Keep your frozen assets in order by following these cleaning and storage tips.Excerpted from Houseworks, by Cynthia Townley Ewer
The freezer is a cold and lonely place, a natural refuge for forgotten food. Bulging containers with gaping lids join icy, unlabeled parcels in the Arctic wastes of this House of Mystery Food. The goal of a freezer declutter: to cull the contents to remove unusable food, and return the survivors to an organized space that makes the most of your household's frozen assets.
Freezer: To defrost or not to defrost?
Many modern freezers don't require defrosting, but you'll pay for the convenience of never having to haul out the pans of hot water. Automatic defrost freezers use up to 35 percent more energy than comparable manual defrost models; the auto defrost cycle sucks moisture from frozen food and can adversely affect food quality. Defrost manual defrost freezers when ice buildup reaches 1/4 to 1/2in (5mm to 1cm), or when ice builds up on compressor coils.
Organizing the freezer
Unlike refrigerators, which need a free flow of air to stay cool, freezers operate most efficiently when they are full. However, a full freezer is a dangerous landscape that allows food to go hidden until it is no longer edible. Keep an organized freezer with these tips:
Stop clutter in the freezer
Gather your tools: a double-lined trash can for rejected foods, ice chests to hold to declutter survivors, a sink of hot soapy water, baking soda and cleaning cloths.
Turn off the freezer, and unplug it from the wall. Start at the top, and remove each parcel of food. One by one, decide if the container stays or goes. The freezer declutter rule is simple: if it's sealed, labeled and fresh, it stays. If it's Mystery Meat of unknown age, freezer-burned or an open container, out it goes.
Declutter all foods with torn or open packaging, freezer-burned meat, or any chunk of food you can't identify and date. Run reusable containers holding the rejects under a hot stream of water to loosen the food-icicle from the carton. Pop the food into the double-lined trash can, and soak the container in the sink's sudsy water. Tuck any keepers into the holding area of ice chests.
3. Clean and put away
When the freezer's empty, wipe it out with a taste of baking soda and water. Wipe dry with fresh cleaning cloths. If necessary, remove and wash shelves or organizer baskets in hot soapy water. Rinse thoroughly and dry before returning them to the freezer. Clean door storage units. Soak and rinse door racks, then dry before returning; wipe door compartments with baking soda paste, then dry. When the freezer is clean and dry, plug it in and turn it on for 15 minutes before replacing food.
When it comes to the freezer, out of sight is too frequently out of mind. Expensive frozen food goes to waste because no one remembers it's there to be eaten.
Solution: a freezer inventory. Post the inventory on the outside of the freezer door, and check it regularly when you make menu plans. Remember: The best bargain at the supermarket is the food you've already bought and paid for.
Excerpted from Houseworks, by Cynthia Townley Ewer
Text Copyright © 2006, 2010, Cynthia Townley Ewer, extracts from Houseworks, reproduced with permission from Dorling Kindersley Limited