Have you ever removed a tray of meat from the freezer only to find discoloration and ice crystals? If you’ve forgotten about a carton of ice cream in the freezer for any length of time, you may have opened it to find its surface covered in ice. Freezer burn, we tend to call it.
Freezing food is a great way to extend the life of our perishable items, but when you freeze foods, you stand the chance of having your food become freezer burnt.
Freezer burn presents itself as discoloration on the surface of frozen foods such as bread and meat. Ice crystals are another sign of freezer burn, which we can find in frozen produce and ice cream.
To understand freezer burn a bit better, it helps to know more about how the freezing process works. When food is frozen, most of the water content of that food is converted to ice. Some of the water, though, is converted directly to water vapor and is released from the food all together. This process is called sublimation.
This water loss causes food to become dehydrated over time, like ice cubes that eventually shrink when they’re left in the freezer. So, in essence, this process freeze dries parts of foods, resulting in freezer burn.
In air-tight containers (like ice cream), that water vapor forms frost on the insides of the container and/or on the surface of the food. In open containers or containers that aren’t perfectly sealed, the vapor that escapes actually leads to that build up of ice on the inside of non-frost-free freezers.
And what we’re left with is food with strange flavors that’s difficult to chew.
When you have freezer-burnt food on your hands, you should do your best to discard the areas that have been affected. But you know I just hate food waste, so let’s talk about how to prevent freezer burn all together.
Tips to prevent freezer burn
- Remove as much air as you can from packages you freeze food in. The closer your food is to its packaging, the less chance there is of it losing water.
- Don’t leave your food in the freezer longer than you have to. The longer your food is frozen, the greater the chance of it becoming freezer burnt.
- Set your freezer at the lowest setting that you can in order to help avoid sublimation from occurring, as it’s less likely at lower temperatures.
- Always use high quality zipper-style bags to freeze food, and try to wrap foods in a bag that fits just right.
- Don’t place hot food in the freezer. You risk increasing the temperature of your freezer, and some of your frozen foods may even start to thaw.
- Avoid opening the freezer door more than it needs to be opened. This will help keep the freezer temperature from fluctuating, which can lead to freezer burn.
Making meals out of the meat/poultry/fish and produce you buy as soon as you get them home from the grocery store is another way to ensure that your food doesn’t get wasted and forgotten about at the back of the freezer.
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By: Leanne Ely
As far as I’m concerned, basic kitchen skills are every bit as important to teach our children as are basic hygiene skills. We brush our teeth and wash our hands multiple times every day of our lives, and we also have to eat multiple times a day, every day of our lives. So, why is it that we don’t seem to put an emphasis on teaching our children basic kitchen skills at an early age?
My children were up at the counter helping me with age-appropriate tasks right from the time they were in diapers. I never had to worry that they wouldn’t know how to put a meal on the table when they were out on their own!
If you are among the thousands of folks who love our Saving Dinner freezer menus, I hope you’re using your prep as a teaching opportunity.
The way our freezer menus work (in case you’re not familiar) is that you do all of your prep at once so that you can cook your meals fresh from the freezer on those nights when you’re frazzled and tempted to order takeout.
Not only are these freezer menus a real life saver and an essential tool in the kitchen, in my opinion, but they are also an ideal way to get the kids involved in dinner prep. Depending on the age of the child, this could give you a bit of help and we all know that when kids have a hand in the meal, they are much more likely to eat it! If you’re tempted to chase the younger kids out of the kitchen because it creates more work, remind yourself that the teaching opportunity is worth it!
The following are the ways you can involve your children in freezer meal prep:
Have the kids help with the grocery list. Meal planning and grocery shopping are essential skills! Our freezer meals come with shopping lists, so go over them with your child before you head out to the market. Have them help you determine which items you already have on hand. When you’re at the store, show them why you’re choosing those darker avocados over the light green ones. Explain best before dates and why you buy certain items in bulk. Talk about budgeting and why you buy certain items frozen rather than fresh. Grocery shopping is a giant teaching opportunity, so don’t leave the kids home—take them along!
Make your child the sous chef. When you get home and are ready to do the meal assembly prep, while you handle the protein, let the kids set up the produce required for the recipes. Depending on age, this might be simple stuff like passing you two onions or selecting the right spices from the cupboard. If your children are of chopping age, let them do some of that prep while you supervise. If they aren’t old enough to master knife skills, they can stir spice mixes and help place the assembled meal into the plastic bag, sealing it for the freezer.
Have them do the labeling. Hand your child the marker and ask them to label and date the bag for you.
When it’s time to take that meal out of the freezer and cook it, get junior back in the kitchen! Go over the cooking ingredients together and see what you need to get from the store and what you have on hand. Not only does this teach cooking skills, but it also helps with literacy and math skills.
