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Proper Storage of Frozen Foods: Tips for Food Safety and Cost Savings

written by: bjlbyron • edited by: Tania Cowling • updated: 7/13/2011

Frozen food storage is becoming an increasingly popular practice, and is especially favored by many in this tough economy. This article describes the steps that you can take to ensure that you freeze and store food both safely and in a cost-effective manner.

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    The Practice of Storing Frozen Foods

    Freezing and storing food is a practice that is both practical and convenient. Indeed, frozen food can be as healthy and tasty as fresh food and it certainly is welcomed at times when a quick and easy meal is needed or desired.

    Whether you are a veteran or a rookie who is new to the art of freezing foods for later consumption, you should be aware, that foods can be frozen improperly and that improper freezing can pose certain health risks. The following sections of this article offer tips for safely freezing and storing a variety of specific foods. As an added bonus, advice for maximizing freezing and storing cost-savings is also presented.

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    Tips For Safe Food Freezing And Storage

    One of the first things that one should bear in mind when considering freezing food for storage is that not all foods lend themselves to freezing. For example, foods such as lettuce, celery, spaghetti, sour cream, mayonnaise, gelatin and egg whites, for one reason or another, do not freeze and thaw well. In some instances, the freezing and thawing of these foods changes their flavor for the worst, causes their ingredients to separate or changes their texture, all of which can cause their consumption to lead to nausea or even cramping. It is therefore best to eat foods of this kind only in their fresh state.

    There are, of course, long lists of other foods that are perfectly suitable for freezing and later consumption. These include, for example, most vegetables, including green beans, beets, carrots, cauliflower, asparagus, peas, corn, eggplant, mushrooms, zucchini and tomatoes, just to name a few, and also many fruits, such as oranges, grapes, figs and dates, pears, pineapples and strawberries, among many others. Of course, meats, including poultry, bacon, ham, lobster, fish and shrimp, for example, are fair game for freezing and storing as well. Many other foods are also fit for freezing and storage. For example, soups, stews, chowder and pizza all are suitable for freezing and storage. Indeed, the list of foods that can be frozen and stored is a long one.

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    Food Preparation And Climate Control

    An important consideration for frozen food storage is to make sure that the freezer is set to a temperature that is at or below zero degrees Fahrenheit. The best way to ensure that this is the case it to test the freezer's freezing chamber using two (or more) thermometers as some thermometers do not measure temperature accurately and therefore may yield an incorrect reading. Using multiple thermometers greatly reduces the risk that your freezer's temperature will be inaccurately high.

    Another important consideration is to ensure that the food to be stored is as fresh as possible before it is frozen. This is true because harmful microbes divide quickly in food that has been sitting around for extended periods of time. Food that has even a small amount of microbe growth can spoil after freezing as some microbes flourish just fine in cold temperatures (especially if the freezer in which they are stored is too warm). Further, food that has a moderate or greater amount of microbe growth can spoil quickly during and after the thawing process.

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    Other Tips For Safe Food Freezing And Storage, Including Money-Saving Tips

    In addition to the important considerations mentioned above, other key tips for ensuring frozen food safety include:

    • Do not store frozen foods for too long a period of time. Fruits and vegetables will last about one year in a properly calibrated freezer, but meats will last only about 2-3 months before quality starts to suffer.
    • Wrap the food to be frozen in vacuum packaging as other packaging may be porous and allow any contaminants that are in the freezer to reach the food.
    • If saving money is critical, store frozen food in re-usable containers (not glass as glass can shatter when frozen). While vacuum-sealed bags are popular, they are not re-usable and they are expensive. To save cost, stock up on re-usable containers.
    • Do not overload your freezer. Overloading does not allow for air circulation (lack of air circulation affects food quality) and causes food to freeze too slowly.
    • If your freezer stops working for too long a period of time, such as a few hours, for example, you either must move your food to a new freezer or consider it to be a loss. Food should not be frozen, thawed, and frozen again. Not only will thawing and re-freezing affect the food's taste, but more importantly, it will allow for the growth of harmful microbes.

    I hope you found this article helpful and informative. I wish you well in your safe and cost-efficient practice of frozen food storage.

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    References

    helpwithcooking.com, Guide to home freezing including information on bacteria and enzyme activity: http://www.helpwithcooking.com/food-storage/freezing-food.html

    National Center for Home Food Preservation, University of Georgia, How Do I? ...Freeze: http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/how/freeze.html

    U.S. Department of Agriculture, Safe Food Handling: Freezing and Food Safety: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/Focus_On_Freezing/index.asp