A regular column on Treading Lightly Upon The Earth

It comes as a surprise to learn that deep freezing has been used for generations to preserve food and save waste.

In the 19th century and earlier, big country houses had an ice chamber built underground, often hundreds of yards away, which effectively froze meat and other food items for use at times when they would otherwise not be available.

Pity the humble member of below-stairs staff who was dispatched to bring back half a frozen sheep from this dark and chilly fastness.

The chamber used to be lined with huge lumps of ice brought in during the winters that were, undoubtedly, a lot colder and lasted much longer than nowadays.

Electrically cooled freezers have been part of most modern homes for decades, whether a small compartment within a refrigerator, an independent section with its own door and controls beneath the fridge, or a stand-alone chest- or cupboard-style appliance.

Providing a means of storing standbys like the odd packet of frozen peas, and a spare loaf of bread, the freezer can really come into its own with careful planning.

Instead of throwing away unfinished foods, and disposing of items from the fridge before you go away, freeze them.

It obviously can’t revive something that has passed its sell-by date but as long as everything is in good condition, or not over-ripe, the deep freeze can be a useful aid to the household economy.

When entertaining, prepare double the quantity and freeze half of it in readiness for the next time you have guests.

Use ice trays to freeze useful things like liquidised, sweetened fruit so that you always have fruit sauces to serve with desserts at short notice.

Frozen in shallow containers, or in flattened plastic bags, rice will thaw quickly and be a useful standby.

Shallow freezing also means that foods freeze faster, which helps maintain quality.

Saving fossil fuels is always one of our aims and this is where the deep freeze starts to make serious economic sense, by enabling us to buy larger quantities and cut down on the number of times we have to go to the shops.

If it’s a good year for your home-grown produce, give away what you can, and instead of rotting the excess in your compost heap, freeze the rest, in the form of shallow-frozen soups and sauces, or as cooked or blanched vegetables and fruit.

There are certain rules, like not freezing whole tomatoes, bananas, pieces of potato, or garlic, but these can be easily learned from cookbooks written by experts.

Making your own discoveries about the things from the freezer that your family likes, such as ices made from liquidised and sieved raspberries, with a spot of icing sugar or honey and a little organic milk or water your freezer and its contents will be personal to you and your household.

Precisely how efficient your freezer is at saving waste depends a lot on how good you are at lateral thinking.