Does your kitchen freezer resemble an archaeological dig in an iceberg? Do you ever see what you think is what you’re looking for in the very back? As you reach for it, half of everything else falls out onto your kitchen floor? UFOs (Unidentified Frozen Objects) end up everywhere. Your reaction may be something like, “*#@&!”
This may be a sign that it’s time to organize your freezer. “Are you kidding me? Who has time for that?,”’ you may ask. You might even roll your eyes.
Here are a few tips that may help:
- Clean it out and when in doubt, throw it out.
Start with the hardest part first – trust me, it gets much easier after you’ve completed this step. Go through all the contents of your freezer and throw out what is freezer-burned or otherwise unusable. If you really have no idea if it’s animal, mineral, or vegetable, or how long it’s been in your freezer, it’s time to toss.
- Label! Label! Label!
If you’ll take a quick moment to label and date the food before you put it in the freezer, you’ll save your sanity later by avoiding guess work. (A friend told me she pulled the plastic tub of fundraiser cookie dough out of the freezer as a treat for her kids. What a surprise to be treated instead to vegetable stew.) Label using wax crayons, pencil, or marker pens on stickers or tape that can stay put in freezing temperatures. And yes, if you are so inclined, there are apps for labeling. By the way, the sniff test is usually useless, since most frozen foods won’t have much of an aroma.
- Freeze in useable portions.
Congratulations! You saved money buying the chicken in that family-sized pack. Keep food safe and manageable by individually wrapping pieces, then freezing in a large, labeled, plastic zip-type bag. Then you only take out the amount you want. You may lose more money than the original savings if you have to thaw out and possibly throw out a gigantic clump of chicken because you only wanted enough for two. Smaller packages also freeze and thaw faster, which saves you time.
- Know what freezes well.
Pancakes, berries, broths, meats, nuts, chilies and stews, flour, shrimp, and fish are good choices for freezing. These foods are structurally sound enough to survive the freezer. On the other hand, you’ll want to avoid freezing high-moisture fruits and vegetables like lettuce and watermelon, yogurt, and fried foods. Their textures and appearance tend to turn to, well, yuck.
- Choose the best containers.
We need air to breath, not to circulate around our frozen foods. Air circulating around frozen food can lead to freezer burn – which often makes the food dry and tough. Find containers close to the size of the food you want to freeze. Also, freezing food flat in plastic zipper bags makes them easy to stack.
Remembering to use these tips should help de-stress your life … at least a little. So the next time you’re asked, “What’s for dinner?,” your reply won’t have to be, “We’re having the UFO that fell on my foot.”
For more information on freezing foods, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office at http://directory.ifas.ufl.edu/Dir/searchdir?pageID=3&pl=05 and check out these UF/IFAS publications on freezing fruits, http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/FY/FY72000.pdf, and freezing vegetables, http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/FY/FY71900.pdf