To Freeze or Not to Freeze? Food for Thought

I don’t know about you, but at times I purchase food I think I’ll love, only to find it relegated to the back of the fridge, the corner of the pantry or to a long-forgotten shelf in the freezer.  This trend of neglect is not only terrible because it wastes food, but it wastes money as well, as I’ve spent money on food that will meet its end in the trash, when it should be in my stomach.   What’s worse is that I’m not alone – a 2009 study proved that Americans throw out nearly 40% of all domestically produced food – double the amount that was wasted in 1974.How to store food

I won’t shock you with details such as how if we saved even 25% of today’s wasted food we could feed 20 million people a day.  Instead, I’d like to share with you some tips and tricks for how to store food and how to freeze food that is commonly wasted so that more ends up on our plates and less ends up in the local landfill.  I’ll dedicate this post to non-produce items and next week we’ll focus on fruits and vegetables.

How to Store Dairy Products in the Refrigerator:

  • Dairy should be stored in its original packaging whenever possible.
  • Once a package of cheese is opened, the cheese should be stored in wax paper or loose plastic.
  • Once removed from their original packaging, soft dairy products such as cottage cheese or yogurt should be wrapped tightly with plastic wrap.

How to Store Dairy Products in the Freezer:

  • Hard cheeses can be frozen in their original packaging for up to 6 months.
  • Processed cheeses will endure beautifully in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • Butter can be frozen for up to 9 months.
  • Milk can be frozen for up to a month.  Be aware that the carton will expand during the freezing process and may explode if there isn’t sufficient room for expansion.  Milk frozen for longer than 1 month may begin to separate.

How to Store Meat and Fish in the Refrigerator:

  • Raw meat, chicken and fish should be kept in its original packaging until you’re ready to cook it.  Opening the packaging increases the risk of disease-causing bacteria latching onto your food.
  • Meat should be stored on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator so that its juices don’t drip onto other foods.
  • Meat should ideally be stored at below 35 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Raw meat, fish and chicken should be used within 1-2 days of entering the fridge.
  • Cured meats can remain in the refrigerator for up to 60 days.

How to Store Meat and Fish in the Freezer:

  • Items that are wrapped tightly should last a long while in the freezer.  Plan your future menus around these guidelines:
  • Type of Meat Freezer Life
    Beef (including ground beef) 6 months
    Cold Cuts 2 months
    Fish 6 months
    Lamb (including ground lamb) 6 months
    Pork (including ground pork) 4 months
    Poultry (including ground poultry) 4 months
    Sausages 2 months
  • Label all meat products with the date before freezing them so that you’ll be reminded to eat them on time.
  • Prepared meat, poultry and fish can be frozen for up to 3 months.  When possible, freeze meat in liquid to retain its flavor and moisture.
  • Prepared meat should be sealed tightly and all air should be removed from the container when possible to preserve the flavor of the food.

How to Store Grains (outside of the freezer):

  • Storing bread in the refrigerator prevents molding but promotes staling.  If possible, store your bread on the counter or in a bread box and use it within 3-5 days.
  • Muffins, cupcakes, pancakes and waffles can all be stored in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
  • Cooked pasta can last in the fridge for up to 7 days.  It should be stored in a tightly sealed plastic bag or Tupperware.
  • Cooked rice can survive in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.  After this time it will probably begin to get hard.  Rice in sauce may last up to 4 days.
  • Cakes should be stored on the counter in a cake saver or tightly wrapped in their original packaging.  When sealed properly, homemade cakes can last for up to 7 days, and purchased baked goods may last up to 2 weeks.

How to Store Grains in the Freezer:

  • Make sure to cool all grains before freezing them.
  • Breads should be wrapped in plastic and then in aluminum foil before freezing.  Food prepared in this should last up to 2 months in the freezer.
  • Muffins, cupcakes, pancakes and waffles can be frozen for up to 3 months when wrapped tightly in plastic.
  • Cooked pasta and rice should be sealed in an airtight container or plastic bag.  If sealed properly it should last in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • Unfrosted cakes can be wrapped tightly in wax paper and tin foil and frozen for up to 3 months.  Many types of frosting can be frozen separately.
  • Cakes with fruit should not be frozen as they will be soggy when defrosted.

I hope that these guidelines help you to freeze food and store food properly so that you will waste less and enjoy more.  Got any other ways to store food?  Please share by leaving a comment below!

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