Frugal Food: How Long Will Food Keep in the Freezer?

This is post #3 in the Frugal Food: Freezer series. Be sure to check out post #1 “Frugal Food: Foods You Can’t Freeze” and post #2 “Frugal Foods: How to Package Food for the Freezer“.

Frozen vegetables

While storing food longer than the times listed in the guide below won’t affect food safety it will affect taste, nutrients and texture of the foods so it’s recommended that you label all foods in your freezer with the name of the item and the date it was placed into the freezer.

I personally prefer and upright style freezer as it’s easier to organize and find things and there’s less chance that items will get buried at the bottom of the freezer never to been seen for years. Remember, it’s not frugal to freeze food if you leave it in there so long that’s inedible!

Fruits and Vegetables 1 year
Butter, salted 1 year
Butter, unsalted 3 months
Cheese 3months
Milk up to 6 weeks
Margarine 6 months
Egg, whites 3 months
Egg, yolks mixed with 1/2tsp salt per yolk 3 months
Fish, uncooked 2 months
Shellfish 2 to 4 months
Beef, uncooked, roast 6 to 12 months
Beef, uncooked, steak 6 to 12 months
Beef, uncooked, ground 3 months
Lamb, uncooked 6 to 9 months
Pork, uncooked, roast or chops 3 to 6 months
Poultry, uncooked, pieces 6 months
Poultry, uncooked, whole 1 year
Beans, Lentils or Rice, cooked 3 to 6 months
Casseroles 3 months
Cooked meats 2 months
Soups and Stews 4 months
Breads, yeast, baked or unbaked 8 months
Cakes, Cookies, Sweet Breads, Muffins 4 months
Pastry Crust, unbaked 2 months

Frugal Food: How to Package Food for the Freezer

This is post #2 in the Frugal Food: Freezer series. Be sure to check out post #1 “Frugal Food: Foods You Can’t Freeze“.

Plastic freezer containers
Wrapping and packaging foods for the freezer can seem intimidating at the beginning. Should you use butcher paper? Zippered freezer bags, or plastic storage containers? Which packaging should I use for which foods? How much food can I freeze at once?

First a few quick freezing tips:

  • Make sure the freezer is set at 0F or -18C or lower.
  • If you plan to freeze a lot of food at the same time turn the thermometre of the freezer to it’s coldest setting for the day before.
  • Don’t try to freeze to much at once. Try to freeze no more than 3lbs (1.5kg) of food per cubic-foot capacity of your freezer within a 24 hour period.
  • Freeze in usable quantities. If you have a household of 2 people it doesn’t make sense to freeze a container with enough to feed 8 people. Think about how you’ll use things before you freeze them and package accordingly.
  • Make sure you use only vaporproof/moistureproof packaging that is designed for use in the freezer. Packaging should be able to withstand freezing and thawing without breaking or cracking. If you choose glass containers make sure they are freezer-proof.
  • Square container take up less space and stack better than round containers.

There are two types of packaging for freezing foods: rigid (best for foods like soups, stews, casseroles, etc.) and flexible (best for firmer foods like fruits, vegetables, meats, etc.). Either type should be vaporproof, leakproof, durable and able to withstand freezing temperatures.

Packaging meat & fish for the freezer: While you can freeze meat and fish in their grocery store wrappings for short term freezing (up to 1 month) meat and fish are best wrapped in butcher paper to freeze. I probably should take a bunch of photos of the process of wrapping meat but I’m not one to reinvent the wheel if I don’t have to LOL. Here’s a great tutorial on wrapping meat for the freezer with nice illustrations.

Next we’ll talk about how long foods can be kept in the freezer before they start losing flavour, nutritional value and texture.

Frugal Food: Foods You Can’t Freeze

Freezer filled with foodOver the next few weeks Frugal Family Life will be doing a series on using your freezer to store food and save money.

I figured I’d start with a post on what not to freeze. For many years I was pretty much afraid to freeze anything that wasn’t actually bought in the frozen food aisle of the grocery store because I wasn’t sure what was safe to freeze and what wasn’t.

Over the years I’ve learned that there’s really not much you can’t freeze and I can honestly say that my upright freezer is the best investment I’ve ever made. It’s paid for itself several times over in savings over the years enabling me to take advantage of sales, freeze fresh produce (some that I’d grown myself) and allowed me to batch cook meals that could be reheated quickly on busy nights. I’d give up a lot before I’d give up my freezer!

