How can you make your freezer run more efficiently? How can you ensure that your food doesn't get old and useless? Do you know what's in there?
Full freezers work more efficiently than partially empty freezers, so keep yours relatively full. The more frozen items there are in a freezer, the better they hold the cold (which is, incidentally, very helpful in the event of a power outage).
When you add new items to a freezer that already contains a good quantity of frozen items, it isn't as taxing on the machine to freeze the new stuff. Don't add too much food at a time. Never add warm or hot food to your freezer (or fridge); make sure the food is at room temperature!
If you purchase food in bulk, repackage it in meal-sized portions. This will enable the food to freeze more quickly and also thaw more quickly when you need it. If you purchase meal-sized portions of food packaged in cardboard (e.g. pans of lasagna), leave them that way unless you need the extra space that the cardboard boxes take up. This will also tell you what's in each container and how it is supposed to be prepared. (If you must remove cardboard packaging, be sure to label the packages with freezer or masking tape or felt tip pen.)
Even if your freezer is too large for your needs, you can still keep it running efficiently. Just fill several juice jugs with water and line the bottom of your freezer with them. This will help with the freezer's efficiency, make your frozen foods easier to reach, and even provide you with an emergency supply of water or ice if/when you have the need. Look for jugs that are safe to recycle and make sure you leave plenty of air space at the top of each.
Keep a looseleaf notebook listing every item you put into your freezer(s) and the date you put it in there. Use individual pages labelled by type (e.g. "meats," "baked goods," and "fruits/vegetables") and date. Put the different lists on separate pages so that whenever a page is used up you can tear it out of the notebook and start a new page for that type of food. Now you'll be able to simply scan your notebook for meal ideas and shopping list information!
Add the items as soon as you get home from shopping or after you've repackaged bulk food. List the date in the left margin, then the item name (e.g. "chicken breasts") and one tick mark for each package. Use this format for 4 packages of chicken breast put into the freezer on March 9th: "3/9/09 Chicken Breasts -- | | | |". Whenever you remove a package of chicken breast, cross off one of the tick marks. When you get down to 1 or 2 tickmarks left you'll know it's time to buy more.
Every once in a while make a point of checking your lists to make sure you use up the oldest food, especially if you've been ignoring something. And once every year or so, be sure you use up everything and wash out the freezer.
Sort your freezer contents in stackable baskets. A large freezer should hold at least 3 baskets side-by-side and at least 2 baskets on top of each other. Put meats in the left stack, baked goods in the middle stack, and fruits/vegetables in the right stack. Put the newest packages into the bottom baskets and keep the oldest packages in the topmost basket, so that you are always encouraged to use up the oldest stuff first. Even if you have the bottom of your freezer filled with water jugs you should still be able to fit three baskets on top of them to sort your packages. This method will reduce the amount of time it takes to find an item you are seeking, get the freezer closed more quickly and save electricity, and ensure you use up everything on a timely basis.
With these freezer tips firmly applied, you'll find you are much better organized and able to spend more time thinking about additional ideas you can use to run your household!
Home and School Solutions
March 8, 2009
If you tried these freezer tips, how did they work for you? Would you like to submit an original, healthy recipe or household tip of your own for use on the website? Send me an e-mail or use a contact form to have your say.