Essential Food Storage Tips For A Freezer: The freezer is a very effective appliance when it comes to food storage and preservation.
However, there are common mistakes that we make that prevent us from getting the most out of food storage via freezers.
All food has an estimated shelf life. Freezing foods, however, helps to extend this shelf life.
As the cost of purchasing food items increases each day, it is only reasonable to want to extend the shelf life of food products and immensely reduce food waste.
One of the ways to achieve this is by making the most out of the essential features and capabilities of one of the most widely known, but commonly underutilized kitchen appliances – the freezer.
This implies that it is not just enough to own (and use) a freezer but to use it maximally.
The following tips would prove useful in helping you make the most of your freezer and consequently minimize food waste.
1. Use freezer bags
These help to save space in the freezer and are most suitable for storing soups, stews, meat, fruits, and vegetables.
Freezer bags are preferable when compared to containers because it is a lot easier to get all the air out of these bags.
When frozen products are exposed to air, it can cause them to develop rancid oxidative flavors, consequently producing a counter effect to the goal of food preservation.
Removing the air helps to reduce the amount of air that comes in contact with the food items. Freezer bags have proven to be very effective in achieving this.
Before using freezer bags, however, it is important to ensure you freeze the individual items on a tray first. This helps to avoid crushing, especially with soft fragile food items.
2. Label Food
Use a permanent pen to label all the items in the freezer. This helps to keep your freezer organized.
The last thing you’d want to do is to spend time and lose energy rummaging through your freezer trying to find what you need with increasingly numb fingers.
More so, while you are rummaging through your freezer, the freezer door is left open. This allows warm air to enter the freezer, which takes a huge toll on energy efficiency.
To avoid these, it helps to label every food item in the freezer using a permanent pen and masking tape. Write down what exactly the food item is, the date, the portion size, and whether it is raw or cooked.
3. Keep your Freezer Full
Unlike the refrigerator, the freezer works more efficiently when they are kept full. Each time you open the freezer door, you are allowing cold air to escape and warm air to enter.
This is not particularly beneficial in energy efficiency. This is because when you shut the freezer door back, it spends the majority of the energy to re-cool the air inside and bring the temperature back down.
However, if the freezer is full and contains many items, there would be less room for warmer air to take up.
For any warm air that sneaks into the freezer whenever the door is open, the items that are in there would help to cool down the temperature. This way, lesser energy is spent.
While it is important to keep your freezer full, you should also be careful to not overload it.
Overloading, especially with unfrozen food items, can result in a long, slow freeze process, which consequently deteriorates the quality of the food and eventually shatters the goal of food waste reduction.
4. Ideal temperature for freezing
Many people may not be aware of this, but there is an ideal temperature threshold for frozen food storage.
Water makes up over 90 percent of the weight of most fruits and vegetables. When you freeze fruits and vegetables, you are freezing the water in the plant cells.
And when water freezes, the molecules rearrange themselves to form ice crystals. This is why textural changes due to freezing are important.
Freezing foods affects the texture, flavor, vitamin content, and color of foods. It is therefore important that you pay attention to the temperature of the food.
Foods that are frozen at or below 0 or a little lower are almost always safe to eat. This is because, at this temperature, the essential properties of the food are very well preserved.
A freezer thermometer can help you determine the actual temperature of your freezer.
Food products that are stored at temperatures higher than 0 can shorten their shelf life.
It is also particularly helpful if you freeze the food products as quickly as possible when they are at their peak freshness.
For fruits and vegetables, this helps to prevent them from turning mushy.
Food labels would help in cases where you may be worried about deteriorating the quality of the food due to an extended period of freezing.
This way, you will have a record of when you started freezing the food and when to take it out.
5. Defrost your freezer regularly
Ice crystals always build up due to fluctuations in the temperature inside the freezer, which occurs either when the freezer door is opened or when a power outage occurs that causes the freezer to go off.
The warm air that seeps in when this occurs condenses and freezes, typically on the sides and shelves of the freezer in the form of frost.
If this frost is left unattended, it would continue to accumulate and not just take up valuable space in your freezer but also grossly reduce the freezer efficiency.
As freezers are an important appliance in ensuring food storage and reducing food wastage, you would want to ensure your freezer functions optimally.
To effectively defrost your freezer, transfer the freezer contents to an icebox, unplug the freezer and line the freezer walls and floor with a warm old towel.
Shut the door and leave for about 10 minutes, to allow the steam from the hot towel to loosen the ice. Do this a couple of till the frost is loose enough to scrap with a spatula.
After defrosting, plug back the freezer, allow it to return to its normal temperature, then restock.
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Minimize food wastage by making the most of the features of your freezer. With the tips shared above, you should find that your freezer functions even more efficiently and saves you more money and energy.