The freezer is your friend

Most of us have a freezer. I have a large one, which is the same size as my refrigerator. I used to treat my freezer as a method to store anything and everything, which in effect meant that it became like the attic, things go in and nothing comes out (except for the occasional ice cream).

But using your freezer to make it work for you is really not as difficult or time consuming as it might appear. I moved house and started with an empty freezer, and decided to do things right this way around. I still occasionally have to move things around but the freezer is now an addition to my kitchen, and is usually organised and helpful.

Where to start?

This is the most important part of freezer storage. Determine how you want to organise your freezer. I have turned mine into the following sections:

  • Bread
  • Pastry and dough
  • Vegetables
  • Fish
  • Meat
  • Quick cooking: Ready-made meals, leftover and deepfrying items
  • Frozen Fruit and Ice Cream
  • Ice packs and ice cream machine disks

Now, you might not need all these sections for yourself. I make my own bread, make extra portions of pastry and other doughs for the freezer, I have an ice cream machine and always have fruit in the freezer. In addition I also have room to permanently have ice packs stored in the freezer.
Another thing you need to realise is that you do not need a full drawer of your freezer per section. For instance, my fryer-items are often stored together with pastry and bread. Or, when I have a full stack of homemade pizza-bases (I make 12 at a time, pre-bake them with only the sauce topping and then freeze them), the pastry and dough is stored next to them.
Once you have made these sections, you will find that you will use your freezer more frequently as you don’t need to search through everything to find something.

How to freeze?

One thing I find annoying about frozen items is that it takes forever to defrost, and I tend to look in my freezer when I want food pretty much instantly. I never remember to take items out in the morning. If you pack things thinly though, they will defrost very quickly (especially in a sink of cold water. Cold yes, this works faster than you’d expect and it doesn’t ruin the outside of meat or fish).
Store sauces as a thin layer in zip-lock bags, as thin as possible and with as little air as possible. Store left-over stew like this, as well as vegetables, sliced meat and whatever else you store in your freezer. Freeze the bags on a straight surface (such as a box of pizza in the freezer) and then store them in the designated area.
I can advise you to invest in a vacuum-machine for plastic bags. These devices will suck any air out of the freezer bag and then seals it by melting the plastic at a select spot. Don’t use them for sauces (the sauce will get sucked into the device) but anything else goes.
Last but certainly not least: write on the bag what is in it. If you don’t know what it is, you will most likely not use it. Also, write down the date of freezing, so that you know which is older and therefor needs to be finished soon.

Handy things to always have in the freezer

So, what should your freezer have? The following are some of my staple foods, yours can of course differ, based on your diet and the size of your freezer:

  • Pizza Bases. I add toppings to the frozen base (pre-baked with sauce on top) and bake for 12min
  • Spinach, peas and beans. These defrost quickly and add colour and vitamins to dishes
  • Fish fillets and shrimp. Place them (still wrapped) in a sink filled with cold water and they defrost in a matter of minutes
  • Chicken that was on sale. Wrap them already cut into pieces, in thin layers for quick defrosting
  • Leftover sauces in thin layers or frozen as ice-cubes
  • Frozen fruits, to use in baked goods or to make a quick fruity sauce
  • Brownies! They defrost very well, but you can also toss them in the microwave for a minute for a warm gooey chocolate treat
  • Pastry, such as puff pastry and pâté brisée. These items make a simple meal quickly into a fancy pie. Puff pastry can be rolled when half frozen.

There are quite some things you can freeze that you never considered to do so, such as lemons and limes (they become very soft and juicy so they can fall apart when squeezing the juices, but they’re great for in drinks), chillies, spice rubs and leftover sauces.

Finally, a bit of general advice. When one section lacks space, you will end up placing items in other sections, which is fine. Try to stick to similar sections (so add extra meat to the fish section for example instead of the ice cream section) and when there is room, move the items back, to keep your freezer organised.
Once every one or two months, go through the leftovers in your freezer to check if you need to finish anything soon.