Portion control starts in the freezer

Frozen assets: food portions for a healthier weight and size

Leave space in your freezer for these 7 items.

I had a fridge failure last week and lost everything. I had to resort to the caravan fridge with a freezer barely bigger than a shoe box.

This got me thinking about how others stock their freezers.

How could I maximise the nutritional value in a small space?

How can you use your freezer to lose weight and keep it off?

How can a smartly filled freezer benefit anyone with an unpredictable schedule and menu?

Today’s home freezers deliver convenience and, if you are not careful, bulge with much more fake-food than a healthy body deserves.

Make room in your freezer for these seven key convenience items.

No rocket science here. More of a reminder.

1. Frozen 100% vegetables

Don’t be shy of commercial frozen straight-forward 100% vegetables: greens (edamame, beans, spinach, kale, peas, broccoli, brussels sprouts, broad beans, sugarsnap peas), yellow-orange (carrot, corn), whites (onion, cauliflower).

Note: I don’t mean commercial pseudo-vegetables such as chips and wedges, sauced up and mashed up potatoes, patties and the like.

Frozen vegetables are more nutritious than sad wilted produce found at supermarkets or buried at the bottom of home fridges. Aging, bruising and exposure to the elements of heat and air cause vitamin levels to drop in fresh produce.

What else is great about frozen vegetables? They

  • are a super convenient way to add variety and nutrition to your daily diet
  • make it easy to skirt around others food preferences and fussiness
  • make it easy to serve the best portion size for everyone
  • are ready to cook without extra preparation time
  • reduce waste
  • are salt free
  • increase variety across the seasons.

Treat frozen vegetables gently and don’t overcook them, especially the green vegetables.

Overcooking ruins the texture, depletes vitamins and, if cooked in excess water, leaches out additional minerals and vitamins.

With a new black box installed, my fridge is working again now and a peek inside the freezer today reveals peas, beans, spinach and edamame. As much as I love fresh vegetables, I can’t always get good quality produce because the supermarket chains are my source. The nearest fresh fruit and vegetable merchant is nearly two hours highway drive away.

2. Frozen 100% fruit

Freezing protects the amounts of sensitive nutrient present including vitamin C, folate, vitamin A and all minerals found in fruit and vegetable.

Banana*, pineapple, cherries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, mango, pomegranate arils, and pure fruit smoothie blends (with kiwi fruit, beetroot and other interesting combos).

Frozen fruit extends the season for highly perishable produce.

Frozen fruit adds nutrition and flavour but the texture of frozen fruit is squishier than fresh so be ready for that difference.

Frozen fruit is not just for smoothies and muffins. How to use frozen fruit?

  • add to yoghurt and custard
  • top summer cereals and cook into winter porridge
  • cool down and replenish after sport with frozen fruit pieces
  • add to savoury, salad and sweet recipes.

* Frozen bananas may have 1% or less vitamin C added as this acts as an anti-browning (anti-oxidant) and stabiliser agent.

3. Single serve homemade soups

Bring on winter. Home made soup is so much tastier than salty packet and canned soups.

Make it as impulse convenient as packet dried cup soups by freezing up single serves. How to do it?

  • cook more soup than you need at one meal and freeze the balance as single serves
  • freeze soup in microwave safe mugs with lids if your freezer is massive
  • reduce the salt level by using salt-reduced stock, herbs and spices.

When the cold weather kicks in, leftover pumpkin, potato and leek, lentil and and vegetable soups sit ready in our freezer for lunch and dinner. At reheating, the soups are finished off with yoghurt or tinned down with stock, milk or water if needed.

4. Flat-frozen single serve home-cooked meals

Okay, you could buy dinners for one from the supermarket freezer but these don’t suit everyone’s nutrition needs.

Flat-frozen home-cooked meals are:

  • perfect for demanding family members whose food preferences clash with the planned menu, who arrive home late and expect a meal on the table, or for your meal when their desire for a specific meal/take-way clashes with your health goals
  • an excellent choice for shift workers to take or when you know you will be working late
  • a perfect way to satisfy and serve fussy eaters while you expand the variety for everyone else
  • ideal to take the pressure off cook-on-demand' households where there is no single dining time.
  • ideal for solo diners who don’t want to face a cook-up each night of the week but want to stay healthy.
Don’t know what flat-frozen means?

