Freezing food is one of the best ways to keep it fresh over a longer period of time. But I will be the first to admit that I probably don’t use my freezer as effectively as I could! My freezer is often a chaotic mess of various bags, boxes, and containers. Due to the chaos, I’m sure I don’t know half of what is actually in my freezer at any given moment. But I also know that I’m not alone in any of this! So I’ve decided that today we’ll be talking about proper freezer use, so we can all learn a thing or two about our freezers! :-)
I find that tips tend to “stick” better in my brain if I know why it’s better to do something a certain way, so I’ve formatted this list as a list of frequent “freezer mistakes.” But I want to assure you that I’m as guilty of freezer mistakes as the next person, so don’t feel judged! We’re all in this together, and we’ll all be freezer masters after today, I’m sure! :-) So without any further ado, here are 12 common freezer mistakes you may be making and how to fix them!
12 Ways You’re Using Your Freezer Wrong
1. Your Freezer Is Disorganized
One of the biggest keys to using your freezer effectively is keeping it organized. If you just pile stuff into your freezer with no rhyme or reason, it’s easy to lose track of things. Some things will likely get pushed to the back of the freezer and forgotten about! Instead, keep things visible and accessible by utilizing freezer bins or shelves.
2. It’s Too Warm
When it comes to using your freezer for long-term food storage, the colder, the better. Crank your temperature adjuster to the colder settings to make sure your food is staying as cold as possible. And it’s also a good idea to test the temperature of your freezer using a fridge/freezer thermometer. The ideal temperature for a freezer is 0°F. (We used a thermometer to check the temperature of the freezer at our studio, and discovered it was running way warmer than it should be!)
If you set your freezer to a colder setting and end up with rock-hard ice cream, there are a couple of things you can do to help. You can store it in the door of the freezer (the warmest part of your freezer,) or put the container in a ziplock bag to help keep it softer!
3. Your Food Isn’t Sealed Properly
To prevent your foods from developing “freezer burn,” it’s important to keep air out! Press ziplock bags, aluminum foil, or plastic wrap as close as possible to the food. If you’re using a sturdy container, fill it almost to the top. But be sure to leave enough room for the food to expand a bit as it freezes! And when you’re putting packaged foods back into the freezer, toss the remaining food in a ziplock bag beforehand.
4. You Freeze Stuff Together
Freezing foods that are in separate pieces (like berries, burger patties, cookie dough, etc.) in a bag or container can leave you with a frozen food block. Not super helpful if you want to take out a small amount to use when needed! Instead, freeze these foods on a baking sheet first, then transfer to frozen foods to a ziplock freezer bag. If you freeze things separately first, they won’t stick together. It makes it so much easier to remove a little bit at a time!
5. You Freeze Foods That Are Going Bad
While freezing does preserve food, it can’t restore its freshness. A muffin that was frozen when it was nearly stale will never taste as good as a muffin that was frozen the day it was baked! So try to be realistic about what you’re going to eat in the next few days, and freeze the rest.
6. You Defrost At Room Temperature
If you thaw meat, poultry, and seafood on the countertop, you run the risk of it growing bacteria before it’s all the way defrosted. Instead, plan ahead and put your meat products in the fridge the day before you want to use them. They’ll defrost slowly and safely in your fridge!
7. You Open The Freezer During Power Outages
When the power goes out, make sure to keep it closed! Your freezer is well-insulated and can retain a cold temperature for a few hours, but only if the door is kept shut. Once the power comes back on, check the food. Anything that’s still frozen should be fine, but anything that has defrosted a bit should be eaten promptly, or tossed out. You can’t be too safe!
8. You Block The Vents
Blocking the air flow in or out of your freezer can cause temperature fluctuations, and that’s not good! Make sure to leave a few inches of space around the air vent on all sides to make sure air is flowing freely.
9. Your Freezer Is Too Empty (Or Too Full)
An empty freezer is less efficient than a fuller freezer! When you open the freezer door, having plenty of frozen food in there will prevent the temperature from rising so dramatically. But on the other hand, you shouldn’t necessarily pack your freezer full—that will prevent air from circulating properly. So shoot for a freezer that’s pretty full, but not TOO full. ;-)
10. You Don’t Label Things
Once food is properly frozen, it can get a bit tricker to tell exactly what’s in there. You don’t want to accidentally serve pasta with salsa instead of marinara sauce! Make sure to label everything you put in your freezer. You can write on ziplock bags with a sharpie. Label reusable freezer containers with a marker and a piece of masking tape!
11. You Don’t Date Things
Foods will eventually lose their taste and texture, even when they’re stored in the freezer. To make sure you’re eating your frozen foods when they’re still good, put dates on everything. The most important date to write down is when you put it in the freezer, but it can also be helpful to write a “use by” date on them. Check out this chart of freezer storage times from Foodsafety.gov for more information!
12. You Keep All The Packaging
Packaging for frozen foods can take up a lot of space in your freezer. You can free up quite a bit of space just by taking frozen foods out of their boxes! (Especially with foods like frozen waffles—you don’t need the instructions for toaster waffles!) Take individually wrapped foods out of boxes and store them in flexible ziplock bags instead. Use a freezer bin like the one mentioned above to help keep things tidy!