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Articles: Food

Running an Energy-Efficient Freezer

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Do you find yourself wondering what is lurking at the bottom of your deep freezer? Is there a chicken from 1982 that has taken hostage underneath all of those layers of food? Defrosting a freezer is certainly not a favorite on anyone’s to-do list, but it is a necessary item on our checklists in order to keep our freezers running efficiently. Frost buildup increases the amount of energy needed to keep the motor running so defrosting your freezer is an important step in being money-savvy.

Truly the best time to defrost the freezer is when stocks of food are at their lowest, for example, after the holidays are over or in early summer before you stock it with your garden produce. The less food that you have to move around, the easier the job will be so pick times when your stock is depleted, perhaps right before your grocery day.

Begin by taking a look inside your freezer to see how thick the ice is on the freezer walls. You will want the ice buildup to reach a quarter inch before defrosting the freezer. Doing this more or less often wastes energy, but typical families will need to defrost their freezers once or twice a year.

The first step towards a frost-free freezer is removing all of the food. I find the easiest way to do this is to have a trash can and a large cooler next to me. Chuck any food that is old, showing signs of freezer burn, or is not well-packaged into the trash can. Any food that still looks good and has not expired can go into the cooler to be kept cold while the freezer is being defrosted. If you do not have a cooler to move the food into, you can wrap the food in newspaper and put it into a large box, covered with a blanket. If the food is stacked tightly and insulated well, it will stay colder longer while you are doing your job.

Now that all of your food has been removed from the freezer, you can unplug your freezer. If the freezer is an upright model, place towels inside the bottom of the unit to catch any drips. You could also use drip pans or baking sheets to catch any water.

There are many tactics towards removing the frost, the longest tactic is allowing the frost to melt naturally, but it requires the least amount of hands-on time for you. Waiting for the frost can melt can take several hours, but you can accomplish other tasks around the house while you wait. If you want to do the job quickly though, you can place a big pot of boiling water on top of a pot holder inside your freezer to speed up the process. The hot pot of water will aid in melting the ice more quickly. Another popular tactic is the blow dyer method, where you blow warm air over the ice in a freezer, moving frequently to avoid overheating in one area, and allowing the blow dryer to do the work for you. Whatever method you choose, it is important to not forcibly pry off the ice in your freezer because you can puncture the lining of the freezer and ruin it.

Once your freezer is defrosted, you can take a wet-dry vacuum cleaner and use it to suck up any ice debris and water left. This is a quick way to get the moisture out of your freezer. Once this is accomplished, you are ready to begin the process of cleaning the interior of your freezer.

Begin by filling a dish tub with two tablespoons of baking soda and one quart warm water. Dampen a cloth in the solution and then gently clean the inside of the freezer. Once you have wiped all of its surfaces, empty the dishwashing tub and refill it with clean warm water. Dampen your sponge and wipe down the interior again with the clean water. Finish by wiping it all down with a dry towel and then plug your freezer back in. Allow the appliance to run for one hour, after you have switched it back on, before replacing the contents.

Once you have weeded through all of the old food, you may find that freezer is quite roomier than it was before. Freezers actually run more efficiently if the freezer is full so there are a couple of options for filling the freezer for the leaner times in life. You can fill the large spaces with loaves of bread, which is inexpensive filler, or crumpled newsprint. This will prevent the air from circulating and keep your freezer running as efficiently as possible.

To keep your freezer clean and well-maintained, make sure you package all of your food properly before placing it in the freezer. Store all food in air-tight containers that are specifically designed for the freezer and make sure to remove any trapped air from your freezer bags. Trapped air can affect the flavor and texture of your foods so make sure you remove it all before freezing your items.

To keep your freezer smelling fresh, don’t forget to add an open box of baking soda to help absorb the stale odors that can lurk there. Marking the box with a reminder date on the outside will help jog your memory to replace this every three months.

Finally, to keep your refrigerator and freezer running as efficiently as possible, make sure that the door seals are working correctly. The easiest way to check your seals is to close the door of your freezer on a piece of paper. If the paper can be pulled out easily, the seal is worn and is need of replacing.

Here are some quick and easy freezing guidelines for how long items will last in your freezer. Keep these guidelines in mind when stocking up for all of those great grocery sales. After all, a freezer can be a great asset to any frugal family’s home!

Freezing Guidelines

Baked Quick Breads: 2-3 months

Bread: 3 months

Flour: 1-2 years

Butter: 9 months

Margarine: 12 months

Hard natural cheeses: 6 months

Processed Cheese: 6 months

Pork Chops: 4-6 months

Beef: 6-9 months

Fish: 6 months

Chicken: 6-9 months

Bacon: 1 month

Egg Substitute: 1 year