Making the most of your freezer
Using a Freezer Effectively
by Dollar Stretcher Contributors
Making Fresh Freezer Meals
Avoiding Freezer Burn
Freezing Food Staples
Using a Freezer Effectively
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?
Buy Meat in Bulk
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)
Fill Up Excess Space
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)
Keep a Freezer Inventory
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 Saver®, too. This helps keep food fresher a lot longer.
Vacuum Seal Foods for Freshness
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
8 Ways of Using a Freezer Effectively
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:
- I never order a pizza to be delivered. I buy them on sale at the store, keep them in my freezer, and can cook one in the 30 minutes that a delivery would take. I believe that one pizza delivery avoided per month pays for my freezer. You can also make your own pizzas and freeze them the same way and save more.
- I also use my slow cooker extensively. I take frozen meat, without defrosting, and just cook all day. This saves meal preparation time in the evening since the meat is done and it commits me to a meal I'm already cooking. If nothing has been started, it's just too easy to eat out. I even use the slow cooker on the weekends to avoid the temptation to eat out. Don't think a slow cooker is only for soups and stews. I use it to cook only the meat part of the meal most of the time and add easy side dishes at mealtime.
- The slow cooker will sometimes save meat with freezer burn. I just cover with liquid and cook all day. No one can tell the difference.
- I put my plastic wrapped meats into plastic bins inside the freezer. I have a bin for poultry, one for fish, and one for pork and beef. These odd-shaped packages are awkward in an upright freezer and tend to fall out. The bins control them and help me keep track of what I have.
- I store certain things that do not need freezing but stay fresher in my freezer. I keep all my nuts for cooking in the freezer. Nuts contain oils, which go rancid over time at room temperature. They are essentially immortal in the freezer. I store peppercorns in the freezer for the same reason. They also contain oils, which can get rancid at room temperature. I can bulk buy these items without fear of having to discard them if we consume them too slowly.
- I freeze leftover wine in an ice cube tray to use later in cooking. Each cube in my tray is 1/8 cup. You can also freeze leftover broth this way.
- I don't use the freezer to keep leftovers after a meal. I eat them for lunch. I lose track of what I have frozen, forget to defrost, and ultimately end up with a freezer full of leftovers and no room for regular food.
- When I buy flour, I freeze it for a few weeks and then put it into my pantry. Sometimes flour contains the eggs of flour weevils and flour moths. These eggs explode when frozen and will never hatch. The eggs are not detectable in food, but the weevils or moths certainly are.
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Karen from Missouri
Keep Inventory with Price Book
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.
Enough for Six Weeks
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.
Avoid Freezer Burn
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.
Take the Next Step:
- For more on using a freezer effectively, please visit The Dollar Stretcher Library.
- No time for meal planning? Subscribe to Saving Dinner Premium Menu Mailer, your weekly road map to making daily family dinners a reality.
- Continue to look for new ways to trim food costs. Visit our food & groceries section each week to get tips for keeping more of your hard-earned dollars in your pocket.
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