An area even more neglected than the refrigerator is the freezer. We mean well when we throw leftovers and store-bought packages in the freezer to enjoy as a quick supper on a busy night. But have you looked in your freezer lately? Can you even recognize what is in the bags?
Freezing is an easy method of preserving your food for future meals, but it does not make food last indefinitely. It is suggested that you clean out your freezer monthly, if possible. There are recommendations for different types of foods and the best timeframes at Foodsafety.gov. Let’s look at six items in particular that should be cleaned out.
6. Forgotten Freezer Meals
Whether they’re store-bought or prepared by you in your kitchen, plan ahead by labeling and dating your containers. Then move each package around so the oldest date is in the front. Anything that is older than three months should be tossed.
5. Leftovers and Opened Packages
Most of these leftover types of foods, such as an opened bag of hot dogs, deli meat or leftover stew, should not be kept for more than one to two months. So, if you find a old bag and you have no idea how long it’s been there or even what it is…throw it out!
4. Coffee Beans and Ice Cubes
Both of these products will absorb the flavors and odors of the foods next to them, so before long they will not taste too good. This happens when freezer temperatures are not in the correct range or the freezer is too packed. Coffee will get stale and pick up moisture, which will degrade your coffee’s taste and flavor (unless you have a vacuum-sealed package that can last up to a year).
Toss any coffee bags that have already been open for several months. Keeping coffee in a dark cool place may be better than the freezer.
Clean and refill ice cubes every month or two unless you use sealed ice cube trays.
3. Pastries and Salads
Freezing baked goods is a bad idea, especially if they were prepared with custard filling. Same goes for salads with lettuce or mayonnaise. The oils will separate and will not taste good. So, if you have them in the freezer, toss them out. Best to keep these items in the refrigerator and eat them within two to three days rather than freezing.
2. Frozen and Thawed Meats
Fresh meat like steaks or roasts should be vacuum packed; if so, they can last four to 12 months in the freezer. If you have pulled out any meat and started defrosting it, but then decided to not use it and placed it back in the freezer, there could be a chance of bacteria or salmonella. Toss it instead.
1. Frozen Dairy, Ice Cream and Eggs
Generally, milk, cream and yogurt should not be frozen. Freezing changes the consistency, separates the oils and changes the quality. If you do want to freeze it, freeze in small amounts for short periods of time, and use it for a smoothie or blended coffee drink where the changes are less noticeable.
Ice cream is a natural item to keep in the freezer, but over time it can get freezer burn or ice crystals and may lose the creamy taste. It’s fine if you eat it relatively quickly, but if you’ve had it for more than three to six months, it will become gummy and flavorless.
Eggs can be frozen after being baked, and egg whites can be frozen, but it is not recommended to freeze raw eggs.
It is very important to keep your freezer temperature at 0 degrees Fahrenheit. When your freezer temp goes up and down, your frozen products will degrade faster.
You should leave space around each package for better air circulation. Keep the freezer only two-thirds full for good energy efficiency.