Get ready for food preservation by cleaning out your freezer

Freezer inventory can help you determine what you need to preserve this summer.

As Michigan produce slowly begins to appear at local farmers markets and in gardens, you may be starting to plan for your summer food preservation season. Now is the perfect time to take the opportunity to complete a full cleaning and inventory of your freezer in preparation for freezing new produce or other items this summer. Freezing is a convenient and easy way to preserve produce in order to retain most of the quality of the fresh product. Properly freezing foods is a great way to enjoy great tasting Michigan produce all winter long. Michigan State University Extension suggests that if you have adequate freezer space and freeze many foods, get your freezer ready now to fill it for winter.

To assess what is in your freezer, start by inventorying what you have inside. Create a list of items and the dates found on the labels of the frozen foods to determine how old the frozen items are. Knowing how long a particular food can be stored in the freezer can help determine the quality of the frozen food. The storage times listed below are approximate months of storage for some food items. If you know the food has been prepared and packaged correctly and stored in the freezer at or below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, use the chart to help you determine storage length. For best quality, use the shorter storage times. After these times, the food should still be safe, just lower in quality.

Food

Approximate months of storage at 0 F

Fruits and Vegetables

8 - 12

Poultry

6 - 9

Fish

3 - 6

Ground Meat

3 - 4

Cured or Processed Meat

1 - 2

You might notice that the temperature range at or below 0 F has been mentioned. This is the optimal storage temperature in your freezer and you need to monitor it by placing a freezer thermometer inside your freezer. Without a thermometer inside, you will not know the accurate temperature of you frozen items. Also, remember that storing frozen foods at higher temperatures affects the quality of the frozen foods.  

Once you have sorted all frozen foods and regulated the temperature of your freezer, it is time to arrange and organize the food in the freezer into food groups for ease in locating. Arrange food packages so that those which have been in the freezer the longest are the first ones used. Using the “first in, first out” policy will help you rotate frozen items and use the oldest items first.

Once you begin adding new frozen items to the freezer this summer, always make sure to label each package with the name of the product and the date using freezer tape, labels or pens made for freezer use. This simple task will make your freezer organization even smoother throughout the whole year.

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