna Brown, environmental health officer and founder of the Food Safety Mum. "Given that 70% of food wasted in the UK is done so at home, making use of your freezer to make your food last longer will help reduce your food waste; not only helping the environment but also saving you money!"
The trouble is we're not always making the most of the hard-working, icy appliance. From not knowing how full it should be stocked, to defrosting food in a haphazard (and unsafe) way and not realising just how much food you can freeze, here's all the common mistakes we're making with our freezer.
Not keeping your freezer well-stocked
Keeping your freezer full and well-organised will save energy (and money) as less cold air can escape when you open the door to get something out.
While a happy freezer is a well-stocked freezer you shouldn't overfill it. "Freezers are at their most efficient when they’re full of food but still have room for the air to circulate, around 75% full is best," freshfromthefreezer.co.uk recommends.
How should you store food in the freezer?
According to Hope it is important to make sure your food in the freezer is well wrapped up. "If you’re freezing poultry, fish and meat ensure it’s tightly sealed and kept away from other foods in the freezer," she adds.
Freshfromthefreezer.co.uk recommends storing soups and sauces flat in clear freezer bags to save space and making sure you clearly label what's in your freezer so you don't end up with 10 bags of frozen peas.
It also recommends putting newer foods to the back or the bottom of a pile. "Use the older ones first, they’ll still be perfectly safe but it’s always better to use up older food first," the site adds.
How do you defrost food safely?
Turns out we're pretty confused about how to defrost food safely. According to a survey by WRAP 69% of people believe it’s safe to defrost meat at ‘room temperature’, which is the exact opposite of Food Standards Agency guidance and may be putting them at risk of illness.
"Don't defrost food at room temperature," the FSA site advises. "Ideally, food should be defrosted in the fridge in a container big enough to catch any drips."
If this isn't possible, the FSA suggests using a microwave on the defrost setting directly before cooking.
"Check the guidance on food packaging and allow enough time for your food to defrost properly. Large items, such as a 6-7kg Christmas turkey, can take up to four days to defrost fully in the fridge."
If defrosting your food, make sure it has been fully defrosted, as partially defrosted food may not cook evenly, meaning that harmful bacteria could survive the cooking process.
"Once food has been defrosted, cook it within 24 hours," the FSA adds.
How often should you defrost your freezer?
When your freezer needs defrosting may depend on the model you have and how you use it. But as a general idea, the experts at AO recommend defrosting the whole appliance at least once or twice a year. Or, when you can see around a quarter of an inch of ice build-up on the walls.
The experts at Which? have put together a guide on how to safely defrost your freezer.
What temperature should your freezer be?
While the temperature of your freezer is generally constant throughout - Bosch recommends the freezer temperature is -18 °C or 0 °F for optimum efficiency - according to freshfromthefreezer.co.uk. which is put together by the British Frozen Food Federation (BFFF), there is an efficient and safe way to store frozen food so that it remains hygienically safe and promotes the best running of your freezer.
When it comes to stocking your freezer, the BFFF suggests following these general guidelines.
Top drawer – Ice cream, baked goods, frozen fruit, prepared foods
Middle drawer – vegetables, chips, soups etc.
Bottom drawer – Meat, fish and poultry
Which foods can be frozen?
There are so many benefits to freezing food including helping us combat unnecessary food waste and of course saving us money, but many of us are confused about exactly how much food can be frozen.
"Pretty much everything can be frozen from raw meat, cooked leftovers, sandwiches, fruit, avocados, vegetables and even red wine," explains Brown.
The list of foods that aren't suitable for freezing is much shorter. "Those foods that don't freeze well include; salad items such as lettuce and cucumber, mayonnaise based foods, soft cheeses (although fine to freeze inside a sauce!)," she adds.
How soon after cooking food can you freeze it?
When it comes to the safety of freezing foods, Brown advises always make sure you are cooling down leftovers within two hours of cooking to put in the fridge or freezer, and freezing any time up until and including the use by date, but not after this date.
"If a food has already been reheated once, it is not suitable for freezing or if the food has been thawed without being cooked, it is not suitable to re-freeze," she adds.
How long can you keep food in the freezer?
When it comes to storing food in the freezer, Brown says it is important to remember that food doesn't become unsafe in the freezer.
"But, the longer that food is in the freezer, the more the quality will deteriorate thanks to freezer burn; which is why it's often best to try and use food in the freezer within 3-6 months wherever possible," she explains.
To help combat freezer burn, Brown has put together some must-know tips:
- Always use the correct container when storing food in the freezer (air-tight containers or freezer bags
- If using freezer bags, squeeze out all of the air
- Label food with a date so you can use a 'First in first out' rotation in your freezer; meaning food generally isn't in the freezer any longer than it needs to be!
- Cool food before placing inside the freezer - after cooking, cool food as quickly as possible and make sure you place your food in the fridge or freezer within 2 hours of cooking.
Can you refreeze food after defrosting it?
When it comes to animal produce and dairy nutritionist Jenna Hope recommends trying to avoid defrosting and then re-freezing foods, unless you’ve cooked it.
"For example, raw chicken can be frozen, defrosted, cooked and then re-frozen however it shouldn’t be re-frozen if is hasn’t been cooked," she explains.