Then, show the kids how you safely thaw the meal (in a bowl of cold water), and let them help you prepare the side dish you’ll be serving alongside the meal. Kids are great at making salads!
If you have multiple children, put someone in charge of setting the table, someone in charge of clearing it, and make sure to enlist help with the dishes—preferably someone who didn’t help with the cooking!
I am so passionate about getting the family around the table together, and having everyone pitch in at dinner table is a fabulous way to let everyone have a stake in the meal you’ll be enjoying.
PS–We just released our first BRAND NEW Freezer Meals of the year! 6 amazing new menus and we have them on sale for over half off this week! Click here to learn more
by Leanne Ely
Here is a question I received that I believed warranted answering for everyone—
Hi- I LOVE “Saving Dinner”! My husband loves the food even more. Here is my question: how feasible is it to freeze any Thanksgiving side-dishes in advance (ie cranberry sauce, casseroles, even stuffing)? Thanks! I am busy with a new baby AND hosting this year!
From, Flybaby Barbara
Great question. You know how I’m all about doing things ahead for the holidays. And I’m all about the freezer, too. Can these two things be compatible and make for an even easier holiday? The answer is…yes and no. Some things just need to be done freshly and some things freeze beautifully, so let’s take these things one by one:
1—The Turkey. Yeah, it freezes, but the quality will not be the same. This is one place where I will say make it fresh the day of. I make it the easy, juiciest most delicious way if I do say so myself. And the best part? You don’t stuff it and you don’t baste it.
2—Cranberry sauce. Go ahead, knock yourself out! Again, I have a great recipe for it and it freezes beautifully. For the record, I’ve bought bags of fresh cranberries and frozen them in the bag I bought them in, used them about six months later and they were great too. Or you could save yourself some trouble and buy the canned variety.
3—Dressing. I can tell you from personal experience that dressing freezes fairly well. It can dry out a bit, but if you’ll thaw it overnight in the fridge, then drizzle a little melted butter and broth over the top, cover it with foil and heat thoroughly through, it will work fine and no one will be the wiser.
4—Gravy. Good gravy, yes! Gravy is a wonderful thing to behold and it freezes fabulously. Here’s a secret for you that I have in the Thanksgiving Menu-Mailer—extend your homemade gravy with some store-bought stuff. Oh yeah, that’s the best cheating secret out there. No one will know (your secret is safe with me!) and you too, will own the Endless Gravy Boat. This is important stuff when you’re worried that your father-in-law is going to hog all the gravy!
5—Pies. You can freeze your pies—or you can buy them frozen, LOL. This is one place where I would either have people bring them or buy frozen myself. Having had a Thanksgiving baby myself (my son was born on a November 21st), I remember doing Thanksgiving and having my mom bring the pies.
6—Mashed potatoes. In my book, they are a non-freezable, item—quality and texture suffer big time. I would make these fresh in the morning and put them in my crockpot on low all day. BUT, and this is the big BUT; TEST YOUR CROCKPOT FIRST with a pot full of taters (you can make cream of potato soup out of them later) to make SURE your crockpot won’t burn them. All crockpots are not created equal and it’s through trial and error that we learn our own crockpotty appliance’s nuances.
7—Veggies. You can freeze sweet potato casseroles and green bean casseroles too. Those are not my particular favorite Thanksgiving veggies, but if they are mainstays at your table, rest assured, they freeze fairly well. May get a little watery on top, but easily blot-able with a paper towel and a little finesse.
8—Rolls and Butter. By all means, freeze the both of them. They freeze well, thaw well and quality does not suffer.
That about covers it. Hope it helps!
PS–Looking for great holiday freezer recipes? For a limited time, we have our Celebrations for the Freezer Bundle on sale! This mouth-watering bundle includes freezer menus for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and more! Click here to get yours now
By: Leanne Ely
During the summer, meals tend to be a lot more relaxed than they are during the school year. That just tends to be the nature of the beast.
With autumn comes routine, as those school days tend to add a lot of activities to the family calendar. Not only do you have to do all of the planning, grocery shopping, chopping, peeling, roasting, boiling, eating, and cleaning related to the evening meal, but you also have to make sure that everyone gets to where they need to go. Not to mention homework.
You’re pulled in hundred directions at once on any given day—wouldn’t it be nice to have a little house elf to take care of dinner?
Now, don’t get all excited. I haven’t found any colonies of house elves. But I do have a secret weapon that helps make meals magically appear on the table. And guess what? You have one, too. It’s called the freezer.
Freezer meals can save you a ton of time in the kitchen on those chaotic school nights. Really. You will not believe how much easier your life can be. All you need is a plan.
Plan around what’s on sale
When you happen upon a fabulous deal on meat, buy a bunch of it. Chicken, pork, beef—whatever’s on sale, buy as much of it as your budget allows. Prep the meat into a variety of meals to pop into the freezer (meatballs, chicken strips, marinated drumsticks, or pork tenderloin). How easy will that be when the time comes to thaw something out for dinner? Exponentially easier than dealing with a frozen stiff chunk of ground chuck, I’ll tell you that much!
