Freezing tips for skint, busy families

We do a fair bit of freezing to make life easier on ourselves. The last thing I feel like doing at the day’s end is cooking, especially if we’ve spent most of it out. I’m the one who’s around so the task generally falls to me, which is a shame because Laurence is the better cook. It leaves us open to the temptation of a takeaway – a nice treat sometimes but not to be repeated too often for the sake of our finances – and health. Then there are also the days when I realise I didn’t plan our weekly shop properly (probably because I attempted it while hungry and tired) and we actually don’t have anything edible in the kitchen except a potato, a banana and some pesto.

This is all a particular concern because when the baby comes in February, time and energy are bound to take a hit. We might as well continue to build on good habits now. So, we’re stepping up the freezing a notch and taking full advantage of the modern wonder of fridge freezers and possibly investing in a deep freeze too. Here are a few ideas we’ve got together over the past few years:

Batch-cook as habit
We have massive pots so when either of us cook, we try to make enough for three or four meals. That way, we have enough for our dinner, lunch the next day and another dinner and lunch can go into the freezer. A great food to do this with is dhal. Dried lentils are cheap to start with, particularly if you buy them from an Asian grocer, which we do. Dhal is also such a healthy food, easy to make in huge quantities, tasty and freezes well. It’s basically a perfect food. Oh and it’s dairy and wheat free, which is important in this house at the moment. Other great foods for freezing are bolognaise, soup, burgers, fishcakes, pancakes and just about any meat (I keep trying to freeze Trinidad stewed chicken but we just end up eating all of it!).

Label! Label! Label!
I have been caught out by this one too many times. I’ll end up throwing something out just because I couldn’t remember how long it was in there or I’ll defrost something thinking it was something else only to be disappointed. I now label it all. It’s simply not worth the hassle, waste or potential stomach upset of not doing so. Write a shorthand version of what the food is and the date of when you’ve put it in.

Stock up on frozen vegetables
A half-empty freezer presumably requires more energy to run so you might as well fill-in the gaps with frozen veg. That way you’re sure not run out of veg and you have something prepared if getting the chopping board out feels daunting after an exhausting day with your children. As Jamie Oliver recently pointed out, you also get a lot more for your money in the case of frozen spinach. I’ll remember that next time I’m making callaloo (another good freezable, by the way!). We have the added thing that frozen green peas are the only vegetable Talitha will touch at the moment.

Prepare and freeze dried foods
I only do this with chick peas (we call it channa in Trinidad) because we eat a lot of it but apparently it can be done with other dried pulses too. After going through long spells of buying massive, super-cheap bags of channa only to leave them in the cupboard because I just wasn’t getting around to soaking overnight, I started soaking large amounts, batch boiling them, dividing them into cooking portions, cooling and storing in the freezer. They are great fillers for stews and other foods, fantastic for a quick and easy curry and ideal for whipping up a swift humous. Money saved and healthy too.

With baby on the way and expecting to up our freezing game fairly soon, I’d really appreciate any freezer tips you have to share.

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