For many people,  freezing much of what they grow or raise is the only way to go. Freezing is often the easiest method of preserving food and the results, with a few exceptions, are reliably good. Now is the time, before those first peas poke up (at least here in the Northeast) to ready your freezer for the coming onslaught.

Bruce and I have 2 freezers and went shopping yesterday for a third. The first is the freezer attached to the refrigerator. This where we keep the grab it stuff like ice cubes, Popsicles and the leftover verge scraps I put aside for stock. I keep frozen stock, pesto and leftovers in this little freezer. The temperature is a bit higher than you would want for long term storage of food.

The middle sized freezer is now going to hold only fruits and vegetables. It stands outside the kitchen door in a mud room that we only heat to about 55-60 degrees.

The biggest freezer will go in the basement. We are not having it delivered until Bruce builds a raised floor for it as the basement is a little damp and we don’t want it in contact with the floor. We will only store meat in the biggest freezer. My daughter has decided we  should call this the three bears system.

I hate pawing through frozen food looking for the one thing I want so I came up with an idea to try this year. As I freeze each vegetable or fruit, I will pack it in a labeled plastic bin with other like food. All of the blueberries will be packed with all of the other blueberries and so on. Fruits will be on the top shelves and veges on the bottom. I may even get organized enough to label the contents of each shelf on the side wall. This should also make defrosting easier as I can remove whole bins at once, put them in my coolers and replace them in the same order.

Taking the time to properly prepare meat before freezing will save time, money and quality down the road. The best way to purchase meat is flash frozen. If you are packaging meat yourself, start with a focus on hygiene. Wash your hands and surfaces well and often to prevent cross contamination. Pack only the best quality product. Be sure to wrap meat well, exclude as much air as possible and label clearly with contents and date. What you want to prevent is freezer burn. I usually pack all of the chicken on one shelf and fish on another as this makes it easier to find what I need.

If you are choosing a freezer, here are some tings to keep in mind. Small refrigerator freezers are not cold enough for long term storage. Uprights are easier to load and unload but every time you open the door the cold air falls out and therefore are more expensive to operate. Chest freezers are more efficient but digging to the bottom to locate that turkey you bought on sale 3 months ago can be a pain. Frost free freezers do not have to be defrosted but, as the air is drier, food will dry out more quickly and that will affect quality. Defrosting a freezer is a lot of work. It usually needs to be done at least twice a year, more often if the door is opened a lot. Freezers are usually electric. Energy star appliances will save energy and money although the initial cost is higher. It is possible to purchase propane freezers. Lehman’s carries them. They are really expensive but if you are off the grid, this is a good option. You can’t run a freezer in a really cold space like an unheated garage. The best temperature is over 50 degrees but you don’t want to put one in a hot spot like nest to a furnace or hot water heater. A coating of appliance wax will protect the surface.

If the power does go out, the contents of a full freezer will probably be okay for 2-3 days if you keep the door or lid shut. If there is a lock, lock it and keep the key with you. Otherwise, put a stip of duct tape over the door to remind your kids, spouse and self not to open it up.

A freezer can save you a lot of money which makes it an investment as opposed to a spend but I am afraid that a lot of families misuse their freezers. If you fill it with prepackaged convenience foods, ice cream or even good food that you never use and end up tossing out years later, you have wasted your money. The best use of a home freezer is for food you raised yourself or purchased in bulk. You have to plan meals to use what you store and maintain your freezer to make it run as efficiently as possible.