Salmon with peas and broad beans in a cream sauce in a pan

10 freezer essentials and recipe ideas

Wondering what to keep in your freezer? We bring you our 15 freezer staples that we couldn’t be without, plus recipe suggestions for each. 

Stashing your freezer with key ingredients will guarantee mealtime solutions when you’re running low on fresh items. Here, we share some of our top buys that are firm favourites with the BBC Good Food team. These staples are affordable, convenient and, in the case of fruit and vegetables, nutritious.

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Our top tip for making the most of your freezer is careful management. Regularly audit the contents and try and keep track of what’s been frozen and opened when. Clearly label food you’ve frozen yourself and keep on top of ice build-up by periodically defrosting the freezer.

A full freezer is more efficient to run than one with lots of empty space as the air will need to circulate less – which is a great excuse to fill yours up with some of our recommended buys.

For more, read our review of the best fridge freezers, plus discover our top tips for freezing food and our best freezable meals.

We’ve also got plenty of storecupboard recipes and storecupboard one-pots which are great for thrifty midweek meals.

What should I keep in my freezer?

Sweetcorn

Recipe idea:
Sweetcorn & smoked haddock chowder

Tinned sweetcorn is a childhood classic and the frozen version is just as cheap, versatile and family-friendly. Our recipe suggestion is a true celebration of frozen food – the chowder also features frozen smoked haddock.

Pastry

Recipe idea:
Spinach & goat’s cheese puff

Ready-made blocks of puff and shortcrust pastry (plus, ingenious croissant dough) are a shortcut that even professional chefs wouldn’t be without. They can be used as pie lids, tart bases, for canapés or picnic favourites. Buying ready-rolled will save you even more time. Our recipe suggestion also uses frozen spinach for added convenience.

Fish fillets

Recipe idea:
Spicy fish stew

Whatever your favourite everyday fish, it’s likely you’ll be able to buy it frozen from a supermarket, whether that’s cod, salmon or haddock. White fish like hake or pollock are often the cheapest option in the frozen aisle, but as when buying fresh fish, always check to see if it’s from a sustainable source. We’ll take this opportunity to give an honorary mention to fish fingers – the ultimate frozen shortcut. No list of frozen staples would be complete without them.

Spinach

Recipe idea:
Spinach ball lasagne

A wonder ingredient that can be used to great effect in curries, pastas, stews and soups. The key is squeezing all the water out once the balls have defrosted. Once you’ve got the knack of it, this will become as regular a freezer staple as frozen peas.

Berries

Recipe idea:
Mini summer puddings

Frozen strawberries, raspberries and cherries are a great way to enjoy the taste of summer fruit all year round. Freezing these water-dense berries does mean they lose their texture, so they’re best used in smoothies, sauces, purées and ice cream.

Peas

Recipe idea:
Pea & mint soup with crispy prosciutto strips

The definitive frozen food. From soups through to Sunday roasts, fried rice through to falafel, this versatile, budget-friendly green veg is a true champion of the kitchen. Most of our pea recipes can be made with frozen ones. They pair well with frozen broad beans – both served together in our salmon with greens and crème fraîche recipe (pictured at the top of the page).

Prawns

Recipe idea:
Thai prawn fried rice

The key to using handy frozen prawns is to carefully defrost them. Food safety aside, they make the perfect shortcut for curries, risotto, pasta sauces and stir-fries. As with other frozen fish and shellfish, check the label to see whether it’s sustainable.

Soya beans

Recipe idea:
Chicken & veg bowls

These bright green beans – also called edamame beans when they’re young – are sweet, crunchy and healthy. Buy them ready-shelled for convenience, then use them to add bursts of vibrant freshness to rice dishes or sushi bowls. One benefit this robust bean has over some other frozen veg is that it maintains its firm texture when frozen and defrosted.

Breaded chicken

Recipe idea:
Cheat’s katsu curry

Along with frozen meatballs, fish fingers, veggie burgers and fishcakes, breaded chicken is a smart buy for busy parents who want a meal that’s ready in no time. Our preferred serving choice is with a Japanese-inspired katsu sauce. Alternatively, serve as a chicken burger or mock schnitzel.

Broccoli

Recipe idea:
Cheat’s cauli ‘n’ broc cheese

Broccoli’s unique texture means it loses crunch when defrosted, so we would recommend using this in a sauce or gratin rather than as a side dish. It’s often frozen along with cauliflower – a great combination that’s transformed into something special in our cheesy serving suggestion.

Honourable mentions

Corn on the cob
A summer staple and a different beast to frozen sweetcorn kernels, this freezer champion is a wise buy during barbecue season for those impromptu barbies on warm nights. Discover our five genius ways to serve corn on the cob.

Soffrito mix
This tricolore trio of onion, carrot and celery is used as the base for umpteen Italian recipes, most notably spaghetti bolognese. It can be bought ready-made in bags, uniformly diced and ready for action.

Chopped shallots or onions
While some people find onion-chopping therapeutic, at the other end of the scale are those who find it a chore. This is where handy bags of diced onions and shallots come in.

Frozen herbs
Keep an eye out for frozen hard herbs like rosemary and thyme – they’re not always readily available, but when they are, they’re a great, long-life alternative to packets of fresh herbs.

Smoothie fruit bags
Filled with a combination of fruit like pineapple, melon, berries and banana, these genius bags of vitamin-packed goodness can be added direct to your smoothie blender.

Frankfurters
Kids love hot dogs. Ensure you’ve always got a quick dinner to hand by freezing a pack of frankfurters. The buns can be frozen too.

What to freeze yourself

The key to storing food in the freezer is to add it when it’s in prime condition – the intention is to keep it at its best rather than freeze it as it’s about to go off. Here’s a checklist of some of our favourite things to freeze.

  • Mince
  • Chicken thighs, drumsticks or breasts
  • Bread
  • Stock
  • Fish fillets
  • Grated cheese
  • Milk

More on freezing food

Top tips for freezing food
The best freezable vegetarian family meals
Freezable recipes
Best fridge freezers to buy

What’s in your freezer? Share your favourite ingredients with us below…

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As many countries urge populations to stay at home, many of us are paying more attention to our diets and how the food we eat can support our health. To help sort out the fact from the fiction, BBC Future is updating some of their most popular nutrition stories from their archive.