Check your freezer for last year’s produce

For best quality, use frozen foods in a timely manner.

It’s March already; gardeners have started planting seeds indoors for their gardens and we will soon have access to fresh, spring produce. Look in your freezer and locate the vegetables and fruits you preserved last summer and fall.

Although food safety is usually not an issue if foods are properly frozen and the temperature is maintained, the quality of frozen food does diminish over time. Moisture will crystalize into ice crystals in frozen foods as the freezer door gets opened and foods can become freezer burnt due to moisture loss. The color of frozen foods will start to change resulting in foods that do not look as appetizing.

As you’re checking your freezer, make sure all of your frozen foods have a date on them. It’s important to date food items you are freezing so you know how long they have been in the freezer. It’s also helpful to mark the name of the food on the container.

In addition, March is the perfect time to organize foods to find specific items more easily. It is helpful to store your foods in the freezer with like items. Use small baskets to keep like items together. For example, put all of your green beans in one basket, peas in another, etc. If you only have a few of each type of vegetable or fruit, then group vegetables in one basket, fruits in another, etc. Place the oldest items on the top or in the front of each basket so you use up the oldest items first.

When you are preparing items for storage in your freezer, always use freezer quality storage bags or containers to retain the best quality in your frozen foods. The National Center for Home Food Preservation has guidelines for freezing all types of produce.

March is National Frozen Food Month, now is a good time to watch for specials on frozen foods in the grocery store. While you are organizing your produce, take note of which foods you are getting low on and check the sale flyers for retailers in your area that are going to have frozen food sales.

Michigan State University Extension has a variety of resources about food storage as well as food preservation, food budgeting, meal planning and other related topics.

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