Stop Losing Food to Freezer Burn
by Reader Contributors
Preventing freezer burn is doable with proper packaging. Use these packaging tips to protect your frozen foods and prevent freezer food waste.
Dear Dollar Stretcher,
Everything that I freeze ends up with freezer burn. What am I doing wrong? I use resealable bags or containers and I still get freezer burn. I have tried wrapping first in foil and then in a baggie, and I still get freezer burn.
Is it my freezer? I have an old refrigerator that I have to defrost. It is on its last legs and I keep waiting for it to die before I get a new refrigerator. I wanted to invest in a stand alone freezer, but not if I can’t eat the things that get freezer burnt. My leftovers usually go to waste because of this.
Ways To Stop Losing Food to Freezer Burn
We asked our frugal readers to share their best tips for preventing freezer burn. Read on for their helpful tips and advice for preventing freezer burn. You’ll also find these articles helpful when it comes to protecting your frozen goods:
Avoid Burn With Freezer Paper
After years of suffering freezer burn from packing everything in plastic bags, I finally took my sister’s advice and started using freezer paper! Reynolds Wrap is now making freezer paper that is found right in the same aisle as the regular wraps and stuff. I have not had one case of freezer burn since I switched over.
You can never squeeze out all of the air in those plastic bags, which is what causes the freezer burn in the first place. So, unless you want to purchase a sealing machine, go with white freezer paper. You can even buy tape specifically designed for this paper, but if you can’t find it, masking tape works just as well.
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Glass Prevents Burn
Don’t know if this is practical for full meals but I freeze in glass jars and even months later there is no freezer taste. All plastic is petroleum products and unless you can vacuum seal, there is going to be a taste. I freeze all types of cooked vegetables and meats and it works great.
Freezer Burn and Temperature
Check the temperature of the freezer. It should be close to zero for the best holding ability. Also, throw an open box of baking soda in the freezer. It will take keep the odors down that get into foods and taint the flavor.
Related: Two Dozen Baking Soda Savings
Check the Freezer Seal
Freezer burn is caused by air becoming trapped between the food and your packaging. Glad has a line of freezer bags with an inner lining that forms to the shape of your food. You then squeeze out the rest of the air in the bag and “zip lock” it. There is another product that I believe is made by Reynolds. It is on a roll like plastic wrap. Roll out a piece big enough for your food product and then cut it off. Place the food on top and roll out another piece big enough to cover the food with enough left over on all sides to stick to the bottom sheet. Cut the top sheet off and then starting at the top, start pressing down the top sheet so that it sticks to the bottom sheet. Keep doing this all around the food making sure you are pressing down enough to force the air out. When you get to the bottom, again go around the food forcing out all the air you possibly can and then seal the last part of the two sheets together. This forms a vacuum pack.
Investing in a small upright or chest freezer is a good way to save money on food. I make enough food for my husband and myself for two or three nights. After we have supper, I place the leftovers in serving size freezer bags and freeze them. This way, we always have something to eat on nights when both of us are too tired to cook. Plus my grocery bill is smaller because that’s two or three days for which I don’t have to buy food. All I have to do is look in my freezer.
Also, check the seal on your freezer. You mentioned that your fridge/freezer was old so your seal may be leaking air inside your freezer. The best way to do this is with a dollar bill. Take a dollar bill and open your freezer door, place the dollar on the seal and close the door. If you can pull the dollar out, you have a leak. Do this all the way around the freezer. You can also check your fridge the same way. If you find a leak, it’s time for a new appliance. Using a fridge/freezer with a bad seal is a waste of food, electricity, and most of all, money.
Circulation Causes Freezer Burn
Having worked in the frozen food section of a grocery store, I may be able to help! Loretta’s problem results from periodic thawing and freezing of what’s in her freezer. This is often due to poor air circulation, which will result when you “overstuff” the freezer. Having at least 4 inches of open space at the top (so you can see the back wall of the freezer) might help. If your freezer has a shelf, try to leave a little space underneath it to improve the air flow. If that doesn’t solve the problem, check the door seal to make sure it’s tight, and the freezer fan to see if it’s running.
Avoiding Freezer Burn With Cereal Bags
I use the inner bags from cereal boxes to freeze meat and haven’t had a problem yet. I wrap the meat in plastic wrap, and then put the wrapped pieces in a cereal bag. Then I fold the flap over and tape shut. Things stay good for a long time that way. And the bags can be reused!
Freezer Burn and Air
I do once a month cooking, too, and I don’t have this problem. The thing that causes freezer burn is air, so the remedy is to wrap the food as airtight as possible. My method is to pack everything into zipper-seal freezer bags. Put a straw into the bag and zip the bag around it. Suck as much air out through the straw as possible, then quickly remove it and seal the bag the rest of the way.
