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How to make the most of your freezer

An organised freezer is easier to use. Here are some tips on how you can organise your freezer space.

Food lasts longer in the freezer, but it doesn’t last forever. Using your freezer efficiently can help you keep track of what’s in there so you can use it before it’s too late.

Optimising your freezer space will also help you save money by reducing food waste.

Instead of filling every available space with food items and never being quite sure what you have kept frozen, use the following tips to get the most out of this invaluable kitchen appliance.

Organise shelves

Organising your freezer shelves or drawers by food type will enable you to find the items you need quickly and easily.

  • Labelling each shelf or drawer – for example, vegetables and meat – will enable occasional kitchen users to find what they want without unpacking the freezer.
  • Labelling freezer bags or reusable plastic food containers is essential, so you know what is in them. The labels should also show the date the food was placed in the freezer.
  • Be sure to put food that needs to be eaten soon where you can easily see it so you remember it.
  • Ensure you always have empty freezer bags and food containers in various sizes.
  • To avoid food items such as cake slices sticking together, separate them with baking parchment or wax wrap before placing them in bags or containers.

Cold chain

Maintaining the correct freezer temperature is essential to ensure food doesn’t spoil. The recommended temperature for freezers is -17 to -18°C. This temperature will ensure that all items remain thoroughly frozen.

Before freezing, chill warm foods in the fridge. If you place warm – or even slightly warm – foods in the freezer, ice crystals can form on the newly-stored food. It can also cause the overall temperature of the stored items to increase to unsafe levels.

During power outages, keep the freezer doors closed as far as possible to prevent temperature increases. Also, keep track of the load shedding schedules and remove items from the freezer before the lights go out.

Containers

Square or rectangular containers are preferable to round containers if you want to maximise the available space in your freezer. This is because they are easier to stack and create less wasted space, allowing you to fit in more items.

  • Shallow containers are best for freezing liquid-based products such as sauces and soups, as they freeze more quickly. Remember not to fill the containers to the top when you’re freezing liquids. Instead, always leave a little room for the liquid to expand.
  • Another option is to use freezer bags that stand up once filled.
  • Freeze leftover cream, wine or other alcohol in your ice cube trays and use them for stocks or sauces. Once the liquid is frozen, transfer the ice cubes from the trays into a container or a freezer bag.
  • Vegetables and fruits with a high-water content – like tomatoes and strawberries – may be better if they are puréed before freezing in bags or plastic containers. It will help save space in your freezer.
  • To reduce single-use plastics, buy reusable freezer bags.

Freezer list

A detailed list of items in your freezer will enable you to see what is on hand at a glance.

You will be less inclined to forget about food items lurking at the back. You will also avoid putting unnecessary frozen foods on your shopping list.

Once you have made the freezer list, it is easy to update. Cross out items as you remove them and add new ones to the list when you place them in the freezer.

Air

A full freezer stays cold better than an empty one. However, with the constant load shedding over the past few months, many people are trying to store fewer items in their freezers to avoid spoilage. To keep your freezer functioning optimally, top up the empty shelves with ice packs. Ice packs will help keep temperatures low during power outages, minimising losses.

Keep in mind that air must be able to circulate freely to maintain the correct freezer temperature. Therefore you must be careful not to pack your freezer so full that there is insufficient air space between items.

Defrosting

To ensure foods like meat, fish, or prepared meals are safe to eat, you should thoroughly defrost them before cooking or reheating.

Place frozen food in the fridge overnight to completely thaw it. Alternatively, use your microwave’s defrost function to thaw food before cooking or reheating. It’s safest to avoid leaving it at room temperature.

Large items like whole chickens or meat roasts can take several days to defrost in the fridge, so take them out of the freezer in time.

Vegetables and fruit can usually be cooked without thawing.

Timing

Keep in mind that even frozen food will deteriorate over time. For instance, meat steaks should be used within three to six months of first freezing, whereas bread and bread rolls are best used within two to three months.

Although the food will probably still be safe to eat, the texture, flavour and colour will deteriorate if you freeze it for longer than you should.

Writer: Sarah-Jane Meyer

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