While it’s convenient to throw everything in the freezer, it’s only a matter of time before you forget what’s hanging out in there. Here’s how to maximize your freezer space, while minimizing waste.
Keep Tabs on the Temperature
Inconsistent temperature is a sure way to promote freezer burn because foods are often exposed to air while thawing and refreezing. One foolproof way to keep tabs on the temperature is by purchasing a set of appliance thermometers.
Not only are they affordable, but you’ll know your freezer is always at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or below. While you are at it, keep one in the fridge, too, and make sure it stays at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
Invest in a Vacuum Sealer
Vacuum sealers help preserve food and extend its shelf life by years once it’s frozen solid. These contraptions work so well because they keep your food from contact with air. They also help prevent the growth of bacteria and freezer burn.
When you vacuum seal your food, it holds its moisture better, so your meals won’t lack quality or flavor. Vacuum sealing is great for a wide variety of foods, but especially for preserving meat.
Always Label Foods
After removing something from its original packaging, most of us rummage through our kitchen drawers for Press ‘N’ Seal or a freezer bag. We then conveniently toss it in the fridge or freezer. However, many of us often skip a crucial step—labeling the bag.
During our busy, everyday lives, it’s just too easy to forget when you put something in the freezer. So, grab a sharpie and write the following three things on each bag or container:
- The food it contains
- The date you put it in there
- Its quality expiration date (for best flavor and texture)
While all frozen foods remain safe indefinitely, their quality decreases over time. Here’s a list of foods, and their quality shelf lives, according to USDA:
- Hot dogs and deli meat: One to two months
- Ground beef, poultry, and pork: Three to four months
- Beef, veal, and steak: Six to 12 months
- Pork chops: Four to six months
- Roasts: Four to 12 months
- Poultry: Nine to 12 months
- Lean fish (haddock, halibut): Six to eight months
- Fatty fish (salmon, tuna): Two to three months
- Soups and stews: Two to three months
You won’t get a bacterial infection eating a steak that’s been properly deep frozen for a decade, but you’re not going to enjoy it much.
With labeling, you can make sure what you eat will still have good texture and flavor.
Know What You Can Freeze
You might be surprised to learn how many foods do well in the freezer. Everything from nuts, flour, butter, and coffee—you name it, and the icebox will hold it.
Here’s a list of some of the foods you can freeze:
- Leftover sauce
- Cooked pasta
- Cooked bacon
- Overripe bananas
When in doubt, experiment! And, of course, you can always search online to see if anyone advises against freezing whatever it is you want to freeze.
It’s actually pretty rare to find something you can’t freeze and save for later.
Know What You Shouldn’t Freeze
It’s also important to know which foods do not freeze well, but even those have exceptions. For example, most fried foods, once frozen, will lose their original crisp when rewarmed. But, if reheated correctly, they should be close to perfect.
Fruits and veggies (with high water content) will become mushy or soft when thawed. However, if you plan to use them for sauces, smoothies, or casseroles, this won’t matter.
Foods that contain cream, mayonnaise, or even eggs, might separate when frozen. But if it’s something like a creamy soup, you can bring it back to life once it’s thawed and well-blended.
Blanch and Freeze Veggies
Blanching veggies simply means to boil prepared and chopped vegetables for a few minutes. You then shock them by transferring them to an ice-cold bowl of water.
This method stops the cooking process so your veggies are only partially cooked. It’s a sure way to keep that vibrant color and desired crunch you love.
Check out this list of veggies that freeze well and instructions on how to blanch them.
Close Bags and Keep Lids Tight
Remember, every time you open a bag or container and expose frozen food to air, it causes freezer burn. Always use airtight containers or freezer bags to remove as much air as possible.
Use clips to keep original packaging bags shut and sealed and make sure lids are on tightly. For optimal storage space, always freeze bags flat.
By following these fail-safe methods, you’ll save money, waste less food, and lock in quality and freshness.