Freeze! Did you know that frozen food can make you healthier, as well as making your life easier?
This straightforward guide explains why and how.
Let’s start with the basics. Freezing food is a great way to preserve food in ‘fresh’ condition for days, weeks or even longer.
Freezers are the closest thing to time-travel we’ve invented. They slow the movement of molecules in the food, which puts ever-present microbes like bacteria into a sort of hibernation.
Stopping those microbes matters. When you see a pack of leafy greens going mushy in the fridge, that probably means it has been eaten and fermented by bacteria. Often, microbes like these are harmless to humans after a meal has been cooked – but sometimes they can make us unwell. Either way, microbes can ruin an ingredient before you’ve had chance to use it.
Heavy use of preservatives, genetic modification and using the fridge can also help to keep food edible for longer, but nothing slows down time as effectively and naturally as a freezer.
Because freezers keep food fresh, they help ensure that more of the food you buy gets eaten, and less goes in the bin.
Food waste is a big problem in the UK, even though households have managed to reduce the amount of food they throw away in recent years. Brits currently bin about 4.5m tonnes of food every year – an amount worth £14bn. That’s about £700 wasted yearly for the average family.
If you have some food that looks like it might be on its last legs, consider freezing it to avoid it going to waste. Just be sure to check that the item is suitable for freezing beforehand – some foods can’t be frozen at home, because of how they’ve been made or stored.
Of course, you could just buy long-lived frozen meals to begin with 😉!
Some people worry that freezing food could reduce its nutritional content – the all-important vitamins and minerals. This is a myth.
It’s true that some nutrients do start to break down after food has been frozen for longer than one year. However, nutrient loss is actually higher in the average item of ‘fresh’ food, which spends time travelling, being packaged, sitting on the supermarket shelf, and then decomposing relatively quickly in your fridge.
Frozen fruit and veg usually keeps more of its natural vitamins and minerals than fresh fruit and veg does. The NHS says you only need to eat 40g of frozen fruit to count as one of your five-a-day – half the quantity for a fresh fruit portion.
For people who are setting out on a weight-loss transformation, one of the key benefits of eating frozen meals is that the packaging will often tell you exactly which ingredients and nutrients are contained in the food.
Knowing exactly what is contained in a meal is crucial when you’re trying to improve your health through a change in diet. When you’re fully aware of what you’re eating – your ‘nutritional intake’ – you can follow a diet plan to the letter. With ‘fresh’ ingredients, there’s always an element of blind hope involved.
Freezing is a great way to make sure you can eat seasonal foods at any time of year.
Some foods are cheaper, better-quality or more available during certain seasons. Think of things like berries, peaches, pumpkins and other squashes.
With proper preparation (e.g. patting berries dry to remove excess moisture), many seasonal foods are suitable for freezing. Your freezer is the key to tasting your favourite flavours all year long.
Most fridge-freezers have a 70/30 split between fridge space and freezer space – and some models are actually 50/50.
No matter how much storage space you have in your kitchen, it’s likely that your freezer is taking up a big share. Switching some of your diet to frozen foods will mean there’s more room in the fridge and on the shelves.
Using your freezer space thoroughly has another great benefit that you might not expect: it can save you money on the cost of running the appliance.
Your freezer is probably running all the time. Most fridge-freezers work more efficiently when they’re filled, because the food inside the drawers prevents warm air from entering the freezer whenever the door’s open. The greater the amount of warm air that gets inside the drawer each time, the more work the freezer has to do in order to stay freezing cold.
So, the fuller a freezer is, the less energy it uses. Full freezers save money!
Most bad experiences with frozen food happen because the cook doesn’t properly defrost or heat the food (or the food wasn’t very nice to begin with).
When an ingredient is not defrosted for long enough, the outside might seem fully thawed – but the food remains frozen on the inside. If you’ve ever had a dodgy meal at a restaurant where the middle of the dish is cold, this could be why!
Some celebrity chefs are critical of frozen food. You’ll hear them say things like “using frozen meals is lazy”, or “you can’t guarantee the quality”. But the proof is in the pudding. Even Gordon Ramsay, who is an outspoken critic of frozen meals, has reportedly used frozen meals to save space at some of his restaurants.
From our perspective, we and our customers are pretty chuffed with the quality of our frozen meals, from our flavourful Pots O Gold to our tasty, protein-packed pizzas. And cooking a frozen meal doesn’t mean you’re lazy – it probably just means you’ve got a lot on your plate.