You can’t miss the predictions of a second—or is it a third?—wave of coronavirus infections as we’re heading into winter. It’s likely all over your social media feed, as well as every news outlet in the country. BILLSHARK has seen it, too.
“This winter—this November, December, January, February—could be the worst time in our epidemic,” Dr. Peter Hotez, Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told CNN last month. “Get ready to hunker down.”
Having learned our lesson about ways the pandemic affected supplies in the spring, Americans are already stocking up on grocery items and staples in preparation for more quarantining, and even possible lockdowns in the coming months.
“As of now what we’re seeing is the start of the second wave of panic,” Chris Mentzer, the director of operations for Rastelli Market Fresh in New Jersey, told USA Today recently. “Our customers keep telling me how they are looking for any type of freezer to purchase so they can start stocking up their homes now.
“Their main concern is meat,” he added. “They’re also starting to buy a lot of frozen meals and frozen pizzas. We are seeing anything that can be microwaved quickly or easily made in the oven for kids, fly off the shelves.”
But BILLSHARK wants you to know there are other, healthier, more cost-effective ways to use your freezer. Having enough staples and supplies on hand not only means you’ll be prepared for any shortages, but also means fewer risky trips to the store. And you’ll save a ton of money in the process.
What you can freeze
If your freezer is loaded primarily with processed and prepared foods, you may be surprised to learn what else you can buy now and freeze safely. There’s meat, of course, but did you know you can also freeze milk? Butter and cheeses? Bread? Even eggs?
With this in mind, keep an eye on the weekly circulars and stock up on sale items, which can amount to significant savings in the long run.
Here’s a partial list of refrigerator and pantry staples that can be safely frozen.
- meats, poultry, and fish, raw or cooked
- milk (in freezer-safe containers, not the original carton; milk expands when frozen)
- eggs (removed from their shells)
- hard cheeses (wrapped in foil in a freezer bag)
- shredded cheeses
- fresh herbs
- fresh fruit and vegetables
- cooked rice, quinoa, barley, mashed potatoes, and pasta
- pizza or pie dough
Here’s a hint: If you see it as an ingredient in pre-packaged foods in the grocery store’s freezer section, you can freeze it at home.
How long you can freeze food
Believe it or not, according to FoodSafety.gov any food stored continuously at 0° Fahrenheit or below will keep indefinitely. That doesn’t mean the quality will last, however. Freezer burn on meats, for example, is notorious for making long-frozen meats unpalatable after thawing.
There are ways around that, though. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends removing meat and poultry you intend to store longer than two months from its original packaging and placing it in a plastic bag. Alternatively, you can overwrap the packages with airtight, heavy-duty foil, plastic wrap, or freezer paper.
If you’re concerned about the safety of storing foods, whether in the refrigerator or the freezer, FoodSafety.gov provides a downloadable PDF table that lists refrigerator and freezer times for typical foods. The FDA also offers a more extensive refrigerator and freezer storage chart.
What you can’t (or shouldn’t) freeze
Given the long list of items that can be frozen, you might be asking, is there anything you can’t freeze? Yes. Here are some foods the FDA recommends you not freeze:
- eggs in their shell
- hard-cooked eggs
- liquid pasteurized eggs or egg substitutes that have been opened
- such salads as egg, chicken, tuna, ham, or macaroni
- pre-stuffed pork, lamb chops, or chicken breasts
- store-cooked convenience meals
- commercial brand vacuum-packed dinners with USDA seal, unopened
- canned ham labeled “keep refrigerated,” unopened
In addition, foods that don’t freeze well (i.e., their quality will be affected) include:
- cream sauces
- raw tomatoes
- whipped cream
- soft cheeses such as brie, double-crème, and low-fat cheese
- leafy vegetables and salad leaves
If you make it a practice to think outside the (pre-packaged frozen food) box, you’ll be amazed at how your freezer can save you money.
Keep in mind that saving on groceries isn’t the only way to save money. BILLSHARK employs an expert staff of professional negotiators who know all the tricks the big companies employ to run up your bills. So let us review your bills—which won’t cost you a penny—and find you hidden savings.