Safely Freezing Meats
Freezing Meat Safely
Avoiding Freezer Burn
My roommate and I want to start buying meat in bulk. What is the best way to freeze meat? Should we use freezer paper and freezer bags? It seems so expensive.
Double Layer Duty
For years now, I have simply wrapped meat (whether it be ground beef, chicken, pork, steaks, or even salmon) in a layer of plastic wrap and then in a layer of aluminum foil. I write the contents directly on the foil with a permanent marker. I have never had a problem with freezer burn, bad taste, or bad texture.
Amy in Murfreesboro, TN
No Evidence of Freezer Burn
We have butchered our own beef since I was a small child (I am over 50) and freezer paper is the only way to go. In fact, the meat should be first wrapped in plastic wrap and then wrapped in freezer paper. Although it may seems rather expensive, freezer paper is made specifically for this purpose, and will eliminate freezer burn on your meat. We have kept frozen meat this way for several years and have seen no evidence of freezer burn. The waxy side should go next to the meat with the dull side out.
Not a Vacuum Pack Fan
We have been freezing our year's meat and poultry supplies for years. Although we've tried a lot of different methods, our favorite (for both ease of use and good results) is wrapping the meat in plastic wrap and then in foil. These packets are then stored in gallon-size freezer bags. If you'd rather not use foil, freezer wrap works well. However, I've found it much harder to work with.
Many people swear by the vacuum packers, but we have not had good luck with them. In the first place, you have to "pre-freeze" the meats until the juices no longer run. If you skip this step, then the vacuum sealer sucks juices from the package as you are sealing it, thus ruining the seal. Secondly, we found that the bags get miniature holes from rubbing against other bags of frozen stuff in the freezer. We have had many bags fail the first time we used them even though the seals held. Talk about freezer burn then! In addition, these bags are incredibly expensive.
On the Other Side…
I buy in bulk, but only on sale! I recommend investing in an air tight system, like food saver. You can get them as cheap as $100. This system really does keep frozen food from getting freezer burnt or that strange freezer taste. I have keep meats over one year and they still taste fresh.
Difference in Length of Storage
Separate the meat into the sizes you prefer. If there is just the two of you at each meal, then freeze meats with two servings per package. Freezer paper is best for long term storage. If the meats will be used within a few weeks to about three months, then a freezer zipper bag would be sufficient.
Freezer paper cannot be reused. However, you can reuse the freezer bags. Be sure to wash thoroughly, with a small capful of bleach in the wash water, and rinse well. Also reuse the bags for the same types of meat. If you used a bag for chicken, then use it only for chicken. If the bag has a hole in it, do not reuse.
Buy the meats on sale, or with coupons if available. The money you will save on purchasing in bulk will more than make up for the cost on the freezing supplies. Remember to purchase those on sale as well and consider using generic or store brand supplies. Most of them are manufactured by the "brand name" companies, and are simply packed in different packaging.
Ensure Proper and Even Temperature
I used to have an industrial sized deep freeze. My father raised cattle and pigs, so we always had huge amounts of meat to freeze. The owner of a meat locker told me to save plastic bread wrappers and outer wrap all freezer paper with at least two layers of plastic bread bags, with all the air squeezed out and tied tightly. I then labeled the outside with a black permanent marker. If you have beef processed or purchased at a meat locker, it's generally cheaper by the pound and they wrap it in freezer paper for you. Much cheaper per pound than a supermarket or even a club store. The enemy of long time meat storage is air, which causes freezer burn. Most meats can be stored 6 to 9 months with no ill effects. Be sure to keep a thermometer in the freezer and check it every few days to ensure proper and even temperature.
Recycle Those Newspapers!
I wrap the meat in Saran Wrap and then wrap the whole piece in newspaper and tape it closed. You can easily write the contents of the package and the date on the outside with a magic marker or pen. It will freeze beautifully, and there is no need for expensive freezer paper. When thawing, remove the newspaper and let the meat thaw in the plastic wrap.
Kate in Greensburg, PA
Visit a Restaurant Supply Store
Here's the most economical way to freeze meats. Buy a giant roll of plastic wrap at a restaurant supply store, and double wrap each section of meat in that. It's very inexpensive to buy wrap this way, and I haven't had problems with freezer burn, because it is a higher quality wrap than buying the cheap brands of plastic wrap at the store. Just defrost it in a bowl, in case it leaks in your fridge!
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