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How to get the most out of your freezer

Food freezers are wonderful appliances that offer great convenience, save endless trips to the supermarket, and allow us to dine on fresh-frozen strawberries from our gardens in the middle of winter. Thirty-six million households in the United States own a separate freezer, according to recent Whirlpool Corporation consumer studies. To help owners get the most from their freezers, Whirlpool home economists offer the following tips:

Plan freezer loads with your freezer size in mind. For best results, freeze no more than three pounds of food per cubic foot of freezer space. For example, a nine-cubic-foot capacity freezer can accommodate about 27 pounds of unfrozen food, and a 15-cubic-foot freezer about 45 pounds.

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Freeze rapidly to ensure the best food quality, avoiding putting too many packages of unfrozen food in the freezer at any one time.

Use proper wrapping techniques and materials to protect food quality and minimize moisture and vapor loss. Most consumers use freezer bags, plastic containers, and aluminum foil.

Plan for quick meals by cooking in large quantities, and freezing the extra food for later use.

Don't freeze food and then forget about it. Food is lost or its quality is affected by storing it for too long a period, or by freezer burn.

The solution, say the Whirlpool home economists, lies in using frozen foods on a first-in, first-out basis. A steady turnover makes the best use of food, electricity, and space. To find food quickly, organize freezer contents by type of item and label each package with contents and date.

Although storage times vary according to the quality of the food before it was frozen, the packaging or wrap used, and the storage temperature, for best results use frozen foods within these storage times:

Fruits. For fruits such as berries, cherries, peaches, pineapple, and fruit juice concentrate - 12 months; for citrus fruit and juices - from 4 to 6 months.

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Vegetables. Most raw vegetables do not freeze well and lose crispness, but blanched or cooked home-frozen vegetables can be stored between 8 and 12 months, and commercially frozen vegetables for up to 8 months.

Meats. Cured ham, bacon, and frankfurters should be stored for only 4 weeks or less. Ground beef, lamb, and veal can be stored for 2 to 3 months. Beef roasts can be stored between 6 and 12 months, lamb and veal roasts for 6 to 9 months, and pork roasts for 3 to 6 months. Beef steaks can be stored from 8 to 12 months, lamb and veal cutlets and pork chops from 3 to 4 months. Fresh sausage can be stored from 1 to 2 months.

Fish. Uncooked shrimp can be stored up to 12 months, and Alaskan king crab for 10 months, but most shellfish should be used within 3 to 4 months. Bluefish, salmon, mackerel, and perch should be used within 2 to 3 months, and cod, flounder, haddock, and sole within 6.

Poultry. Whole chickens or turkeys can be stored for 12 months, and slices for 1 month. TV dinners can be stored from 3 to 6 months, and other commercially frozen main dishes (stews, casseroles, etc.) from 2 to 3 months.

Dairy products and eggs. Butter can be stored from 6 to 9 months, margarine 12 months, and ice cream for 4 weeks. Egg yolks and whites can be stored between 9 and 12 months. (Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt or 1 teaspoon of sugar to each six whole eggs or egg yolks to prevent coagulation of solids during freezing.)

Baked goods. Most breads and rolls can be stored for 3 months, frosted cakes for 2 to 4 months, fruitcakes for 12 months, and baked cookies from 8 to 12 months. Baked pies can be stored from 1 to 2 months.

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