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Food Freezing Guide

Two of my least favorite things:
throwing out food and grocery shopping.
Don’t you hate when you clean out your pantry and discover expired food that has to get chucked? Or when you come home from the grocery store and have to throw away mushy vegetables to make room for the new produce?
Lately I have been really trying to cut down on food waste in our home by making a concerted effort to use up what is in our fridge, freezer and pantry before going grocery shopping again. This does require a little effort. I could think of about 72,943 other things I’d rather do with my time than clean out the freezer…..
….but the truth of the matter is that knowing what’s in here and USING IT will ultimately save us money. Money that I save when I don’t have throw out meat that’s expired….
{so annoying….this could have been made into tacos tonight!}
….money that I dream we’ll use for a fabulous vacation somewhere!! AND – double bonus – using up what we already have not only means savings, but less trips to the grocery store!!! Woooo hooo!
That alone motivates me to stay on top of what we have and USE IT before it expires.
We buy a lot of our food in bulk at BJs, so I have to plan ahead as far as freezer space. Did you know that the USDA says that food that has been frozen properly will be safe to eat forever??? The only problem:  the quality of the food breaks down over time. So if, like me, you buy in bulk and fully intend on getting your money’s worth, school yourself on how long food items can be frozen and still remain tasty – because neither one of us wants to eat meat that has been in the freezer for two years and now tastes like leather. Mmmmmm, delish.
There are tons of free printable refrigerator and freezer guides online; I printed out and taped inside a kitchen cabinet these from The Dr. Oz Show. Some of the guides vary on how long an item can be frozen and still retain taste; these guides are on the conservative side. I’m not taking any chances with the tastiness of my food, thank you very much. {Go directly to the link below to print out this guide.}

My Freezing Tips:
*My biggest tip for freezing foods:  LABEL!! I buy a package of plain file folder labels and write the date (and contents if the packaging is not see-through.)  
*How you package foods to freeze is very important. Freezer burn will occur when a food is not properly sealed, and will alter the taste. Take care to squeeze out all the air from solid foods before closing. Liquids (like broth or soup) on the other hand, expand when frozen, so leave a little room to allow for this or your packaging will burst. I’ll write another post on how to package different foods for freezing (and I know you’ll be on the edge of your seat until I do!!)
*Freezing raw meat is better than freezing cooked meat because it retains moisture better, but I have frozen grilled chicken and cooked ground beef with success.
*I freeze loaves of sandwich bread for my kids’ lunches. I know some people don’t do this because they find the bread feels stale when thawed. The way to prevent this:  defrost bread on the counter in it’s bag, without opening. It only takes 10 or 15 minutes to fully defrost, and the bread I buy tastes just like a fresh loaf (Wonder Smart Wheat in case you’re wondering!)
*There are only three way to safely thaw frozen meats:
1. in the fridge
2. in the microwave
3. in a cold water bath

Food items that DON’T freeze well:
Salad greens, cabbage, celery, onions, sweet peppers, melon and cucumbers lose their crispness after freezing. {If you plan to use celery, onions or peppers in a soup this isn’t an issue.}

Eggs in the shell. Uncooked – the contents will expand when frozen and crack the shell. Cooked – the contents will be rubbery when thawed. Uncooked egg yolks, however, freeze well for up to a year.

Milk, cream, mayonnaise and sour cream will separate when thawed.

Cheeses, soft or hard, may change consistency after freezing.

Potatoes- raw potatoes will be mushy after freezing, and cooked potatoes will become tough and watery.

Sauces or soups thickened with cornstarch or flour. If you’re planning on freezing a food with one of these ingredients, consider substituting with tapioca or arrowroot, which freeze better.

Canned foods cannot be frozen as the contents can expand and cause the can to explode.

Resources for food storage and safety:
For a very thorough article on freezing foods, check out the Food Freezing Guide by North Dakota State University.
A GREAT resource for the shelf life of all foods:   Still Tasty
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Freezing and Food Safety
U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) Refrigerator and Freezer Storage Chart

This summer, I’m hoping a little organization will help me spend less money and time at the grocery store and more time working on the summer bucket list with my munchkins, and I wish the same for you, too!

{PS My friend Jean at Flower Hill Design is hosting an Outdoor Paint Party today – stop by to check out great ways to spruce up your outdoor living space with paint! My project is in the works, hampered by rain! Thanks for motivating me, Jean!}

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Lisa - A Room with A View

Friday 15th of June 2012

There is a lot of good info here. Thanks for sharing Lisa. I, too, very much dislike (wholeheartedly) throwing out food and grocery shopping. I have stopped buying in bulk because I do not have freezer capacity and did not have time to separate into meal sizes. It just didnt work for me.

Suzy www.savedbysuzy.blogspot.com

Friday 15th of June 2012

More great tips! I hate grocery shopping and throwing away food too. Every cent is precious!

Urban Orchard Interiors

Friday 15th of June 2012

This is such a great guide! Our grocery bill is embarrassingly high but I justify it by saying we never eat out. We have got to join Costco or something and when we do this will go up on my fridge! I can only imagine what it's like to have teenagers...Thanks for this great reference!

Kelly @ View Along the Way

Friday 15th of June 2012

I SO need to get better at this! I also hate myself when I throw out old food. HATE it.

natasha {schue love}

Thursday 14th of June 2012

Wow...such great tips! Thanks for passing along!!