So here’s a list of what you can’t freeze and why.

  • Cooked egg whites – they become rubbery and just unappealing. (Good news though. Uncooked egg whites freeze well!)
  • Mayonnaise – it separates when it thaws.
  • Sour Cream – it separates and becomes watery. (You can still use it if it’s well stirred into a recipe though. It won’t hurt you.)
  • Potatoes – they go dark and can be mushy. (I have seen mashed potato and scalloped potato recipes turn out fine after freezing though. Again – it’s not that it’s unsafe, more that it’s unappetizing.)
  • Crisp fruits and vegetables such as melon, tomato, lettuce, cucumber, etc. – they get really soggy and limp and not appetizing at all.

That’s it. Not all foods freeze and thaw with great results but pretty much anything you can think of can be frozen. Now it’s just a matter of defrosting your freezer, taking out the shrunken ice cubes and the freezer burned fish your Uncle Todd caught on that fishing trip 4 summers ago and start using that freezer to save money and plan great meals!

Next we’ll talk about how to wrap foods to keep them safe from freezer burn and odors.

Fresh Strawberry Peach Trifle

Fresh strawberry and peach trifle.

Strawberry Peach Trifle
This has been a favourite in my household for years. A great dessert for Canada Day, July 4th or other summer celebrations.

4 peaches, halved, pitted, cut into 1/2-inch pieces or thinly sliced
2 1-pint baskets strawberries, halved or quartered (if large)
2 1/2-pint baskets raspberries
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups custard

48 purchased sponge-cake-type ladyfingers
1 cup cream sherry
3 cups chilled whipping cream
Additional whole strawberries (optional)

Mix first 5 ingredients in large bowl and toss to blend; let stand 10 minutes. Beat chilled cream in another large bowl until stiff peaks form.

Arrange 16 ladyfingers in 10- to 12-cup glass bowl or trifle dish to cover bottom. Using a pastry brush, generously brush ladyfingers with sherry. Top with 2 cups fruit mixture, then 1 cup custard. Repeat layering 2 more times with ladyfingers, sherry, fruit mixture and custard. Top with 3 cups whipped cream. Garnish with whole strawberries, raspberries and peach slices.

Mascarpone cheese or vanilla pudding may be substituted for custard.

Win an Earth Day Gift Package!

Tomorrow is Earth Day but that doesn’t mean you can’t observe Earth Day every day and Frugal Family Life and Walmart ElevenMoms have an Earth Day Gift Package to help get  one of you started on the right foot. Worth an estimated $130 retail the package includes a selection of Clorox “Green Works” cleaning supplies, White Cloud “Green Earth” paper products, and Tide Coldwater laundry liquid, a Brita water filtration pitcher and a Bissell Little Green carpet and upholstery cleaner.

The Green Works cleanering products are 99% plant and mineral based but can take on tough cleaning jobs with ease, they smell great, and are less harmful to the environment.

Tide Coldwater laundry liquid was designed to allow you to get all of your laundry clean without wasting energy using hot water. Depending on what statics you look at 70 to 90% of the energy used to wash a load of laundry is spent on heating the water. By washing everything in cold water you save energy and save money.

The White Cloud “Green Earth” toilet paper and paper towels are made from 100% recycled fibre but feels soft and cushiony like regular premuim paper products do. In the words of my teenage son “finally you got toilet paper that doesn’t feel like sandpaper!”

The Brita pitcher is something we’ve used in my home for years. Instead of buying cases of bottled water we use the Brita water filtration pitcher to filter tap water for drinking water. This saves us money (we estimate over $200 in yearly savings over buying bottled water) and it means a lot fewer plastic bottles that need to be recycled or worse, that would end up in a landfill.

Used with a portable stainless steel reusable drinking bottle (we have several sized from 500ml to 1 litre) we always have fresh filtered water on hand to drink at home or to take with us. The pitcher itself is dishwasher safe (top rack) and fits easily into the refrigerator without taking up a lot of space.

Last and certainly not least is the Bissell Little Green carpet and upholstery cleaner. The Bissell Little Green is made with PVC free tanks and hose, parts manufactured from 100% post consumer recycled materials  and the carton contains a minimum of 75% recycled materials. The cleaning formulas contain no heavy metals or optical brighteners and are phosphate and dye free.

