For many of us, our freezer consists of frozen basics such as soups, meats, and some bags of our favorite fruits and vegetables. Have you ever put any thought into using your freezer as a food storage source? There are many different ways to create a food pantry – you don’t even need an actual pantry! Many preppers have 8 – 5 jobs and do not have time to spend hours on end packing up food. They prefer the more time-efficient route: freezing.
Freezing food for long-term storage is by far, the fastest and easiest way to have a large quantity of food on stand-by. The aspect that I love the most about this method is you can literally throw items in a bag, seal it up and you’re finished. Although there are some vegetables that require blanching before they are frozen, you can put entire meals together and freeze them for those crazy days of running the kids around town. Another reason why I like this storage method is that freezing keeps food safe almost indefinitely. The USDA recommends these storage times for quality only.
|Freezer Storage Chart (0 °F) Note: Freezer storage is for quality only. Frozen foods remain safe indefinitely.
Learn about which foods are best and worst to freeze. With this storage method, you also don’t have to worry about insects or eggs being on your food. By freezing your food source, the frigid temperature kills any insects or eggs that may be present on the food.
The largest downside to this method is you are entirely dependent on electricity to maintain an adequate temperature. What happens if the electricity goes out while you are out of town or while you are away at work? When the electricity goes out, as often happens during emergencies, your food storage runs the risk of going bad. Having a backup generator can circumvent this, but you will need to have extra fuel stored. According to the USDA, if the electricity goes out in your home, 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. Discard foods that have been warmer than 40 °F for more than 2 hours and any foods that have been contaminated by raw meat juices. If you find your stored frozen foods thawing, and believe the food can be saved, consider cooking them and using another form of food storage such as dehydrating or canning. Keep in mind, if the the foods on this list have been stored above 40°F for more than two hours, they should be discarded. Another drawback is you are limited on space with freezers. You could get a deep freezer, but that will require an additional investment.
Storing Frozen Food for Long Term Use
With this food storage method, ensure that your foods are properly stored and labeled with the food source and month/year of being frozen. In some cases, adding the quantity of the food may be helpful in future preparation. When storing your frozen food, stack the foods close together and try to maintain a full freezer. That way, if the electricity does go out, having the freezer fully stocked with foods stacked closely will help maintain a more continuous temperature and take longer to thaw.
Creating a freezer inventory will help you keep track of your food and how much you have. Keeping an inventory list on a clip board next to your freezer will help keep you organized. I have found that it can be difficult to see how much food is in your freezer. In this case, be sure to properly organize your freezer (raw meat on the bottom, meals above that, fruit and veggies above that and baked good on the top) and do inventory checks every 6 months to ensure you have an adequate amount of food stored away.
Protecting Your Frozen Food Supply
As with all food storage, you need to protect your food investment. When using the freezing method to store food, you run the risk of food getting freezer burn if the food is not properly wrapped. Ensure that you protect your foods by wrapping them in materials that will not expose them to air or moisture.Packaging materials must be moisture-vapor resistant; durable and leak proof; resistant to oil, grease or water; protect foods from absorption of off-flavors or odors; easy to seal; easy to mark, and must not become brittle and crack at low temperatures. Good freezing materials include:
- vacuum seal pouches (these are great for refrigerated foods as well)
- rigid containers made of aluminum
- tin or heavily waxed cardboard
- bags and sheets of moisture-vapor resistant wraps
- laminated papers made especially for freezing
For prolonged storage, overlap these packaging methods as you would with any other type of long-term storage. It is not necessary to rinse meat and poultry. It is safe to freeze meat or poultry directly in its original packaging, however this type of wrap is permeable to air and quality may diminish over time. Freeze unopened vacuum packages as is. If you notice that a package has accidentally been torn or has opened while food is in the freezer, the food is still safe to use; merely over-wrap or re-wrap it.
To conclude, if done properly, freezing your emergency food source is a great way to ensure a long term supply. Further, it is the most efficient as far as time management is concerned. If you plan to use this method, be sure that you follow the suggested ways to protect your food.