When it comes to green living, letting food spoil or expire isn’t as bad for the planet as forgetting to bring reusable bags to the supermarket or throwing batteries in the trash. Nevertheless, you probably still feel guilty when your carelessness leads to tossing food out that some would, literally, kill to have.
There’s a school of people who are avid believers in composting. I’m not one of those people. I live in a tiny apartment in a large metropolitan area. No way am I going through the trouble of saving garbage and risking a fruit fly infestation for someone else’s garden. I’ve found a more desirable and practical solution to my food waste problem – freezing.
It almost makes too much sense. Besides ignorance and laziness (a lethal combination), I can’t think of any other reasons why I hadn’t chosen this option sooner over letting food mold, rot, and fester in the fridge. There’s not much I can do about the innate desire to not do stuff, but at least, I can educate myself.
Here’s what I learned.
- If you’re not going to eat it right away, freeze meats within two days of purchase.
- You can leave meat and poultry in their store packaging if you plan on consuming them within a month or so. Any longer than that and you should wrap a layer of heavy duty foil over the packaging to help protect it from freezer burn.
- Save money by purchasing meat and poultry in bulk. Separate into recipe size portions and place in freezer bags. Try to press out as much air as possible to reduce the likelihood of freezer burn. Although freezer burned foods aren’t unsafe to eat, they are unappetizing.
- To thaw more quickly and evenly, place ground beef in a freezer safe bag and flatten before freezing.
- Write your food’s “use by” date on the freezer bag or storage container. If you’re unsure whether food is safe to eat, you’re more likely to throw it out. Refer to Storage Times for the Refrigerator and Freezer at FoodSafety.gov. Also, the Food Marketing Institute has a search tool called the Food Keeper that tells you whether a food should be frozen and for how long.
- It may seem like an unnecessary step, but write the name of the meal you’re freezing on its container. You’ll be surprised how hard it is to recognize once it’s frozen. I find soups and stews especially difficult to identify.
- Avoid freezing the following:
- soft cheeses
- cream cheese
- any mayonnaise based product
It’s perfectly okay to eat these foods after they’ve been frozen, but you wouldn’t want to. Firm cheeses, like cheddar, may become crumbly after freezing, so save them for meals where they’ll melt and the texture won’t be an issue.
- Blend yolks with whites before freezing eggs. Afterward, it can be difficult to combine the two together as egg yolks tend to become thick. Remember to note the number of eggs frozen on their container in case you want to use them in recipes.
- Leave about an inch of space at the top of solid food containers to allow for expansion of liquids in the freezer.
- Don’t wait until food is near the end of its shelf life before freezing it. Once thawed, your food will pretty much return to the state it was in prior to freezing.
- Freeze fruits and vegetables when they’re in season. Local farms tend to offer the freshest produce. If you don’t know what’s in season in your area, the Natural Resources Defense Council has an excellent tool that’ll help you find out. Keep in mind that vegetables may require blanching (boiling) to preserve quality and flavor before freezing. Blanching isn’t the most straightforward process, so check out Quality for Keeps: Freezing Vegetables for additional guidance.
I hope this information is as useful to you as it is to me. Not only am I looking forward to reducing the frequency with which I feel like a jerk for wasting food, but I can’t wait to save some money in the process.
Do you have any other tips on freezing food that are missing from my list?
In November 2007, Shawanda Greene had $54 in her savings account and about $25,000 in debt. By the end of December 2008, she was debt free with a 3-month emergency fund of $7,500. During that time period, she adopted a lifestyle of what some would consider extreme frugality. Shawanda now spreads the wealth as blogger-in-chief of You Have More Than You Think – a productivity focused guide to maximizing the money you have to obtain more of what you want.