Valerie ask about the Challenge and stocking the freezer. Had we been vegetarian I am sure I would have lasted lojger than ten weeks on the money allowed because pulses and vegetables cost less than meat. The vegetables would have been bought frozen and canned (even mushrooms can be bought dried), and pulses bought dried to be soaked and cooked in bulk and then frozen (as during the Challenge). There would probably have been be a good supply of TVP. However, it would have meant more shopping for the perishable (salads etc) had I chosen to serve them during that time.
When manually defrosting a chest freezer, once the ice has been removed and the cabinet dried. Smear glycerine around the chest walls, especially at the top where the ice tends to build up the most. This keeps the ice from sticking fast, and when next defrosting it can be lifted off in sheets rather than having to scrape off the crystals.
Good quality meat is ideal to keep in the freezer but try to use it within six months or the flavour deteriorates somewhat (but of course it will keep in the frozen state for months and months if needs be). When I had a chest freezer I would stock it with sausages (frozen individually), various meats (again packed in small amounts to avoid defrosting more than I needed), fresh or frosen fish, boxed of grated cheeses for the multitude of dishes that use it.
There would be bags of fresh breadcrumbs, boxes of home-made scone mix, crumble mix, and pastry mix.
If you can, store boxes of fresh soft fruits (home-grown or from pick-your-own farms) which keep very well and can be used for out of season summer puddings, jams etc. Also bags of chopped rhubarb with sugar. Ice-cube trays full of lemon, lime and orange juice or zest. Plenty of sliced or chunks of apples to make pies. Packs of frozen pastry (short, puff and filo), baked or unbaked fruit pies can be made and frozen. Loaves of bread freeze well but best used within a month. Frozen packs of naan bread, pitta bread and chapatis mean they are always on hand when wishing to make a curry. Homemade samosas likewise (freeze up to the point of frying or baking). Bacon for a short period only (up to 6 weeks). Make up your own meat pies or Cornish pasties using a cooked filling then cover with pastry before freezing to bake later.
Cartons of semi-skimmed milk are always worth freezing in case of unexpected guests. Also packs of butter (unsalted keeps best). Even instant potato, dried milk, flour and shelled nuts keep much longer in the frozen state than on the shelves.
Plenty of frozen vegetables, either shop-bought or home-grown. If you have a glut of tomatoes, freeze as-is and skin them when ready to use. Freeze left-over cooked rice in small amounts to be re-heated (NEVER re-heat rice more than once). Cook enough of suitable dishes (spag.bol, curry, shepherds pie, casseroles etc) at any one time to enable you to freeze one or more servings (in other words make your own ready-meals). Freeze home-made soups.
Don't forget the oven chips and (if you can't be bothered to make) buy frozen packs of Yorkshire puddings. If you like to eat stuffing with your joints, then make up batches and freeze in a slab or make into balls to save time on the day.
Store chicken carcases in the freezer until you have two or three to make stock. Then freeze the stock in small containers.
Don't forget you can also freeze small pots of home-made pate - chicken liver and smoked mackerel being our favourites.
Unfilled sponge cakes (although filled with jam or whipped cream is OK) can be frozen. These are easier to decorate when frozen (coat sides with butter cream and roll in grated chocolate etc) and can be returned to the freezer. For royal or water icing decorate after thawing. Home-made gateaux (eg. Black Forest) can be made and frozen. Slice before thawing for a crumb-free effect.
It is a little known fact that plain (unfilled) sponge cakes and also bread can be thawed and then be re-frozen although I wouldn't advise it.
Even Baked Alaska can be made in advance then frozen ready to brown off in a pre-heated hot oven whilst clearing the main course from the table (this SO impresses the guests). So remember to stock up with tubs of ice-cream and sorbets also. Make ice-lollies for children using fresh fruit juices.
One of the best desserts for freezing is Profiteroles. These can be filled with cream then frozen. Once frozen can be quickly dipped in melted choc then bagged up and returned to the freezer.
Cooked meats can be frozen (especially when home-cooked) ready for those 'cold meat platters' I keep going on about. Ham, beef or chicken ready-made sandwiches freeze well for those packed lunches.
Pulses such as red beans, butterbeans, chickpeas etc. can be soaked and cooked a packet at a time. then frozen in smaller amounts ready to add to salads, chillis, cassroles. Dried peas, especially the no-soak variety can easily be turned into mushy peas (just add a knob of butter and season to taste after cooking) then freeze in tubs.
Herbs can be chopped and frozen in ice-cube trays, egg yolks and whites also in those very useful containers. Not to mention making just plain ice-cubes ready for those cold drinks on hot days. Slices of lemon, line and orange can be frozen to add to drinks.
Candles burn for longer if stored in the freezer. Cling film won't cling to itself (but will to other things) when kept in the freezer. Freeze damp acrylic knitwear that has creased badly and the creases should (can't promise) disappear.
On a final note: one very, very hot day I was catering for a Golden Wedding Party. Working all day in the heat of their kitchen I needed to change from my working gear before appearing before the guests. Planning for this, I had put my clothing in a big bag in the hostesses freezer, so after a thorough wash down, put on my cold, cold clothes and was instantly refreshed ready to meet the others sweltering in the garden.
If your freezer is half-empty, to avoid extra running costs, fill the top gap with a blanket, sleeping bag, duvet or pillow(s) popped into a bag (dustbin liner or something like).
Although the freezer will have running costs, keep it as full as possible (see above tip) and with good use it will save you enough money to cover this, with plenty more left over to stash in the bank.