Use It Up...Properly Freeze Extras

This is the time of year I try to get my freezer storage organized and restocked.
We love those big bags of stuff from Costco or Sam’s – but I have found that I need to portion out those bags of things like fish and vegetables into meal-size bags so the last of the bag isn’t freezer-burned or full of ice crystals after being opened many times and perhaps not always sealed well.  If I portion these large packages; I now know how many meals I actually have – I find I don’t buy more when I already have enough on hand. If I have company, I can always use several packages.  I jot the cooking directions right on the packages.
We also portion things like extra cooked wild rice, drained canned or cooked beans, like black beans or chili beans, spaghetti sauces, homemade convenience food like cheese-filled shells, and cooked meats or poultry and freeze them.  I keep them in a separate basket or two in my refrigerator freezer – I look there first when planning meals.
We buy good quality solid blocks of cheese at the Amish stores or Sam's or Costco.  We shred some and portion them out in sizes we use as well as cubing some.  We also portion blue and feta cheese crumbles.  I keep the bottom drawer in my refrigerator freezer full of various cheeses that are ready to use.  It's much less expensive than small packages at our grocery.
I have corralled all those other small packages into inexpensive dollar store plastic baskets so I can remove them and shift them around fairly easily.  If you can find colored baskets, some folks keep food sorted by color.  I used to keep an inventory sheet on a clipboard that I marked up as I added or removed items from the freezer.  Now I keep a spreadsheet on my computer, add my "used" pantry or freezer items to scratch paper, and then use the note to bring my inventory up to date.  
I bought some freezer bins at Costco - they are sturdy and stackable and fit my refrigerator freezer shelves just right and fill it all the way to the back.  They make it easy to pull them out to check on contents.
I keep homemade noodles and extra baked goods like cookies and pastries in covered boxes in the freezer to protect them.
When I defrost the freezer, it’s easy to stack those containers on a table or in my laundry basket, and then cover them with a heavy blanket if it’s warm outside, until I can put them back.  That’s also the time I make sure my running inventory is accurate.
I don't really have room for seal-a-bag type equipment, and my turnover is fairly fast, as I home-can quite a bit of my meat and vegetables instead of freezing, but I know many folks like them.
If you dislike plastic packaging, use canning jars (leave some head space)  or wrap your items like my meat market does – in freezer wrap.  It actually lasts longer wrapped by them than the bags I package myself.  They slice or cut and wrap all the items they sell without extra charge, so I save money on wrapping materials plus save on bulk-buying sale priced items.  They don’t blink an eye at packaging 2 chops apiece, for example.  
I always wrap or have our meat and poultry wrapped in meal-size packages.  I patty hamburger and sausage, etc. in my hamburger patty maker and freeze them - I can remove 2 or so at a time.  I pound out chicken breasts and package them in meal-size portions, ready to use.  The mess is made just once making cleanup a lot easier at mealtimes.
    I believe that finally getting my freezer inventory under control has saved us a lot of money – less waste, less freezer burn, better product turnover and less headaches.  As we watch prices rise now, this is more important than ever.


    1. Since we process our own deer meat, we broke down and bought a vacuum sealer than can make the bags or suck the air out of the premade bags. A great investment. Has saved tons of $$$'s because like you said, no freezer burn or ice crystals.

      1. Yes, my brother and sister-in-law, Don and Bonnie, occasionally process their own meat and also freeze garden and orchard produce, and they swear by their vacuum sealer.

    2. I buy meat items in bulk at Sam's and bring it home, divided it up and is all wrapped in freezer paper and marked on the outside as well with the date and what it is. If they have a good sale; will buy extra and it's divided up between me and my husband and our 2 daughters families It's a win, win situation for all of us; buying in bulk ( meat or other items ) and dividing it up among us.
      Depending on item; I also use my vacuum sealers A lot.


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