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Freezing Food for Long Term Storage
Freezing is a relatively easy way of storing foods, and it is the best way for preserving the original freshness and taste. It's also very familiar to most people. For long term food storage, there are some downsides to this though.
Pros and Cons
The main problem with freezing food is that you are limited in storage space to the size of your freezer. While a few large chest freezer can hold quite a lot of food, it is still a limitation that everything must be stored together in one location inside.
But the biggest problem with using a freezer for storing food is that in almost any emergency situation, you are going to be without power. And without power, you are not going to be able to keep your freezers running for very long and run a serious risk of losing all of your stored food. Now, you can prepare further for this by having a generator (with appropriate stored fuel) on hand for any power failure. If you intend on having a generator anyway, then there is no additional risk with having food stores in the freezer.
Of course, if the power does go out, the food doesn't immediately go bad. It just thaws out. Vegetables or fruit can be used with in a few days but meat would need to be cooked right away or it will spoil very quickly without a way to keep it chilled. Once cooked, it will still be very perishable after a few days as well.
One of the positive sides of using a freezer is that you can freeze nearly any kind of food, including your currently fresh produce for later use. And doing so is relatively quick and easy (compared to canning, for example).
Overall, using the freezer for long-term food storage is not the best approach. Dry or canned foods store much better and are not as risk from power failures. Even so, it won't hurt to know how to best use your freezer to store food.
How to Package for Storage
To keep your frozen foods as long as possible, you need to protect them against moisture loss and air exposure. These can lead to "freezer burn", and tough or dried out food. However you choose to wrap your food, you need to use moisture-proof materials that don't leave food surfaces exposed to the air. Plastic freezer bags, freezer paper or aluminium foil are all very good options.
Larger items, like pieces of meat can be wrapped tightly with paper or foil (or both). Wrap each item completely, giving plenty of overlap at the seams and sealing closed with tape. Smaller or loose items like cut vegetables or pieces of fruit can be bagged instead. Just squeeze out as much air as possible so that the bag is clinging snugly to the items inside.
Liquids can be stored easily in rigid containers (plastic tubs or glass jars) as long as you leave some space at the top to allow for expansion. When liquids freeze, they generally get bigger and could burst a container that doesn't allow for it.
In any case, label everything completely with the name of the food and the date it went into the freezer.
Prepping Your Food
Raw meat can be frozen as-is but many other foods should be properly processed before you package it up for any long-term freezer storing. Fresh fruits and vegetables usually need to be blanched before you put them in the freezer to destroy any active enzymes still present. Even in the freezer, enzymes will slowly break down your food and lower its nutritional quality (and taste) when you finally go to use it.
Dunk a portion of food in boiling water for about 1 to 2 minutes, then immediately into a bowl of cold water (even with ice if you can). This kills the enzymes without actually cooking the food. Denser foods can be blanched for 3 or 4 minutes.
Storage Time Frame
Like with any storage method, how long you can store food for will depend on the specific type of food. Frozen foods can last only a few weeks in some cases, but more often then will be fine to eat after several months. After a year, most foods will start to taste "off". Here is a basic chart of storage times for keeping food in the freezer.
|Ground meat||3 to 4 months|
|Fresh cuts or beef or pork||6 to 8 months|
|Poultry (whole bird)||1 year|
|Poultry (pieces)||9 months|
|Vegetables||10 to 12 months|
|Fruit||6 to 8 months|
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