Chill Out: Use Your Freezer to Save Money, Make Eating Healthier Easier

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

My grandmother was the “queen of freezers,” and growing up, I couldn’t figure out why anyone would keep two big freezers full of perfectly good food. But since I’ve started eating healthier, I’ve gotten a small freezer myself; I’ve been amazed by how it not only makes eating healthier easier, but also saves some money in the process.

FreezerI tell people that changing my eating habits hasn’t been that hard; the hard thing has been the preparation and planning that goes into eating healthier. Three years ago, if I didn’t have time to pack my lunch, no problem; I’d drive thru Wendy’s instead. Now, however, I have to think ahead, and my freezer has become my best friend! On weekends, I prepare several meals, divide them into individual servings and pop them in the freezer. That way, a healthy meal is only minutes away.

People often complain that eating healthier is more expensive, but using a freezer can really help keep costs down. One way is by purchasing fruits and vegetables when they’re in season, then putting them in the freezer to use later. When your favorite products are on sale, you can also buy extra to put away in the freezer. For instance, every time Publix has my bread on “buy one, get one free” special, I get two loaves, whether I need them or not, because they freeze perfectly.

Frozen food will stay safe pretty much forever because the microorganisms that lead to spoilage and illness go dormant at or below zero degrees. But not all foods will taste good after defrosting. Lettuce will wilt and mayo will appear curdled, for example. Raw meats and poultry freeze better than prepared ones because the moisture that locks in flavor is lost during cooking.

Here’s some helpful information that I’ve had on my freezer for a while, and I thought it would be great to share. The information, from the Department of Agriculture, indicates how long frozen foods will keep their quality.

Food Months
Casseroles 2 to 3
Frozen dinners, entrees 3 to 4
Ham, hot dogs, lunch meat 1 to 2
Meat: uncooked roasts and steaks 4 to 12
Meat: Ground 3 to 4
Meat: Cooked 2 to 3
Poultry: uncooked whole 12
Poultry: uncooked parts 9
Poultry: cooked 4
Soups and stews 2 to 3
Wild game; uncooked 8 to 12

Did your mother or grandmother have a freezer? Do you have one? How do you use it? What are your tips for a freezer newbie?

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