Making The Most Of Your Freezer

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Buying food in bulk and cooking and freezing leftovers for later are both great ways to save money, but they’re dependent on how well we utilise the freezer.

We have a tiny box freezer above our fridge (not pictured), but with a little planning, it’s amazing how much we can fit in. We bulk buy meat – enough to last the two of us between 5 and 10 weeks depending on what I cook. This forms the basis of our menu plans. We plan around what is in the freezer, fridge and pantry to ensure nothing gets wasted.

Below are some tips on making the most of your freezer:

  • Keep your freezer at –18°C (0°F).
  • Keep a note of what is in your freezer and the date each item went in. A list on the side of the fridge helps to remind you of what might need using up and also helps with menu planning so that you don’t have to go rummaging around in the cold.
  • Label contents of what goes into your freezer and the date that it goes in. It all tends to look the same once it’s frozen.
  • If you’re buying meat in bulk or freezing leftovers, then divide it into portion sizes so that you defrost only what you need.
  • Squeeze as much air out as possible when you freeze food. This helps the food maintain it’s quality.
  • Let hot food cool first. Placing hot food into the fridge or freezer brings the overall temperature down so that you use more power to maintain the temp and the hot food could compromise the food around it.
  • Never refreeze thawed food (unless it’s been cooked and you’re freezing leftovers).
  • Freeze things like meat and mince as flat as possible so that you can stack food easily, fitting more in and also so that it defrosts quickly.
  • Freeze soups by placing a plastic bag in a bowl or container, spooning the soup into the bag, secure and freeze flat. I usually use old plastic containers, but if I run out I line a plastic container with a bag and freeze the contents, removing the bag so that the soups or stock is frozen in blocks that stack easily in the freezer.
  • Here is a PDF guide on freezing fresh vegetables and another freezing fruit so that harvests and bounties don’t go to waste.

There are some things that don’t freeze. Sour cream and yogurt separates, cooked eggs go rubbery and uncooked eggs break, fried crumbed meat goes soggy, high water content vegetables can spoil, dishes containing gelatine won’t freeze. Generally, if I’m not sure I throw it in the freezer anyway and give it a go. Even though it is said that cream and milk freezes, I find that they don’t defrost so well.

Below is the freezing guide (abridged) from my beloved and often referenced commonsense cookbook. I have to say though, looking down it there are some things that I freeze a lot longer than recommended and they come out just fine, and other things I’ve tried to freeze without success, so use guides as guides only, and trust your senses as well.

Freezing Chart

1 – 2 Months2 – 3 Months
Milkcottage cheese
stewsice cream
pancakes, pikeletsoffal and bacon
shellfishoily fish
biscuit and cake doughminced meats (other than beef)
sandwichesleftovers dishes
3 – 4 Months4 – 6 Months
Hamminced beef
hard cheeses, gratedgame
white fish 
6 – 8 Months8 – 12 Months
 fruit cake


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