I know I post alot about canning on my blog. Canning, for me, is the most sustainable and most reliable form of food storage and preservation of fresh foods. IF you have access to a reliable source of electricity, plan to use your frozen food within a couple of months, or only plan to freeze enough to get you through the next few days or weeks, then freezing your harvest might be a viable alternative or addition to your food storage plans.
Things to consider when thinking of freezer storage:
- Freezer Temp – Must be (0 °F) or lower.
- Anything above this temp will result in faster decay of the food and poor quality and flavor.
- A dedicated freezer is better than a fridge/freezer combo for long term frozen food storage.
- How long till the food will start to lose it’s flavor and quality? See chart below.
- Different foods have a longer or shorter freezer life.
- Label your food with date of freezing, expiration or best by date, and contents.
- What will you do if the power goes out for an extended period of time?
- Do you have a backup power source?
- Can you go without opening your freezer for a few days?
- A full freezer will stay frozen longer than an almost empty one. As you remove food, you leave space for warm air to thaw what’s left.
- What should you store your freezer food in?
- The longer you plan to store it, the more secure your packaging should be.
- Within a week? Ziploc is fine.
- Longer, you will probably want some type of “foodsaver” to package your harvest or freezer meals.
- Freezing is a great option for foods that cannot be home canned.
- Milk, eggs and cheese are the most common.
My favorite things to freeze are make ahead meals. My mother used to spend one weekend day cooking enough meals for the next week or two. Then we would freeze them, and thaw the night before for next day’s dinner. This greatly simplified our evenings. This is a habit I need to get back into.
Power Outage in Freezer
If there is a power outage, the freezer fails, or if the freezer door has been left ajar by mistake, the food may still be safe to use if ice crystals remain. If the freezer has failed and a repairman is on the way, or it appears the power will be on soon, don’t open the freezer door. If the freezer door was left ajar and the freezer continued to keep the food cold, the food should stay safe.
A freezer full of food will usually keep about 2 days if the door is kept shut; a half-full freezer will last about a day. The freezing compartment in a refrigerator may not keep foods frozen as long. If the freezer is not full, quickly group packages together so they will retain the cold more effectively. Separate meat and poultry items from other foods so if they begin to thaw, their juices won’t drip onto other foods.
When the power is off, you may want to put dry ice, block ice, or bags of ice in the freezer or transfer foods to a friend’s freezer until power is restored. Use an appliance thermometer to monitor the temperature.
To determine the safety of foods when the power goes on, check their condition and temperature. If food is partly frozen, still has ice crystals, or is as cold as if it were in a refrigerator (40 °F), it is safe to refreeze or use. It’s not necessary to cook raw foods before refreezing. Discard foods that have been warmer than 40 °F for more than 2 hours. Discard any foods that have been contaminated by raw meat juices. Dispose of soft or melted ice cream for quality’s sake.
When it is freezing outside and there is snow on the ground, the outdoors seems like a good place to keep food until the power comes on; however, frozen food can thaw if it is exposed to the sun’s rays even when the temperature is very cold. Refrigerated food may become too warm and foodborne bacteria could grow. The outside temperature could vary hour by hour and the temperature outside will not protect refrigerated and frozen food. Additionally, perishable items could be exposed to unsanitary conditions or to animals. Animals may harbor bacteria or disease; never consume food that has come in contact with an animal.
The freezer storage chart below will help you to determine your best by dates. You can also compare the storage times to that of canning which is typically 1-2 years for most things (canning eggs is not recommended).
|Freezer Storage Chart (0 °F)
Note: Freezer storage is for quality only. Frozen foods remain safe indefinitely provided temperatures never rise above (0 °F).
|Bacon and Sausage||1 to 2|
|Casseroles||2 to 3|
|Egg whites or egg substitutes||12|
|Frozen Dinners and Entrees||3 to 4|
|Gravy, meat or poultry||2 to 3|
|Ham, Hotdogs and Lunchmeats||1 to 2|
|Meat, uncooked roasts||4 to 12|
|Meat, uncooked steaks or chops||4 to 12|
|Meat, uncooked ground||3 to 4|
|Meat, cooked||2 to 3|
|Poultry, uncooked whole||12|
|Poultry, uncooked parts||9|
|Poultry, uncooked giblets||3 to 4|
|Soups and Stews||2 to 3|
|Wild game, uncooked||8 to 12|