It is easy to do. Flat freezing single serves makes for a faster defrost.

      • Cook a larger amount than you need with the plan of leftovers.
      • Use small zip lock bags suitable for freezer use. Name and date the label.
      • Spoon single serves of wet saucy dishes (curries, stews, goulash, bolognaise …) into the bags. Zip close securely.
      • Lay them on a flat tray in the freezer to freeze. Do not lay unfrozen bags on the freezer racks. The contents sink through the racks to form frozen channels of food in bags that can’t easily be extracted from the rack.
      • Once frozen, you have compact single meals that stack easily in the freezer and defrost evenly and quickly in the fridge.

Tip: Check the capacity of the small zip-bag before you start. It is surprising how much fits into a small bag. You may know how many scoops or ladles fill your usual bowl or you may prefer to sit the bag in a bowl to judge. You then know how many extra serves you have made and can fill the bags evenly from the leftovers.

5. Single serve vacuum sealed salmon (or other fish) portions

I’ll admit that I am not a huge home-cooked fish fan.

I like eating fish but don’t like the smell when it is cooking or the lingering smell of freshly caught fish in the fridge.

Frozen salmon is a winner for me. It gets parcel wrapped (foil or baking paper) for kitchen cooking or laid on the BBQ’s flat plate outside. Nutritionally, frozen fish contains the same nutrient as its fresh counterpart.

Why frozen salmon?

  • Vacuum sealed fish equals less smell and fishy mess in the fridge
  • Salmon defrosts quite quickly and cooks in a flash
  • Frozen salmon portions make it simple to cater for busy late nights.

It is clear I don’t mean fish that is crumbed or battered.

6. Ice cubes set with herbs, aromatics, or citrus juice

Herbs add flavour and nutrition. New research shows the mere addition of herbs or spices to vegetables increases vegetable acceptance and intake. Why bother when you could use fresh aromatics, herbs and juices? It comes back to nutrition with convenience and less waste.

  • Only need the juice of half a lemon or lime? Freeze the rest with zest in an ice cube tray ready for the next recipe. The vitamin C found in citrus is stable when frozen.
  • Tired of plain water? Frozen mint (or other herb) ice-cubes cool tap water and add a subtle minty flavour to water. Add any combination of rinsed mint leaves, nasturtium flowers, frozen berry and sliver of citrus to water in an ice cube tray. Freeze ready for use.
  • Find your bunch of fresh herbs die before use? Need fresh herb in a recipe? Wash, pull/cut and freeze fresh herbs, Squish firmly into ice cube trays and add water to cover and freeze. Add enough herbed cubes to the recipe, remembering to adjust the stock or moisture content down if critical. Although the herbed ice cubes are no good for salads or garnish, they are great for cooking. None of the other fridge storage tricks I have tried solve the eventual problem of wilted slimy bunches of fresh herbs. Freezing works.

7. Re-pack raw meats into single and family sized serves

Whether is it steaks, chops, chicken cuts, vegetarian burgers, what you buy from the butcher, deli or supermarket might not quite be the best portion for you.

  • Break down meats into single serve packs. You may prefer BBQ pork over beef steaks. Chicken over sausages. With single packs, you can grab the right amount.
  • Repacking keeps you in control of what, when and how much you eat.
  • Re-packed single serves make it easy to stay flexible and meet health goals without too much effort.
  • Pull out the cut that suits each person.
  • Your partner fancies a crumbed schnitzel or sausages and vegetables but you’d rather a different meat cut that boosts your weight loss and health goals? Easily done with single serve packs.
  • Family pack sizes set up portion control before you even start cooking. Start with the right amount to reduce the risk of over-serving and over-eating.

Make space in your freezer for these essentials.

They make great nutrition easy and help keep you meet your health and weight loss goals.