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If your freezer doubles as a bunker for all of your leftovers, store bargains, and food memories, it’s time to overhaul the contents. Try our easy steps to re-do your freezer to limit food waste and boost convenience.
Keep it clean and cold
Clean your freezer with mild soap and water; avoid chemical/bleach containing products.
Maintain the temperature at 0 degrees Fahrenheit; keep a thermometer in the freezer.
Wrap it right
Double wrapping saves money in the long run. Use resealable bags, plastic wrap or foil to provide a second layer of protection for your foods.
When using resealable bags, squeeze out all of the air to preserve moisture and keep foods fresher.
Supermarket wrapped meats, poultry and other perishables (plastic tray covered in plastic wrap) hold up in your freezer for about a week or so. Beyond that, double wrap to avoid losing moisture (drying out) and freezer burn.
Aluminum foil provides superior protection, but use labeling tape and a marker to identify the food; memory fades quickly for the contents.
Keep it fresh
Foods are safe to eat indefinitely when stored in the freezer, but after an average of 3-4 months, taste, flavor and texture are compromised.
Coffee, nuts, and chocolate freeze well when double wrapped for up to a year.
Put your ice cubes in a resealable bag to avoid absorbing freezer odors.
Baked goods freeze especially well for 6 months or more when double wrapped in foil, the ultimate protector for bread, rolls, unfrosted cakes, and cookies.
When freezing leftovers, allow the container to cool in the refrigerator before freezing to maintain the freezer temperature. Avoid directly freezing large amounts of hot foods even when stored properly.
Rotate the contents
Make a habit of rotating the foods in the back of the freezer to the front when restocking the contents.
Store non-edibles like teething rings and batteries in the door, where the temperature varies due to opening and closing of the freezer.
When to throw it out
Checking the freezer every month or two for the condition of food prevents those “science experiments” in your freezer.
While freezer burn and ice crystals don’t affect food safety, taste, texture, and flavor can be compromised. Cooking as part of a soup, stew, or casserole and reseasoning can help limit food waste.
If you have no recollection when you purchased or froze the item, toss it.
Foods that don't freeze well
Mayonnaise-containing dishes: they separate when thawed.
Fried Foods: the crust often falls off when thawed.
Cheese, Milk and Yogurt: a lumpy, crumbly texture when thawed.
Raw fruits and vegetables: the high water content makes them soggy upon thawing
Never freeze this food
Raw eggs — they can explode in the freezer
Madelyn Fernstrom is NBC News Health and Nutrition Editor. Follow her @drfernstrom.