Making sure it's still good when it comes out of the freezer

Frugally Freezing Meats

by Gary Foreman


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What's the best way to freeze meat? Trying to reduce my grocery bill, I've been buying more when I see a sale. I freeze the extra in the store packages, but when I defrost the meat, it sometimes doesn't seem to taste right. How do I freeze meat without losing its taste, texture, or quality?
Jere

With food prices rising, you're right to use your freezer to help cut the grocery budget. According to the Daily Livestock Report, Americans will eat approximately 80 pounds of chicken, 60 pounds of beef, and 50 pounds of pork in a year. That's a lot of meat.

And, meat is one of the most expensive items in your cart. US government statistics say that we spend 22% of our grocery budget on meats, poultry, fish, and eggs.

Buying on sale and freezing is a great idea, but as anyone who's pulled out a roast that's freezer burned knows, failure to protect your frozen meats can get expensive. Let's see if we can't help you to freeze meat successfully.

We'll skip the details of why freezer burn occurs. Rather we'll focus on fighting it by proper packaging. The goal is to create an airtight barrier around the meat. You want to prevent air getting into or out of the package.

Most grocery store packaging isn't meant for long-term freezer storage. You want to create at least a double barrier between your meat and outside air. Some people even use old bread bags to create a third or fourth barrier!

Decide how long something will be stored before you wrap it. If something will be frozen for just a few weeks, a simple freezer zipper bag will work. If you're planning on keeping an item frozen for months, you'll need to be more careful in packaging it.

Most people use some combination of plastic wrap, freezer paper, aluminum foil, sealable freezer bags, and vacuum bags. Since foil and freezer paper don't seal as well as some of the new products, they're gradually being used less.

No matter what you use, try to keep the amount of air inside the wrapping to a minimum. Plastic wrap does this automatically. With sealable bags, you'll need to squeeze or suck out the air.

You'll be tempted to save on supplies. You cannot reuse freezer paper. Some people reuse freezer bags, but they're very careful about washing them and only reusing them with the same type of meat each time. Unless you're going to be very careful, it's safer to just use them once.

A better way to save on supplies is to buy on sale and buy generic. A restaurant supply store is a good source for your supplies. They may also have meats at prices that beat your local grocery store or butcher.

Remember to repackage into sizes that are useful for your family. That will minimize wasted leftovers later.

Make sure you label every package. Include everything you need to know about the contents like cut of meat, weight, and date you froze it. And keep an inventory of what's in your freezer on the door.

Organize your freezer. Try to keep the time you spend with the freezer door open while you search for an item to a minimum.

Finally, keep a thermometer in the freezer and check it every few days. Any change in temperature could be an early warning of a freezer failure. And, that would surely be unfrugal!


Gary Foreman

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar Stretcher.com website and newsletters in 1996. He's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money and he's a regular contributor to CreditCards.com. You can follow Gary on Twitter or visit Gary Foreman on Google+. Gary is also available for audio, video or print interviews. For more info see his media page.

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