Each week, do a meal plan. I find Sundays a good day for this—before the hectic week gets going—, but pick a day that works for you! Identify which nights are going to be too busy to worry about cooking. Make a note on the calendar to pull out one of your freezer meals that morning to thaw. Then, when supper time comes, just cook it! Easy peasy.
Take this one step further by joining our Freezer Meal Club!
Our Freezer Meal Club contains delicious, nutritious menus that allow you to put meals in the freezer to haul out when you need a hand.
They include shopping lists, instructions for assembly, and complete recipes with easy-to-find ingredients and easy-to-follow directions.
You simply bring the Shopping list with you to the grocery store, pick up the ingredients you need to prepare all of the meals, and then take around 2-3 hours (and a glass or bottle of wine) to prepare everything all at once. (Find out more about our Freezer Meal Club here!)
You don’t want anyone to get sick, so there are some safety considerations when freezing/thawing/cooking meals like this. I’ve shared these before, but they’re worth sharing again.
• Always wash your hands before and after handling raw food.
• Thaw your food in the fridge and never at room temperature. To quickly defrost your meal, put it in a water tight bag and place the bag in a bowl of cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes. Changing the water ensures that your meal stays cold, prohibiting any bacterial growth.
• Don’t use the microwave to thaw food. This may be a fast method of defrosting food, but microwave oven power levels vary between different makes and mod-els. This can lead to foods not actually being thawed within safe temperature zones.
• Always use the bottom shelf of your fridge to thaw raw meat, poultry, and fish/seafood. This will prevent juices from dripping down onto other foods. If you can put the item on a plate, even better.
• Always keep raw meat, poultry, and fish away from other foods.
• Use separate cutting boards for raw meat, fish, and poultry.
• Store cooked foods in your fridge below 40 degrees F.
• Foods that are stored in the fridge are safe for up to four days if stored below the recommended temperature. Foods containing seafood can be stored in the fridge up to two days.
• Foods stored in the freezer are best used within two to four months but can be stored longer. Please keep in mind that food quality will suffer greatly the longer the item is kept in the freezer.
• All foods should be heated to an internal temp of 165F.
• Allow cooked foods to cool completely before putting them in the freezer.
• Don’t put glass containers directly from the freezer into the oven.
Don’t forget to look into our freezer menus. You won’t regret it!
By: Leanne Ely
If there’s an avalanche of food spilling out of the freezer compartment of your refrigerator every time you open it, or if stuff is buried so deep in your chest freezer that you’ve stopped even trying to search for things, it’s time to get your freezer situation under control!
When your freezer is not organized into an efficient, usable space, you’re likely to allow the following to happen:
• You’ll buy groceries you don’t need, forgetting that you have plenty of chicken buried in the freezer.
• You’ll be less likely to use your freezer when it’s messy because it’s an unwelcoming environment. (Never mind the fact that you can’t fit anything else in there.)
• You’ll be more likely to have spoiled food on your hands because when your freezer isn’t organized properly, it doesn’t keep things at their optimal temperature and frozen food won’t last as long as it should.
Your freezer is an essential tool and, like with any other tool, in order to get the most out of it, you need to use it properly.
The best way to optimize the space in your freezer—whether you have a chest freezer, upright freezer or over-under fridge/freezer—is to freeze things flat.
When you freeze pasta sauce, soup, ground meat, hamburger patties, fish fillets, sliced chicken or prepared-in-advance future dinners, freeze them flat in heavy-duty zipper bags. This way, you can stack those frozen items nice and neatly. Make it a habit to use a marker to jot down the name of the item and the date it’s been frozen on the front of each bag.
Not only will more things fit in your freezer when flat, but they will also thaw much more quickly. Picture, for example, a bag stuffed with six chicken breasts all stuck together and a bag with those breasts laying flat in a single row. Which do you think will be easier to thaw?
I do this with soup in single servings so that I don’t have to thaw out an entire batch of soup when I know I’ll just end up getting sick of it. Using single serving bags, frozen flat in the freezer, I can easily pop out the flavor I’m in the mood for and quickly thaw it in a bowl of cold water so it’s ready to be heated up for lunch or dinner.
Keep an inventory log near the freezer with a list of items that are in there, crossing items off as you use them. This way, you’ll know when you have six servings of chicken soup on hand, when you’re out of pork chops or when you only have one roast left.
When your freezer is in control, you’ll also be much better equipped to plan meals using what you have on hand.
Your freezer really can save your dinner! One of my favorite Saving Dinner product lines is our freezer menus.
P.S. These freezer bundles are a hot hit! Click here and grab yours right now! Classic or Paleo, you choose!