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Freezing food is the most common form of home food preservation, and is the easiest to do. If you are looking for a quick and easy way to get started preserving food for long term storage, freezing is the way to start. All you need is a freezer, and some basic supplies like freezer bags & boxes. I'll review the techniques and methods you'll need to know to get started here.
Growing, buying, or catching your own food in bulk can dramatically decrease your food budget.
We grow our own garden, catch fish, buy fruit from local orchards as well as collecting from our own orchard. We occasionally buy heavy breed chicks and raise them for butchering. I've even raised rabbits for eating. Here in Southern Indiana it's common for 2 or 3 families to go in together to buy a hog or steer, have it processed at a local meat locker or butcher and split the meat between the families. We also watch the local grocery stores for sale prices on pork, beef, and chicken and stock up then.
The big question is - once you have bulk quantities food, what do you do with it?
Freezing, along with home canning is an effective method of preserving bulk quantities of various foods for year round use.
Although it has some drawbacks, freezing food has a lot to recommend it as well.
-Takes less resources and supplies than canning
-Takes practically no special skills.
This is food preservation for the beginner (AND for the old hand too).
The Drawbacks: Frozen food can be kept in good condition much longer than fresh foods, but even frozen food has a shelf life. Most fruit and vegetables begin to slowly loose their flavor & nutritional value after a year in the freezer. Meats and fish less than that (3-6 months), so it's important to maintain your inventory and use the oldest first.
By Comparison, home canned foods can last on the shelf literally for years.
Most frozen food will still have to be cooked when you thaw it out, where canned food, at worst, may have to only be warmed up, since the canning process has already cooked it. If you're looking for fast up front, freezing food is the way to go. If you're looking for fast food at the end during preparation and eating, consider home canning. Truthfully, the best approach is a blend of both techniques.
A freezer is a long term investment, so don't skimp. A good freezer should run for years and years without any problems. Buy the best brand that your budget will allow you to. In addition, buy the largest one that your budget and room in your home will allow. You'll be surprised how fast a freezer will fill up once you get started putting food in it.
There are basically two designs of freezers:
Chest type freezers open on the top, and are the most energy efficient. Cold air is heavier than warm air, so when you open the door, the cold air stays in the freezer.
Upright freezers take up less floor space, but are less energy efficient. When you open the door, all of that cold heavy air spills out on the floor. Then when you close the door, the freezer had to work hard to get the temperature back to the set-point. Upright freezers are easier to organize and find food in, because they have shelves that you can use to organize foods by type or age.
The supplies you will need are pretty simple, and is a pretty short list. Besides the freezer itself, you need freezer bags and boxes, and markers to label the packaging. A vacuum packager and vacuum seal bags are good things to have as well.
Depending on any processing that may need to be done before freezing, various pans, bowls, ladles, knives etc. may be needed. If you plan to freeze fruit, an antioxidant like lemon juice or "Fruit Fresh" is good to have on hand to prevent oxidation or browning.
There are some basic concepts that you should know before you begin your adventure into freezing food. Storage temperatures, cause and prevention of freezer burn, color changes, what do to in a power outage, basic freezing techniques and well as labeling and inventory control are all important information. Know the basics before you get started to ensure your success.
Here are links to a few examples of the various foods that can be frozen. Examples provided show basic techniques for freezing different items ranging from fruit, to vegetables, to meats fish and seafood.
Imagine opening your own freezer full of food that you "put up" yourself. You would have the ability to pick out a selection of healthy food for dinner, and feed your family knowing where it all came from, how it was grown and how it was preserved. That is a great feeling.
For me, one of my biggest comforts is knowing that, even if we fall on hard times, my family and I would be able to eat from our freezer and storage shelves for a very long time. Freezing food in bulk is a great way to extend your food budget, eat healthier locally grown food, and increase your level of self sufficiency.