How To Get Dinner on the Table: 5 Freezer Must-Haves

My freezer is critical to my “Empowered Cook” status. It is more than just a place to store some frozen peas and bananas. It is as equal a tool as my fridge, pantry and kitchen sink.

And it is a fundamental tool in my How to Get Dinner on the Table kit.

You don’t need a huge freezer. For years, I lived with a mini bar fridge with a tiny box freezer inside. I still used the same methodology with that freezer that I do now with a much larger freezer at the top of my fridge.

We also have a small chest freezer – which I love, but it is not essential. We bought it when Oliver was born so that I could stock it with meals for us to eat.

That is really the main purpose of my freezer. We eat “from the freezer” at least once a week – sometimes more. It is also very handy if we’re having a budget week and want to save a bit of cash. We usually have enough meals and bits and bobs in the freezer to feed us for a week or more.

Honestly – best investment ever.

So where do you start?

How to Get Dinner on the Table: 5 Freezer Must-Haves

Let’s begin with my 5 Freezer Must Haves.

These are the items that are ALWAYS in my freezer. They are pretty much a constant on my shopping list. We use them frequently and they are constantly restocked.

#5 – Frozen Fruit

Critical for smoothies. For a quick berry crumble for dessert. For a nice little snack. To soothe sore gums when bub is teething.

I always have frozen bananas in my freezer. I simply peel these when they get all spotty and black and then freeze a bunch in ziplock bags.

I use them mainly for smoothies. Just pop a banana, some milk of choice (I use almond), a dollop of honey or maple syrup, a spoon of peanut butter and blend. You have a delicious smoothie. Or be a little decadent and add a dollop of chocolate peanut butter. OMG. My favourite 3pm snack right there.

I also use the bananas for baking too. They defrost really quickly. And then you can whip up a banana cake or muffins.

Buy bananas when they are on special too. Bananas can get rather pricey if the season isn’t going too well. So next time you see a glut of them at the supermarket, buy up! And then freeze!

Berries are also always in the freezer. My partner Brendon is allergic to bananas – so his smoothie of choice is always berries with almond milk. And yoghurt and sometimes peanut butter.

But you can also make a quick berry crumble for dessert with frozen berries (pop in a dish, top with a nice crumble mix and then bake in the oven). Or you can use these for baking too. I love this recipe for a berry cake. It is simple and easy to make. We serve with a dollop of yoghurt.

The other fruit I have in the freezer is frozen cooked fruit. Sometimes we’ll get to the end of the week and we’ll have a bunch of apples left over. So instead of just letting these go soft, I’ll cook them. I peel and chop them and then steam them. Once soft, I’ll cool them and then pop in the freezer. I often put them into a glass ovenproof dish in the freezer, so that once I defrost these, I can top with granola or crumble and it can go straight into the oven. Oh how yum on a cold winters night.

Pretty much any fruit can be frozen – you just need to work out if it is better frozen raw or cooked first. I find melon, berries, bananas freeze best raw. Apples, plums, stone fruits all freeze better after having been cooked first.

#4 – Frozen Vegetables

There has been a bit of stigma around frozen veg for a long time. I’m not sure if it comes from the days of getting frozen veg served up overcooked and soggy – but whatever it is, it isn’t true.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a good bag of frozen vegetables. I will say that again: there is absolutely nothing wrong with a good bag of frozen vegetables.

You can whip out a bag of frozen broccolli or caulflower and roast this up into a delicious side dish so easily. Just pop onto a roasting tray (still frozen), drizzle with oil and add salt and pepper. Both are also delicious with a good shake of dried chilli flakes. Then roast in a hot oven until cooked and golden brown.

Frozen corn is a staple in our house – the easiest way to eat corn. And so much healthier than the corn in a can (often full of sugar). I add corn to most of my mexican inspired meals: enchiladas, chilli, burritos, etc. But sometimes, it will just get steamed along with my other veg and we’ll have some corn with our dinner.

And who can forget the frozen pea. I haven’t – keep reading…

#3 – Stock

I have two versions of stock in my freezer. I have containers of made stock, frozen into 1 or 2 cup portions. But I also have a stock scrap bag in there along side the already made stock.

What is a stock scrap bag?

It is possibly the best use of vegie scraps (besides a compost) – and saves me so much time and money.

