Making Fresh Freezer Meals
Avoiding Freezer Burn
Freezing Food Staples
Two years ago, my husband and I decided that we needed an upright freezer. We figured that with a family of four, we could buy in bulk and save. I use a price book, and I'm good with sales. It seemed like a good idea, but now I'm beginning to wonder if it really is a money-saver. Lately it's hard to find really good deals on meat, or it seems like all I have is one type of meat like all chicken or all beef. Plus, occasionally a piece of meat isn't packed right and gets freezer burned. Does anyone have advice on how to use a freezer effectively?
To use a freeze effectively, you have to buy your meat directly from either a butcher or a farmer. Buy a quarter or a half of a cow at once and have it processed. For chicken, check with a butcher to see if they order chicken in bulk. I buy it in at least 40 pounds and then wrap it myself.
Elaine (via Facebook)
Plant a garden. The freezer will fill up quickly. When you make dinner, cook double and freeze the extra. Repack the meat deals. There are some still out there. Freeze clean jugs of water to help take up space. If you have a power outage, you will be glad you did. They can also be good for placing into coolers for a picnic.
Janie (via Facebook)
I, too, have an upright freezer. It took a while for me to use it smartly. I rewrap meat that comes from the store, so it doesn't get freezer burn. I also stock up on pecans, walnuts, etc. to use during the holidays. Those items freeze well and save a lot of money. I have a garden and freeze a lot of fruits and veggies for use in the winter. Twice a month, I take an inventory of the freezer and make a meal on things that might be getting older. Buy a Food SaverŪ, too. This helps keep food fresher a lot longer.
When using a freezer effectively, make sure to keep it full for better efficiency. If you don't have enough food to fill it, then fill empty milk jugs with water and place them in the freezer. They can easily be removed when space is needed for food.
In order to prevent freezer burn, I highly suggest purchasing a vacuum packaging machine. Not only are they super easy to use, but also food never gets freezer burn, even after several years as long as they didn't lose their seal. I have had my sealer for about nine years. It's the best investment I've made, and it's paid for itself over and over again. Also, shop around for the bags. You don't have to buy the brand name bags.
Donna in Buffalo, MN
I love my upright freezer and think it saves us money.
For many middle class people, a big budget hole is eating out. Eating at even a cheap restaurant/fast food place costs four to ten times what it costs to eat at home. Therefore, avoiding meals out is my primary focus. The freezer helps me control this in several ways:
Over the years, I have found that I use the foods that I store more effectively by doing a freezer inventory about every three months. I keep it with my price book so that I can refer to it as I am planning upcoming meals or a shopping trip. It works out great when I need to come up with something different for the main meal. I just consult my inventory for ideas. If I have room, I also store my flour in the freezer and stock up around the holidays when the price is lower. I never have to worry about bugs in it that way. When I do my inventory, I note the location by shelf of each item, so when I want to use it, I don't have to guess where the item might be. If pressed for time, I will inventory a couple of shelves at a time and complete the rest later. This works for me, and I rarely have to throw out items past their shelf life.
Shop your six-week sales. You don't have to stockpile a year to use a freezer effectively. Just buying enough to make it six weeks between sales will effectively use the freezer and rotate your stockpile.
The store's packaging is not meant for long-term freezing. The best thing is to re-package the meat. I take the pieces and place them on a cookie sheet (lined with plastic wrap/wax paper or sprayed with cooking spray). Make sure they are not touching when you put them in the freezer. After a day or so, I take them out and place them into a freezer storage bag. That way, they are not stuck/frozen together and the freezer bag will protect them from the cold.
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