Part of living Earth Day every day is taking care of the things you own so they’ll last longer. Using a product like Bissell’s Little Green to clean spots and spills from carpets, rugs and upholstery is a great way to do that. We’ve used older versions of the Bissell carpet and upholstery cleaners over the years and consider them a must in any home that has pets, children or clumsy people like me who are constanty spilling coffee!

So now to the good part – the giveaway! One lucky Frugal Family Life reader will get a chance to win this Earth Day Gift Package. The contest is open to residents of Canada and the United States and you have until April 29th to enter. The rules are simple:

  1. You must be subscribed to the Frugal Family Life newsletter with a valid email address. The sign up form is on the top right of this page.
  2. You must follow me, @merlene, on Twitter.com
  3. Tweet the following on twitter: Win an Earth Day Gift Package – Including Bissell Little Green carpet/upholstery cleaner & much more http://bit.ly/NAhWm #11momsgreen
  4. You must comment on this post with a way you live Earth Day every day. Please make sure to let me know your twitter name and the name you signed up for the newsletter with so I can validate your entry. That’s it! Good luck!

This giveaway is sponsored by Walmart and the various manufacterers listed above and is subject to Frugal Family Life’s disclosure and giveaway policy. Some of the other ElevenMoms are running Earth Day giveaways too. Check out each of their blogs for more chances to win!

Update: The contest is now closed. The winner will be selected through Random.org and will be notified by email. Winner will be announced on May 1, 2009.

@Merlene Heads to SXSWi

Merlene Paynter, Twestival Toronto 2009I’m pretty excited. This will be my first trip to SXSW interactive after watching the twitter stream jealously the last two years. I’ve been reading assorted posts and guides on how to make the most out of my week in Austin. I’ve been trying to maintain a flexible schedule while still making plans to meet with friends, colleagues and sponsors. I think I will need more hours in a day to just meet everyone in person that I want to meet. It truly will be like my twitter stream is coming to life. I’ll finally get to meet, in person, all of the amazing friends I’ve gotten to know over the past two years on twitter.

Merlene avatarI realize that many people are used to only seeing the quarter face avatar I use all over the web and don’t really know what I look like so I’ve posted some recent photos of myself here.

Merlene Paynter, 40th birthday, January 2009

I should tell you that I’m really shy about approaching people I don’t know (even if I know you online) so I can sometimes come across as cold or snobbish. The exact opposite is true and I’m delighted to meet people, I’m just really shy about it. So please, if you see me, come and say hello. You truly will make my day if you do. I’m really friendly and chatty once the ice is broken, I’m just not good at being the icebreaker ;)

Frugal Holiday: Chocolate Carrot Cake

Today is day two of Frugal Upstate’s Thanksgiving Mini Series and today’s topic is desserts.

This simple cake is the most requested recipe I’ve ever made. Family and friends rave about it and it’s not only simple to make but frugal as well. Even people who don’t like carrot cake love this moist, luscious cake.



Chocolate Carrot Cake

2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup of sugar
1 cup of salad oil*
1/2 cup of orange juice
1/4 cup of cocoa
2 teaspoons of baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
zest of 1 orange
4 eggs
2 cups of  shredded carrots
1 cup flaked or shredded coconut
1/2 cup crushed walnuts (optional)

*I usually substitute 1 cup of unsweetened applesauce in place of the oil. It significantly reduces the fat but keeps the cake moist.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour Bundt pan. In large bowl, mix 10 ingredients at low speed until well blended, constantly scraping bowl with rubber spatula. Increase speed to high, beat 2 minutes, occasionally scraping bowl. Add in carrots, coconut, and walnuts. Spoon batter into pan. Bake 50 to 55 minutes until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool cake in pan 10 minutes; remove cake from pan. Cool completely.

The cake can be made up to 2 days ahead. Wrap well with cling wrap to keep it moist. It can also be kept in the freezer for up to a month.

Drizzle Icing

1/2 cup sifted icing sugar
1 tsp orange juice
1/4 tsp vanilla

In a small bowl sugar, juice, and vanilla. Stir in enough additional juice to make a drizzling consistency. Drizzle icing from the back of the spoon onto the cake and allow to run down the sides.

You can garnish the cake with a sprinkle of icing sugar on top, or well drained mandarin orange slices.