Certain foods like imported frozen berries need to boiled for 1 minute before eating them or adding them to smoothies. Photo: Devin Rajaram

Tips to safely freeze food and minimise food waste

Recent research from safefood revealed that the cost of food is the number one food related concern for 42% of people this winter. Using the freezer correctly can help save money and reduce the amount of food waste in the home.

With this in mind, safefood has put together top tips to safely freeze food and minimise food waste.

The freezer is the ideal place to store food and allows households to plan. Food that is frozen properly will stay safe to eat indefinitely, however, after a time, the taste and texture of the food may suffer.

It is not recommended to freeze certain foods including fruit and vegetables with high water content as they will go limp and mushy, egg and milk-based sauces as they will separate or raw eggs which will expand and crack.

Top tips for getting the most from your freezer are as follows:

Now is a great time to defrost the freezer to maximise freezing space. Defrosting the freezer will ensure there isn’t a build-up of ice and maintain the correct temperature. The safest way to store your frozen food while you defrost the freezer is in the fridge as it will stay frozen for a couple of hours while your freezer defrosts.

Once food is cooked, ensure that it is cold before it is placed in the freezer. Food should always be cold to stop other foods defrosting.

Another top tip is to divide food into portion sizes before placing in the freezer. That way, the required food can be easily defrosted and reduce food waste. Food should always be wrapped properly to reduce freezer burn (when frozen food loses moisture and becomes dry and discoloured) before it is placed in the freezer and labelled to keep track of what it is and when it was frozen.

To stop vegetables going brown when they are frozen, they should be chopped and boiled for 30 seconds, then cooled in ice water. Once the vegetables are chilled, place on a tray lined with kitchen paper to absorb moisture, before transferring into a freezer bag. Vegetables should always be cooked directly from the freezer in a pot of boiling water. Steaming frozen vegetables makes them go soggy and should be avoided.

Freezing food does not kill bacteria. Food that needs to be used by its use by date can be frozen on or before this date. Don’t freeze food past this date.

To work out how long food can be safely stored in the freezer, check the star rating on the freezer or storage instructions on packaged frozen foods. safefood has helpful guidelines for individual fresh foods on Safefood.net.

The safest way to defrost food is to place it on a tray or plate on the bottom shelf of your fridge. Allow at least 24 hours for every 2-2.5 kg. With meat or poultry, you can check with a fork or skewer whether it’s still frozen. Once food has thawed, cook or eat it within 24 hours. Do not refreeze it.

Certain foods like imported frozen berries need to boiled for 1 minute before eating them or adding them to smoothies. This is because they have been associated with food poisoning outbreaks across Europe in recent years. This is particularly important when serving them to vulnerable people.

Remember the golden rule: if in doubt, throw it out.