Is freezer food bad?
Self-preservation is the first law of nature
Freezer food has got itself a bad reputation.
I’m not really sure why. Maybe it’s because in that freezer are also plenty of foods that you see as less nutritious than fresh food? The freezer is, after all, the home of the ready meal, the chips, the ice cream, the leftovers that you couldn’t be bothered to eat 12 months ago, and some bread in case you run out!
Frozen vegetables and fruit are right up there on the freezer ‘bad’ list aren’t they? They’re considered the poor cousin to the fresh veg and fruit, and only to be bought in an emergency. Wrong!
It may surprise you to hear then that frozen fruit and veg is actually sometimes MORE nutritious than the fresh options. They are more often than not picked and processed really quickly, so when they hit the freezer they have not really lost any of their nutrients. Vitamins and minerals are largely still in tact. The supermarket fresh section has a lovely colourful array of produce, but how long has it been since they were harvested? I have no idea myself. I just know that you don’t buy them less than 24 hours after picking in most cases. They don’t lose their taste through freezing, but actually maintain it. Plus, when you buy frozen food you also have the luxury of buying them all year round. Strawberries on your porridge in winter – no problem!
When you come to cook those foods you’re essentially cooking them straight from the plant they were picked from. Fresh, you’re a good few days down the line by the time they’ve arrived at the supermarket, been bought, taken home, stored and then eaten. I’m not saying there’s one better than the other, more that the frozen versions are very worthy of a place on your plate. Nutrition aside, let’s also appreciate that they are cheaper, keep for longer, and you’ll have the right quantity for the meal so there’s less food waste. Most of them are ready prepared too, which is fantastic if you’ve had a long day and can’t be bothered to stand in the kitchen chopping and slicing. What an easy way to get your ‘5 a day’ in. Also, remember the previous blog post about hiding veggies in other meals? Well frozen veg is great for that. Grab a handful and sling it in.
Frozen fish and meats can often be a more cost effective way to source what can often be quite expensive food. Frozen chicken breasts and thighs, mince beef, and joints of meat are relatively cheap and are usually the same product as you might find in the chillers. Fish and seafood is super fresh and some say better for the environment. When the recommendation is that people eat a couple of portions of fish a week it’s great to have some stashed away that you can grab when you fancy it. Fish doesn’t take long to defrost either, so you can have it at the drop of a hat.
Again, frozen meat and fish means you can use as much as you need in a meal and save the rest for another day. If you’ve got a larger family this could be a good way to get the bigger quantities for a bit less money. They aren’t always cheaper, but on the whole are, and there are definitely some added benefits to buying frozen.
Let’s not forget the vegetarian and vegan options. There is a huge range of different products in the freezer aisles now. Whether you are a full time vegetarian or vegan, or just like to have a couple of meat free meals in your week, there are some really tasty meat replacement products available.
I think in an ideal world we would all be able to whip up fabulous hearty meals every single day but in reality it’s not going to happen like that. There will be days when you just want to throw some waffles and nuggets in the oven for the kids, and grab yourself a TV dinner, and I’m not here to tell you that’s wrong. What I do ask though is that you try to limit those meals, and find a way to plan ahead so that you can replace them with some other more nutritious meals that you can still grab from the freezer and have ready when you’re in a hurry or not feeling up to cooking. Try and bulk cook some meals. On the days when you are cooking can you portion up a couple extra for the freezer? Can you make up some bags of rice, vegetables, cooked meat etc and freeze them so that it’s easy to grab and reheat rather than cook from scratch? Get creative and see how your freezer can become one of your favourite appliances in helping you to eat well.
Please remember to store and reheat your food safely though. Before putting anything in the freezer label your tubs and bags with the contents and the date you have frozen it, then use it within the recommended time. The Food Safety website gives you a very user friendly list of foods and how long you can keep them for. It gives you fridge times too, as an added bonus. You can even download and print the chart which is handy as a quick reference in the kitchen. When you take the food out of the freezer it is important to thaw and reheat it properly. The Allrecipes site has a nice little section on this. Please do give it a read.
I’m sure there will still be room for those tubs of ice cream. No-one says you have to only have the super nutritious food in the freezer, and we all need balance in our diets. It’s a rare human being that is happy to live without the less nutritious stuff. It’s good for the soul so go ahead and get yourself some!
Are you pleasantly surprised? Have I convinced you that it’s good? Are you happier filling your freezer with frozen ingredients for meals now?
References and Links:
Fish and shellfish nutrition: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/fish-and-shellfish-nutrition/
Cold food storage: https://www.foodsafety.gov/food-safety-charts/cold-food-storage-charts
Reheating frozen food: https://www.allrecipes.com/article/freezing-foods-a-real-time-saver/