Your freezer can be the workhorse in your kitchen – saving you time and money! Check out these 5 tips to make your freezer work for you.
I love our freezers. In fact, we have three of them! Yep, you read that right… We have a French door refrigerator with a large freezer on the bottom, a chest deep-freeze in the basement, and an upright deep-freeze in the basement. I freeze everything.
We don’t buy much meat at the grocery store because we butcher our own pig once a year, and get a quarter of a beef from a local butcher when we need one. We stock the upright freezer with tons of produce from our garden (when we’re not canning, that is). And when I get on a freezer-cooking kick, we still have plenty of space!
Your freezer is a great tool in your kitchen. It can really help you cut down on grocery store expenses. (Like our friend Sara did when they got $180 worth of meat for only $28!) There are a few things you need to keep in mind to use it as effectively as possible.
1. Make sure your freezer is the right temperature. As long as food is frozen at 0 degrees Fahrenheit (or below), it will be safe and it will keep for a long time.
2. Label everything. It’s easy to forget what’s in the back of the freezer, and how long it’s been there. Use a Sharpie and mark the package – either directly on the label on the bag or use a freezer-safe label if there is nowhere to write on your package.
3. Keep track of what’s in the freezer. Use a freezer inventory so you know if you need to stock up on chicken breasts when they are on sale this week, or if you have plenty still frozen. Try this free printable from our friend Taylor at Home Storage Solutions 101.
4. Rotate your freezer stash. When you’re freezing something new, put it towards the back of the freezer and move the older food to the front. We buy bacon in bulk and freeze it in one-pound packages. It gets labeled with the date I purchased it, and the new stuff always goes to the bottom of the pile. (Not that bacon lasts around this house very long!) The quality of the food does tend to decrease over time, mainly due to drying out. This is why labeling with the name and the date are so important! Follow these guidelines for how long to store foods in the freezer.
5. Freeze when it’s fresh. Remember those “freeze by” dates we talked about before? Watch those dates! These dates are an indication of when food will be at its best quality. As long as it goes into the freezer when it’s still fresh (and is stored appropriately), it will still be fresh when it comes out. This goes for things without a freeze by date, too. Don’t hang onto that fresh produce until it’s almost rotten before you freeze it, and don’t let leftovers sit around for 4 days before you decide to freeze them. If you aren’t sure if you’ll use it up, freeze it! You can always thaw it and eat it soon.
A Note on Freezer Storage
When you are packaging food for the freezer, you need to remember that air is the enemy. Air inside your packaging can introduce weird smells and tastes. It will also dry the food out, causing freezer burn. Freezer burned food is still safe to eat, but the quality of the food isn’t as good. Use a vacuum sealer, Ziploc freezer bags, or just wrap everything tightly in plastic wrap with an outer wrap of freezer paper or aluminum foil.
For more tips on freezing, check out these resources: