Monday, September 9, 2013

Freezer Food Storage

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I have a family of five hungry mouths, so I have a large freezer in my basement to hold our large stock pile of meats and other frozen foods.  We usually cycle through everything in about a month, but for those items that stick around longer, I've developed some techniques for organization and avoiding freezer burn.

We do the majority of our shopping at Costco, which has excellent per pound prices on meats.  The only headache is that it is all packaged together in large portions that I have to separate myself and freeze into individual servings.  This process is a bit tedious, but totally worth it in the end.

The main meats I buy are steaks, ground beef, ribs, pork tenderloins, chicken legs, thighs and boneless, skinless breasts.  To store these, I also make sure I buy gallon size Zip Lock freezer bags and aluminum foil.  I take each meat, wrap it individually in foil (per serving), then place it in the freezer bag, removing as much air as I could.  Then I use a sharpie marker to write the item and date on the bag.  With the ground beef, I usually separate it into 1 1/2 to 2 lb portions (eyeball estimate) and roll it into a big ball or log before wrapping it in foil.  I don't re-wrap the chicken because it is already in individual servings in an air tight package.  I usually just write the date on the package.  I've kept meat in the freezer for a year without freezer burn using the foil and bag method.  It keeps very well and is very easy to work with.  When I am ready to defrost something, I just take the whole bag and soak it in a large bowl with cold water for a few hours.  The meat will usually thaw completely within about an hour or two.

For leftover sauces, gravies, soups, I use tow methods.  I will either use an old Ricotta cheese container or a Zip Lock freezer bag.  I always write the contents and date on them.  With the Ricotta container, I use a dry erase marker and the bags I use a sharpie marker.  With the freezer bags, I place the empty bag in a large cup or small bowl, folding the ends over the side to hold it open.  I then ladle the contents in till it is about 2/3 full.  I squeeze the air out and seal the bag.  Then I lay the bags flat on a baking sheet and place them in the freezer so they freeze flat like books.  This makes for easy storage.

When I store leftovers in the refrigerator, I also use a dry erase marker to write the date on all of my containers because I can never remember how long something has been in the fridge.  I find it very helpful and it saves me from throwing away good food.

I hope you find this helpful.  :-)