Making your freezer work for you
How to Optimize Freezer Space
by Leanne Ely
How to Increase the Shelf Life of Frozen Foods
Getting Kids Involved in Freezer Meal Prep
How to Prevent Freezer Burn
If there's an avalanche of food spilling out of the freezer compartment of your refrigerator every time you open it, or if stuff is buried so deep in your chest freezer that you've stopped even trying to search for things, it's time to get your freezer situation under control!
When your freezer is not organized into an efficient, usable space, you're likely to allow the following to happen:
- You'll buy groceries you don't need, forgetting that you have plenty of chicken buried in the freezer.
- You'll be less likely to use your freezer when it's messy because it's an unwelcoming environment. (Never mind the fact that you can't fit anything else in there.)
- You'll be more likely to have spoiled food on your hands because when your freezer isn't organized properly, it doesn't keep things at their optimal temperature and frozen food won't last as long as it should.
Your freezer is an essential tool and, like with any other tool, in order to get the most out of it, you need to use it properly.
The best way to optimize the space in your freezer (whether you have a chest freezer, upright freezer, or over-under fridge/freezer) is to freeze things flat.
When you freeze pasta sauce, soup, ground meat, hamburger patties, fish fillets, sliced chicken or prepared-in-advance future dinners, freeze them flat in heavy-duty zipper bags. This way, you can stack those frozen items nice and neatly. Make it a habit to use a marker to jot down the name of the item and the date it's been frozen on the front of each bag.
Not only will more things fit in your freezer when flat, but they will also thaw much more quickly. Picture, for example, a bag stuffed with six chicken breasts all stuck together and a bag with those breasts lying flat in a single row. Which do you think will be easier to thaw?
I do this with soup in single servings, so I don't have to thaw out an entire batch of soup when I know I'll just end up getting sick of it. Using single serving bags, frozen flat in the freezer, I can easily pop out the flavor I'm in the mood for and quickly thaw it in a bowl of cold water, so it's ready to be heated up for lunch or dinner.
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Keep an inventory log near the freezer with a list of items that are in there, crossing items off as you use them. This way, you'll know when you have six servings of chicken soup on hand, when you're out of pork chops, or when you only have one roast left.
When your freezer is under control, you'll also be much better equipped to plan meals using what you have on hand.
Your freezer really can save your dinner! One of my favorite Saving Dinner product lines is our freezer menus.
Leanne Ely is a New York Times best selling author of Body Clutter and the popular Saving Dinner cookbook series. According to Woman's Day Magazine, she is the expert on family cooking.
Leanne's syndicated newspaper column, The Dinner Diva can be found in 250 newspapers nationwide and in Canada. Her vast broadcast experience includes media satellite tours, QVC several times as well as guesting on several national television shows, including HGTV's Simple Solutions, ABC Family's Living the Life, Ivanhoe's Smart Woman, Small Talk for Parents and Talk of the Town. She has guest chef-ed on the cooking show, Carolina Cooks and has taught cooking classes all over the country for Bloomingdale's.
In addition, she is a seasoned radio personality. Leanne's own radio show, Heart of A Woman aired during drive time in two major California markets, Los Angeles and San Diego. Her current show, The Dinner Diva is one of the top Blog Talk Radio shows on the Internet.
On the Internet, she pens the Food for Thought column for the immensely popular, FlyLady.net, with over half a million readers weekly. She has been featured in Woman's Day magazine, the Chicago Tribune, St. Petersburg Times, Orange County Register - to name a few. Additionally, she is a sought after speaker and has spoken all over the country, with keynote addresses to corporate and non-profit entities. SavingDinner.com. Visit Leanne Ely on Google+.
Take the Next Step:
- Get more tips for frugally and safely freezing foods by visiting the Dollar Stretcher Library.
- Take the TDS Pantry Challenge. Clean out that pantry, fridge and freezer and see how much extra cash you can free up this month!
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