Recipe-wise I’ve got a spelt health loaf and chicken and vegetable broth, perfect for anyone who is a bit of a freezer newbie or uses their’s for nothing more than the odd packet of peas and pizza.
During the recent storm Ophelia our electricity went out and the first thing I thought of was all the pre-cooked dinners in my freezer. Our electricity was off for six days so my husband moved our freezer to where we could plug it in. Thankfully my in-laws have a generator and my food was saved.
When it comes to making dinner on busy weeknights or lunches on hectic workdays, the freezer is my not-so-secret weapon. It is one of my top hacks for eating well while trying to balance work, family life and social commitments. It may not sound very exciting but making friends with your freezer is one of the best things you can do to stay healthy.
Here are my top tips
- Use your freezer space wisely. It can be a fantastic source of healthy midweek dinners you have prepped previously. Remove excess packaging and only use it for foods you defrost and eat regularly.
- Store your meals in labelled freezer safe containers, include the name of the dish and the date it was cooked. There are few things more frustrating than a freezer full of mystery foods!
- Remember basic food safety tips when using your freezer. Don’t leave anything in there for too long; I generally aim for 3 months or less. Defrost all food in the fridge and not on the counter. Never re-freeze defrosted foods.
- Keep it clutter free.
- Schedule in a ‘Freezer Reboot’. Basically try to defrost and eat the majority of the stuff in your freezer over a period of time. I do this a few times a year. Getting rid of stuff is as important as keeping it. There’s no point in using your freezer to freeze loads of batches of food but never eating it. By the end of my reboot, I will have a relatively empty freezer and will start again from scratch.
My favourite freezer foods include
Fruit & vegetables: Contrary to popular belief, frozen fruits and vegetables are not inferior to fresh and retain a huge amount of their nutritional value.
Frozen fruits are a great addition to smoothies while frozen vegetables can brighten up any dinnertime, simply grab a handful whenever you need to add a veggie hit to your meals.
Stock: If you are going to the effort of making your own stock, make the biggest batch you can and freeze any extras in small portions. A large ice cube tray or baby weaning food containers are perfect for this.
Portioned meat/fish Divide up your meat or fish into the portions you want to cook and freeze them that way (ie, one chicken fillet, two steaks, etc).
My butcher vacuum packs my meat in the portions I use at home. It is super handy.
Herbs and spices: Most are easily frozen and will add a punch of flavour to your meals. You can freeze fresh herbs in a little olive oil and they are a great addition to stir fries.
Meals: I batch cook and freeze meals in portions (chilli con carne, casserole, tagine, bean stew).
The Safe food website is full of great food safety, hygiene and nutrition tips. They also have a range of delicious healthy recipes. All the information they provide is evidence-based and no nonsense which we love. A great one to check out in the run-up to Christmas.
Chicken and Vegetable Broth
This is like a hug in a mug. I’ll often reach for it midweek when I come home tired, maybe after an evening workout, and want something simple and soothing. It’s all made in one big pot too so there is very little hassle or washing up. I love it served with a few slices of warm buttery bread.
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
1 potato, finely diced
750ml chicken stock, fresh if possible or otherwise a stock cube is perfect.
2 breasts of chicken, roughly chopped
75g pearl barley, soaked for 1 hr and rinsed
1 dessert spoon corn flour
100ml full-fat milk
Small bunch fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Place the carrot, onion and potato in a large pot along with the stock and bring to the .
Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
Add the chicken and pearl barley then return to the boil.
Reduce the heat once more and simmer for a further 20 minutes.
In a small bowl whisk the cornflour and milk
Bring the broth back to the boil.
Stir in the above mixture quickly to avoid lumps, a little at a time works best.
Once the soup has thickened slightly, remove from the heat and stir in the parsley.
Ladle into warmed serving bowls or allow to cool and store in an airtight container in the fridge.
Spelt Health Loaf
Whenever I bake this bread I always try and make double so that I can slice and freeze the extras. That way I can take them out of the freezer as I need them.
It’s simple to prepare and tastes delicious spread with a little butter, jam or nut butter.
I like to use spelt flour as an alternative to white flour here as it lends a lovely nutty flavour to the loaf.
1 large loaf
400g Spelt Wholemeal Flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp Bread Soda
1 tsp Salt
2 tbs Honey
2½ tbs Oil
Preheat oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas 5.
Dust a baking tray with flour.
Sieve the flour, bread soda and salt into a large mixing bowl.
Whisk the honey, buttermilk and oil in a separate bowl, then gradually stir into the dry ingredients until a smooth dough forms.
Dust a work surface with flour and gently knead the bread for a minute to form it into a round loaf.
Place it on the prepared tray and use a sharp knife to cut a square across the top of the loaf.
Bake for 45-50 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.