There's hardly ever any ice cubes in our freezer - ice seems to be a rare commodity around here - but I can always guarantee that there'll be several half-filled water bottles wedged at an angle by a bag or two of something frozen. Not sure I can explain the lack of ice cubes but the frozen water bottles, are our swimmers' method of choice for ensuring chilled water all the way through a long, summer training session. Except when it's silly hot and then you only have to look at ice and it will melt.
Anyway, besides the water bottles, there are a few other things that you are sure to always find in our freezer and that's because, for me, the freezer is a key part of food sanity in a busy life.
So here are my top 10 things I always keep in the freezer -
I'll start with this because it certainly takes up the biggest volume in our freezer - in fact, bread has its own mini-freezer, stashed in the garage. In there you'll always find -
- Bread rolls - I use a packet most days for lunchboxes so it's an essential.
- A loaf or two - Toast for breakfast only really happens at the weekend but a mid-week dinner of beans or egg on toast is a regular on the menu.
- Arabic breads & wraps - We're big fans of things stuffed into breads or rolled up in a wrap, so I always have these to hand. Falafel Stuffed Pita Breads always go down well; Lamb and Mushroom Flatbreads make a perfect tasty dinner and Baharat Chicken Flatbreads are definitely a winner.
- Cubes of bread - For bread that's gone beyond its best, I often cut it into cubes to have ready to make croutons - after all it makes a soup that bit more substantial. This Spicy Peanut and Vegetable Soup is topped with some fantastic paprika croutons.
- Breadcrumbs - And if I've got loads of stale bread, I might whizz it in the food processor to make breadcrumbs. It's an essential ingredient for stuffing or perfect mixed with some grated cheese to top a pasta bake.
2 Chicken Carcasses and stock
I'm a big fan of using up every bit of a roast chicken (even the birds that you buy ready cooked from the deli counter), so I'll always freeze the carcass until I'm in the mood to make chicken stock. Of course, the slow cooker makes stock production super easy and the finished stock can then be measured into bags and frozen until you need it.
3 Frozen bananas (& other fruits)
As soon as a banana in the fruit bowl starts to turn even slightly brown, it gets peeled and stashed in the freezer. I tend to freeze them on a baking tray and then pop them in a plastic bag when they are fully frozen (this avoids them melding into an enormous, frozen banana block in the bag). Smoothies are big for us, this Mango and Lime Smoothie always get's a thumbs up. But there's also this Super Healthy Ice Cream ... ... and these not so healthy (but super delicious) Nutella and Banana Muffins. Hidden behind the bananas, you'll probably find a bag of mixed frozen red fruits and some mango. They're our favourites.
4 Frozen peas
Are there any freezers that don't contain at least one bag of peas? Perfect for soups (like this Green Pea and Courgette Soup), great to add to rice dishes (perhaps this Easy Mackerel Kedgeree) and essential for a DIY ice pack to soothe sports injuries and that pesky swelling after wisdom teeth removal.
5 Portioned things for food flasks
You can find more on this post, How to make food flasks easy, but it's safe to say that there's always a big chunk of our freezer stocked with old margarine containers filled with delicious nourishment and ready to go into a food flask.
6 Cooked chicken and sausages
It really works for me to always have cooked chicken and cooked sausages in the freezer. I use them for -
I've said it before, but I'll say it again - cooked chicken and (especially) sausages deserve their King of the Freezer status.
7 Flavour boosters
You know, the kind of things that you can freeze in small portions and then pop into soups, stews and pasta dishes to give a turbo boost to flavour intensity. Right now my favourites are grated ginger and homemade pesto, but I'll be sure to let you know if things change.
8 Meals that are ready to heat up
In an ideal world, our freezer would be packed with portion after portion of gorgeous meals that I've prepared for those occasions when there's no time (and/or inclination) to cook. They would be things like Bolognese sauce and Thai Green Chicken Curry. But the reality is that unless I'm suddenly gifted an extra day in the week, this doesn't ever happen. Shame - but that's the way a busy life rumbles.
Instead, I fill a corner or two with things that are ready to heat up at a moment's notice. Breaded fish from the supermarket freezer cabinet is a favourite (just add Easy Oven Chips, some roasted tomatoes and a few green vegetables) and so are Vegetable Samosas from the deli counter (served with Easy Multi-coloured Rice Salad, a tomato sauce to drizzle over the top and a mini salad of chopped red onion, cucumber and tomato).
9 Brown rice
Brown rice takes an age to cook - well 45 minutes to be precise - so when I'm going to spend the best part of an hour on a rice cooking mission, I tend to cook the whole bag and freeze what I don't need in double portions. It's important to get the rice cooled quickly and into the freezer and then I've got brown rice ready for dinners and packed lunches. The perfect accompaniment to Chilli con carne and Lamb, Tomato and Coconut Curry. One less thing to think about.
10 Ice cream
And of course, there has to be ice cream in the freezer, because ice cream cures all worries, disappointments and ailments. Second only to chocolate cookies.
What's in your freezer?