Freeze to Save Money and Gain Convenience
By Shannon M. Medisky
I love my freezer. Not only does it save me money by enabling me to stock up on stuff when it’s on sale, but it helps me stockpile convenience, too, for those times when I’m running short on, well, time. But there are tips, tricks and strategies for getting the most out of your freezer and its contents. Here’s a list of some of the top tips to help you maximize your frozen assets.
1. Know what not to freeze. Forget about freezing anything with creams, other milk products or mayonnaise as these items can curdle, leading to less than desirable thawed outcomes. Avoid freezing cooked rice, potatoes and—for obvious reasons—salad greens as these items can turn to complete mush.
2. Opt to freeze the right items. “Sturdy” foods such as beans, lentils, peaches, corn and even many berries can be frozen and stored and pretty much come out and taste as good as they would have the day they went in.
3. Portion out and freeze foods in smaller, meal-sized portions. The less times you have to take an item out of the freezer and then re-freeze, the better.
4. Store food in ways that will protect its taste. The bigger the ice crystals that form on or in the food, the more damage and the more loss of texture quality and overall taste. Minimize this damage by allowing hot foods to cool down prior to hitting the freezer and remove as much air as possible from the container in order to decrease the amount of space available for such crystals to form.
5. Label your frozen asset so it gets used, and not forgotten. Ever have something get pushed so far back in the freezer it just never got used before it got so covered in ice it was nearly unrecognizable? Prevent this from happening by labeling all food that goes in with both the contents as well as the date it went in. You’ll not only know what’s inside, but you’ll know which packages to use up first.
6. Pack it properly prior to freezing. Opt for the item wrap for the job. Choose square rather than round containers to maximize freezer space and store delicate items such as frozen berries. Use resealabel freezer bags for liquid items such soups. (Freeze them lying flat initially, and then store them standing up to save space.) Heavy-duty aluminum foil is great for items such as casseroles and bread products.
7. Don’t be afraid to stuff it tight. A full freezer is not only a haven of convenience for you, it’s more efficient too. A full freezer has to work less hard to stay cold.
8. Keep your freezer at the right temperature. Keep yours set at 0 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure foods keep as much of their nutrients, color and flavor as possible.
Don’t forget to pay attention to your “thaw habits” as well. Thaw food in the refrigerator, under cold, running water or in the microwave on defrost to ensure food stays safe. Avoid thawing items on the countertop to reduce your risk of illness.
Photo credit: Mark & Andrea Busse
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