Next time you peel a carrot, chop the leaves from celery, peel a garlic clove or an onion – pop the scraps in to a big ziplock bag and store it in your freezer.

Once the bag is full – dump all the scraps into a stock pot or a slowcooker – add water, and then simmer for as long as you’ve got.

Voila – you have vegetable stock.

Add a chicken carcass – and you have chicken stock.

Add some roasted beef bones – and you have beef stock.

I do this almost weekly. And we nearly always have stock in the fridge and freezer. I fill old jars to keep stock in the fridge, and small plastic containers for the freezer.

I use stock for casseroles, soups, stews. But I also like to cook rice and pasta in the stock. Plus – I will sometimes add some to the pan if I’ve defrosting some leftovers, or even stir-frying some veges for dinner.

It just adds such a nice complexity of flavour to whatever you are cooking. And it does not cost you a cent. Is there anything better than that?

#2 – Cooked Ingredients

No only do I freeze meals and leftovers, I also freeze cooked ingredients. This is a huge time-saver and such a big help when getting dinner on the table. And if you stick around here long enough, you’ll soon know that this is my number one tip for how I feed my family without the fuss.

What do I mean by cooked ingredients?

Think roast pumpkin, blanched vegetables, pesto, spaghetti sauce, cooked brown rice, cooked quinoa. I freeze these in small single-serve portions and then add these to whatever meal we’re serving.

A great way to use brown rice for example is to make fried rice. I often do this to use up leftover veges in the fridge before shopping day.

But you can even make a quick and easy version by just frying up an egg omelette and setting that aside, and then stir-frying the rice with some frozen peas. Add in some soy sauce and then toss in the sliced omelette. It can really be that easy.

And that way, you’re serving a healthy, wholesome, filling dinner – but because you’re grabbing your main ingredients from the freezer, dinner can be on the table in under 10 minutes.

#1 – Frozen Peas

These are such incredible little beauties – they get their own special section as a Freezer Must Have.

I will always have a bag of these. Always. Sometimes two.

I am sure we’d all love to have a quaint memory of sitting on our verandah with our colanders while we shell our peas.

But in reality – how often do you see peas in the supermarket fresh food section? Never.

Frozen Peas are the place to be.

They are quick to defrost, quick and easy to cook, delicious on their own or in dishes – and they are cheap.

We use frozen peas in the following:

On their own – I add them to a pot, cover with water and a pinch of salt, and bring to the boil. Once they hit boiling, I turn them off and drain them (this stops them overcooking and going dry and mushy). I add a swirl of olive oil (or a bit of good butter), and some salt and pepper to season. Also delicious with a dash of lemon juice. And some chopped garlic. Yum.

In pasta – we regularly make Bacon and Pea Pasta. This dish unashamedly appears on our meal plan at least once a week. It is fast, delicious and a family winner – everyone eats it. It is just as it sounds: fry up some chopped bacon while you cook your pasta. Throw a handful or two of frozen peas in with the bacon, then add to your cooked, drained pasta. Serve with lashings of fresh parmesan. Easy but oh so yum.

In Savoury Mince – oh this is a yummy meal. You can do a complex savoury mince, but a quick method is simply to brown an onion, brown some beef mince, add a bit of flour and cook it out. Then add a spoon of vegemite, a few dashes of worchestershire sauce – and about a cup or so of beef stock. Simmer until thickened. Add frozen peas and let simmer until they are cooked. This is a great fast weeknight meal – and is very good on hot buttered toast.

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See how much value a well stocked freezer can make to you and your family?

Add these 5 things to your shopping list – and always keep them in stock.

 

4 replies
  1. Kerry-Anne Milne
    Kerry-Anne Milne says:

    I’m absolutely loving all of your ideas. I try to keep things simple as well, but love all your fresh idea’s. Over time you get stuck with the same dozen dishes so I’m definitely going to try your pea and bacon pasta that sounds delisious and quick. We love smoothies so any fruit looking a bit past perfection goes in a smoothy or freezer for cooking as well. My hubby is the same as yours with the bananas although mine has become anaphylactic to them (latex allergy). This also means no avacado, kiwi fruit, chestnuts and keeping an eye on strawberries. Loving your ideas I need to write them down.

    Reply

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