When it comes to the freezer, organization is no different from elsewhere in the house: The key is to maximize space and create an easily accessible home for everything.
For more information on efficiently stocking your freezer, read the original article, A Guide to Freezing Food.
Stocking the Freezer Efficiently
• Consider putting labeled bins in your freezer for veggies, sauces, ready-to-eat meals—whatever you are planning to use most often.
• Pour liquids such as soups and sauces into plastic bags of the same size. Lay them flat to freeze, then neatly stack the frozen bags. Most freezer bags are made of #4 LDPE (low-density polyethylene), which is not known to leach chemicals. However, if you are concerned about putting hot food into plastic, wait until your food cools to room temperature before packing it into bags.
• Freeze food in wide-mouth glass jars made specifically for canning and freezing.
• Lay out pieces of produce to freeze individually on cookie sheets, then transfer them to labeled bags or stackable containers.
• Label frozen dishes that require baking—such as lasagna, enchiladas and casseroles—with the time and temperature so you don’t have to hunt down the recipe when you want to cook it.
• Investing in a chest freezer will enable you to make large purchases of meat, which can be an affordable way to buy responsibly raised meat. Seek out local farmers via your farmers market, local food co-op or at eatwild.com. Many will sell half or whole animals—a lot of meat for a reasonable cost. Buy it for yourself or partner with friends to divvy up the bounty.
• Keep the freezer full to reduce the cost of electricity. You can fill empty spaces with bottles three-fourths full of water.
Eating From the Freezer Efficiently
• Practice freezer rotation: Move the oldest items to the front and top whenever you add more frozen food.
• Post an inventory near the freezer and keep it up-to-date by listing the foods and dates of freezing, checking them off when you remove them. You can also use a smartphone app, such as Evernote, to keep an inventory of the foods in your freezer, refrigerator and pantry, plus an ongoing grocery list. Share the list with everyone in the family, and anyone buying groceries can access it at any time.
Food Safety and Other Freezer Tips
• Cool all foods to room temperature before packing to speed up the rate of freezing and save money.
• Freeze foods at 0 degrees or below.
• When you know you’ll be packing lots of food to freeze, set the temperature at -10 degrees or below about 24 hours in advance to facilitate more rapid freezing. Leave a little space between packages so air can circulate freely. Then, when the food is frozen, store the packages close together and return freezer temperature to 0 degrees.
• Do not overload your freezer with unfrozen food. Add only the amount that will freeze within 24 hours, which is usually 2 to 3 pounds of food per cubic foot of storage space. Overloading the freezer slows down the freezing rate.
Freezer Storage Containers
• Foods for your freezer must have proper packing materials to protect their flavor, color, moisture and nutrients. In general, packing materials must have certain characteristics:
Moisture resistant (including grease)
Durable and leakproof
Will not become brittle or crack at low temperatures
Protect foods from absorption of off flavors or odors
Easy to seal
Easy to label
• Do not freeze fruits and vegetables in containers with a capacity of more than 1⁄2 gallon. Foods in larger containers freeze too slowly to result in a satisfactory product.
• Seal any jars, bags and other containers that you are worried about popping open with freezer tape, which is specially designed to stick at freezing temperatures.
• Remove as much air as possible from your containers before freezing.
• Be sure to leave enough headspace to allow foods to expand in the freezer. When using containers with wide mouths or large openings, allow approximately 1⁄2 inch per pint of food.
Freezer Storage Times
With your freezer set at 0 degrees, your food should last a long time.
• Fruits & vegetables: 6 months to 1 year
• Fish: 2 to 6 months
• Meat: 6 to 9 months
• Processed meat: 2 to 4 months
Much of the information in this article was sourced from the National Center for Home Food Preservation, an amazing resource maintained by the University of Georgia. For much more information and details on freezing all kinds of food, as well as information on pickling, canning, drying, curing, smoking, fermenting and more, visit nchfp.uga.edu.