About the only thing this doesn’t work for is something like lasagna – in that case I line the pan with heavy duty foil, freeze the lasagna, then pop it out of the pan, wrap the foil around it, and pack it into a freezer bag using the above method. The worst thing you can do is leave the food in the casserole dish with a lot of dead space between the top of the food and the wrapping.
The same thing goes for plastic containers that aren’t full – there is still air in the container, even if they try to tell you it’s airtight. I’ve pulled “forgotten” food out of the freezer a couple of months after I’ve made it and it’s still been perfectly good. Hope this helps!
Waxed Paper Prevents Burn
To avoid freezer burn, I crumple up waxed paper on top of the frozen food and then cover with the lid. This helps eliminate freezer burn tremendously. This works well with soups, main dishes and all kinds of fruit.
It is important to make sure the food has enough liquid in it too. For example, when freezing strawberries, I pack them in juice, put the waxed paper on top and they taste wonderful even after several months.
Avoiding Freezer Burn With Double Wrap
I understand your frustration. You are trying to save money and the freezer is sabotaging you! I can tell you it is not the freezer causing the problem. Freezer burn is caused by freezing cold air coming in contact with food. To prevent this, you must exclude all air when wrapping food for storage.
Aluminum foil is worse than useless because you think you are getting a good wrap but you aren’t. The foil tears easily and any little pinhole sized opening lets the freezer burn in. Resealable storage bags are only good for short-term (2-5 days at most) and you have to purchase the more pricey “storage” or “freezer” bags. Rigid containers only work well if they are full or nearly full. The one time I tried glass canning jars they broke, even though I left plenty of headspace for expansion.
Professional butchers double-wrap everything. In the “olden days,” they wrapped in freezer paper and then wrapped again in another piece of freezer paper, taping the ends down with masking tape. Nowadays, they wrap first in heavy-duty plastic wrap and then freezer paper. I have found this works well for me.
Use a big piece of wrap; don’t skimp! Place the food in one corner. Roll toward the other corner. Fold the sides over when they stick out enough for the fold to get caught under when you roll. Each piece of wrap should go around the food item at least twice. Wrap completely in one piece of wrap, then start the food in the second wrap. Do not overlap the pieces. Tape the outside paper wrap with masking tape, which is cheap and will stick even after it is frozen. Label with the contents and date.
To store liquids such as soup, put a piece of plastic wrap in the pot you think you’ll use to reheat. Fill with liquid but not all the way up, leaving room for expansion. Freeze a few hours or overnight at most. Remove from the pot and wrap the plastic around the frozen liquid. Now wrap as you would a solid food, label and store.
You say you want a “stand-alone” freezer. That’s a good idea! Your deep freeze will keep your food colder than the unit with the refrigerator. My aunt used a chest model because they are more energy efficient and hers fit under the window of her back porch. My mother used an upright. It was easier to find items and it took up less room in our garage.
Gail in CA
Double Wrap Freezer Burn Protection
My mother wraps all her fish and meat in bags or plastic wrap, Then she puts them in a brown paper bag and in the freezer. We don’t know why this works, but it works very well.
Avoid Freezer Burn With a Vacuum Sealer
Like you, I always ended up throwing out leftovers because of freezer burn. Then I got smart and purchased a vacuum sealer. The bags can be put in the microwave and in boiling water, and the texture of the food doesn’t change. Now my family doesn’t even know when it’s leftover night! This is one of the best purchases I have made.
Freezer Causes Burn
Your freezer-burn problem may well be related to your refrigerator. Refrigerators with a small inside freezer compartment rarely keep the food quite cold enough. Very old ones just don’t work as well anymore. If your appliance is a top or bottom-mounted freezer, that is much better. However, frequent opening and closing of this freezer make it a less than desirable place for long-term food storage.
It sounds like you are wrapping your food well. For vegetables, I do two things. First, I put the food in a sandwich-sized baggie and suck the air out with a straw. Then I put those baggies into a gallon-sized freezer bag and close it using a straw as well. Do I get any freezer burn? Sometimes I get some frost, but rarely enough to compromise the food. It really helps to get the food as dry as you can before wrapping it.
For meats and cheeses (or other solid items), I wrap first in regular plastic wrap, making sure I wrap tightly. Then I wrap that package with a tight wrap of foil and then store in freezer bags. Seems to work well. For fruits or “drier” vegetables such as peppers, I spread out on a tray and freezer first before putting into bags.
For soups, leftovers, casseroles, etc., I use plastic containers and also use recycled yogurt and cottage cheese containers. With liquid products like soup, there’s no problem. But for leftovers, casseroles, cooked squash, etc., I put a piece of wax paper or plastic wrap over the food, pressing down well before adding the lid. That seems to help enormously.
I have owned the top-of-the-line vacuum sealer. When it sealed, it worked well, but the expense of the bags caused my frugal heart to swoon. I gave the machine away. We grow most of our vegetables and raise much of our meat and my more frugal methods have kept us eating “fresh” for over 20 years now.
Reviewed August 2023
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