The Frugal Café | Photo credit: Rebecca Anne, "Flora's Cup"</a> | Creative Commons License, Flickr.com
Photo credit: Rebecca Anne, "Flora's Cup" | Creative Commons License, Flickr.com

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Baby, It's Cold Inside: Freezer Tips for Stockpiling Your Food Bounty

By Vicki McClure Davidson

 

Freezing foods properly saves a tremendous amount of your food budget money by letting you stockpile foods without losing quality or flavor. | Photo credit: Pixel Perfect Digital
Freezing foods properly saves a tremendous amount of your food budget money by letting you stockpile foods without losing quality or flavor. | Photo credit: <a href="http://www.pixelperfectdigital.com/free_stock_photos/" target="_blank">Pixel Perfect Digital

 

When on a budget, your freezer is one of your best friends. Saving leftovers, taking advantage of food sales, or preparing inexpensive meals in advance keep much longer in the freezer. Home gardens in the United States are on the rise. According to a Reuters article in April 2009:

Rising seed sales and one survey point to the rapid growth of food gardening, which Americans spent around $2.5 billion on in 2008 according to the National Gardening Association (NGA). According to a nationwide Harris Interactive survey conducted in January on behalf of the NGA, 43 million U.S. households plan to grow their own fruits, vegetables, berries, and herbs in 2009, a 19 percent gain from 36 million in 2008.

About a third of the respondents who said they planned to pick up the hoe this year cited the recession as one of their motivating factors. The main reasons were for better tasting food and to save money on food bills. Almost half said they wanted to grow food they knew was safe. There have been a number of food scares in the past year or so including a recent salmonella outbreak involving peanuts and peanut butter.

Freezing is the easiest and cheapest way to preserve most foods.

However, in the early stages of frugality, some people go a bit crazy buying too much meat in bulk, making umpteen inexpensive casseroles, chopping vast amounts of onions and bell peppers to use over a period of years, and freezing foods that should never be in the cold regions of a freezer because they turn mushy or grainy when frozen.

Organization is also very important. Keep your thrift-minded, grocery shopping efforts from becoming unmarked "mystery meals" or worse yet, so horribly freezer burned or mushy that they can't be eaten.

Freezer Temperature Is Important

It is important that your freezer be set at 0 degrees F or lower. Storing frozen foods at temperatures higher than 0 degrees F will increase the deterioration rate and will drastically shorten the shelf life of foods. Freezer temperatures should remain constant; fluctuating temperatures will cause the ice particles in the foods to thaw slightly and then refreeze.

Every time this happens, the smaller ice crystals form larger ones. This damages the food's cells, ultimately making the food mushy and discolored. Nothing screams "humungous waste" more than quantities of food purchased to save money on your food budget, only to have to throw it out.

Also, be sure to not overload your freezer with unfrozen food. Putting too much room-temperature food in there slows down the freezing rate, and foods that freeze too slowly may lose quality.

Freezing Tips

Keep your frozen meals, ingredients, and goodies tasty and appealing by following these freezing tips:

 

 

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Source: Ed Stoddard: Yahoo! News, Reuters, "Recession, health concerns get Americans gardening," (http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20090424/ts_nm/us_usa_gardening_1), April 24, 2009.

 

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