This article, entitled Ten Tips for Turning your Freezer into a Cash Machine comes from SavingsAngel.com.
If you shop like I do – which means you only buy groceries at 60-70% off and stock up at that price, you can cut your grocery bill in half. However, buying and getting the food home is the first half of the equation. The food also needs to be kept and consumed without going to waste. Spoilage can turn your hard-earned work into dollars down the drain. With an active, rotating pantry, and an effective system for managing your freezer, you’ll almost never have this problem – particularly if you find ways to donate what you won’t use.
Last week, I explained why a freezer is an excellent investment. This week, in continued celebration of National Frozen Food Month, I’d like to present my top ten tips for getting the most value out of your freezer.
#1. You can freeze almost anything! You name it… you can freeze it. This includes such surprising freezer-safe foods such as milk, cheese, and eggs (after removed from their shells). The only exceptions to this rule are foods in cans. This, however, can be side-stepped by simply emptying the contents into a freezer-safe container. A few other foods that will not freeze well are mayonnaise, cream sauce and lettuce. These exceptions, like others, may take on a different texture after frozen and thawed. Thawed milk, for example, will separate a bit – which is suitable for most cooking – but might not be a good choice for drinking by itself – or with a couple cookies. Thawed eggs can be hard-cooked – but because the yolk becomes too thick after freezing and thawing, it’s not really a good use.
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Before leaving for your next vacation, instead of throwing away everything, transplant your refrigerator contents to the freezer instead of the trash can.
#2. Frozen foods can be kept safe almost forever. According to the USDA, as long as your food is kept at 0 degrees, it’s safe to eat.
#3. Should you raise the temperature in my freezer to save money? No. To keep your food safe, your freezer must be kept at 0 degrees. Warmer temperatures will not save you money if your food spoils.
#4. Although they’ll remain safe, it you want the best quality, frozen foods should be used within the following time frames:
• 2 months: Bacon, sausage, ham, hotdogs lunchmeats, breads, cooked pastas
• 3 months: Casseroles, gravy, cooked meat or poultry, fish
• 4 months: Frozen Dinners & Entrees, uncooked ground meat, cooked poultry
• 6 months: fruits, vegetables, soups
• 9 months: Uncooked poultry (parts), butter
• 12 months: Egg whites or egg substitutes; uncooked: roasts, steaks, chops, whole poultry, or wild game
#5. Don’t get burned. Freezer “burn” is actually dehydration – which can occur at any temperature. Freezer burned meats, for example, may appear leathery and grayish brown. How does it happen?
• Your food has been kept too long. (See #4)
• Your food was not packaged properly to keep in moisture. Small, air-tight packages are best to preserve hydration.
• You may have lost temporarily lost power and your food warmed beyond 0 degrees. Water can escape through the packaging under these conditions.
You do not need to throw food away because it has freezer burn spots. If you wish, simply cut away portions of the product that are dehydrated. The rest should be perfectly suitable for eating.
#6. If you come across food that’s safe – but you aren’t proud of the quality, consider using it as part of a larger dish like soups or stews – rather than as the centerpiece of your meal.
#7. If you are preparing food exclusively for freezer storage, don’t fully cook the food. The quality of well-done food degrades faster. Also, skip the spices. Some spices will become overpowering with time. Some will diminish.
#8. Only moisture and vapor-proof materials should be used when packaging frozen foods. Make sure to re-wrap or over-wrap meats from the grocery store which come shrink wrapped. Shrink wrap, alone, is not a suitable protection from dehydration and will quickly lead to freezer burn. The same goes for ice cream if you want it to last longer. Ensure that the packaging is air tight. You might consider re-wrapping or over-wrapping the contents to keep from having to throw away ice cream as quickly. There are few things more sad than freezer burned ice cream.
#9. Never thaw foods at room temperature: on the kitchen counter, outdoors, on the porch. These methods can leave your foods unsafe to eat. According to the USDA, there are three safe ways to thaw food: in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. Thawing in the refrigerator has the added benefit of reducing the workload to keep the rest of your foods cold – potentially giving you just a bit of money saving. If you thaw in cold water, ensure that the food is kept in a leak-proof plastic bag to avoid bacteria contamination. After thawing, immediately start cooking the product.
#10. Baking soda can be used for a great many things – but don’t waste your money on it to eliminate freezer (or refrigerator) odors. From a chemistry standpoint, a box sitting amongst your foodstuffs does very little to control odor. A scientist with the Department of Energy explains ( http://SA2.me/bakingsodamyth ) that a far better solution to eliminating odors would be activated charcoal – although this would be expensive. The best odor prevention is properly wrapping your food and regularly cleaning your freezer and refrigerator.
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