By Anna Sbuttoni published
There are some things that everyone should have in their freezer. After all, it's there to be stocked up with all your favourite meals - ready for just popping in the oven or the microwave.
But the majority of us also use our freezers for keeping treats and extras to have with our meals or drinks, along with the staples. So if your freezer stock needs a bit jazzing up, look no further.
We've put together a list of freezer essentials that you should have to hand at all times, whether it's to help waste less, for pure convenience or as an emergency sweet fix. Once you've stocked your freezer with these must-haves, you will wonder how you managed before.
These tips will help you use up all your ingredients, give you speedy cheats when friends pop round and stay for drinks and mean you'll always have an emergency treat you can pull out of the freezer at any time. So what should you have in your freezer? Here goes...
Don't get caught out without ice, especially if you've got people coming round for drinks. This is one freezer staple that's so easy to forget, so make sure you never run low. Make ice party-ready by adding fruit, herbs or edible flowers to the ice tray before covering with water.
2. Ripe bananas
If you've got a couple of bananas that are too brown to eat, instead of discarding them to the food waste, wrap them in a sandwich bag or similar and store them in your freezer for a later date. Frozen, ripe bananas make the perfect basic ingredient for a banana bread, or you can use them in smoothies with delicious results.
With a pack of peas in the freezer, you'll have so many storecupboard suppers to choose from. Think pea soup, simple pea risotto or pea frittata, which you will be able to make quickly and easily with ingredients you'll already have to hand. Or serve simply seasoned with butter and fresh mint if you have it on the windowsill to make an extra side dish that you didn't even know you had. Plus, of course, a bag of peas doubles as an emergency ice pack, but fingers crossed you won't need it!
Who manages to get through a pack of fresh chillies in one go? Make sure they don't go to waste by using what you need then freezing the rest in a small plastic bag. Go back and chop up the rest from frozen when you need it.
Pop a few frozen grapes in your drink to cool it down without diluting it. It works wonders for white wine that you haven't had time to chill properly. Spread the fruit on a tray to freeze, then keep them in a freezer bag that you can dip into as you need to.
TOP TIP: On a diet? Frozen grapes make a healthy snack if you need a little hit of sweetness, without the calories.
6. Oven chips
A must for everyone! Sometimes you just need to reach into the freezer for some chips.
When you take the time to make ragu from scratch, make double quantities and freeze in portions for two so you can enjoy a homemade readymeal a busier day. The portion size will mean you can easily scale the meal up for a group, or defrost just one portion for a quiet night in.
8. Gyoza dumplings
Always keep shopbought gyoza stashed to make impromptu nibbles when friends come round for drinks. They are the ultimate fuss-free canapé when you're improvising.
9. Smoked salmon
Smoked salmon keeps well in the freezer. Pop it into the fridge to defrost on a Friday night and use it for a lovely bagel brunch on Saturday, without any fuss whatsoever. Or use to top blinis as easy party food.
10. Curry leaves
These can be difficult to find fresh, so buy plenty at a time and freeze for later in an airtight container or strong plastic bag, so their strong aroma won't taint other food.
11. Really good ice cream
The ultimate quick fix dessert, you can't go wrong with a scoop of creamy ice cream. Whatever your flavour, you can't beat proper ice cream. We love ours sandwiched between two waffles and served with espresso for instant dessert.
12. Sliced bread
Never have to nip to the shop when you're feeling lazy every again! Keep a bag of sliced bread in the freezer to toast whenever you want it...
...In the same school of thought, get into the habit of freezing milk. Freeze full fat milk in an airtight container, leaving at least an inch at the top as it will expand. Defrost it in the fridge when you need it.
14. Butter wrappers
This is one baking hack we love. When you've got tiny amounts of butter leftover from a block, freeze the wrapper with the butter inside. The next time you're baking a cake, take the wrapper out of the freezer before you start and when it's softened a little, use it to grease your tin then discard for fuss-free baking. You can freeze whole block of butter too.
Mixed frozen berries are a bit of a secret weapon, as they are so versatile. Use them to make a seriously easy summer dessert like these iced berries with hot chocolate sauce, bake them into a cake or cheesecake, make a dark berry nutty crumble, mixed berry compote on sugared toast or blend them into a smoothie.
The next time you take the time to make dessert, pick a frozen dessert and make twice as much to save you a job next time. Make a healthier take on ice cream with this gorgeous berry iced yogurt, which you won't believe is dairy free. This no-churn blackcurrant ice cream is up there with our best ever desserts.
17. ... And a seriously special dessert
Oh yes. This indulgent frozen chocolate cake with amaretti topping makes a delicious dessert that you can make ahead and pull straight from the freezer when you need it. It keeps for up to two weeks, and you need to take it out two hours before serving.
Anna Sbuttoni was the Digital Food Editor for Woman & Home and GoodTo.com for 3 years, during which time she won Best Original Feature Idea (Digital) at the BSME Awards for a blogger challenge called 'How To Feed Your Family For £20 A Week'.
Anna's work for womanandhome.com ranges from seasonal recipes perfect for celebrations like Christmas or Easter, to practical suggestions for everyday life, like 17 essential things everyone should have in their freezer.
She went on to become the Digital Director at The Sunday Times Style and is now the Deputy audience editor at The Times and The Sunday Times.
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