New Year’s Freezer Guide: What to Throw Away

By Allison Fishman

Published on January 14, 2010

I am not a pack rat, but I like the idea of extending a food's life in the larder, the root cellar, or through pickling (it's a practice that's highly recommended by food councils, too). As a city person, my preservation method is usually the freezer. I like to have good ingredients nearby, so that I can make a dozen different meals at a moment's notice without a trip to the store.

As a result, my freezer is often packed with accumulated foodstuffs I can't bear to toss. But with the change of the decade, I feel compelled to discard the old and make room for the new, in life and in my freezer. This week, I'll suggest what you can dump from your freezer for the New Year; next week, we'll talk about what you should always keep the ice chest stocked with.

Freezer Throwaways

Meat with freezer burn: When meat's been frozen too long or not packaged securely, chances are that oxidation and dehydration will brown and wrinkle it, and ruin its flavor. A dog or cat is a saving grace in this instance; cook up that freezer-burnt filet and serve it with rice to Fido or Kitty. They'll be grateful, and you'll feel less guilty.

Flours, nuts, and spices more than two years old: First of all, good on you for keeping these ingredients fresh in the freezer in the first place! That said, if you haven't cooked with them by now, it ain't ever gonna happen. I bought five pounds of cornmeal and grits at a mill over two years ago, and they're still in the freezer. They haven't gone bad; they're just taking up space. I'm giving myself two weeks to use them or toss them.

Half-eaten products: Half-eaten container of low-fat yogurt? Half-box of frozen peas? Again, if they were that good, you would have consumed them by now. Luckily for me, my half-bag of corn will pair nicely with my languishing cornmeal, according to Smitten Kitchen. Here's her recipe for the corniest muffins, a tasty farewell for my well-aged freezer duo.

Blue Ice and Freezer Packs: You're not going on a picnic anytime soon. Take these out of the freezer and put them in storage with your bikinis or swim trunks until you need them.

Items You Don't Recognize: Wait—is that lemon juice or egg whites? Duck fat or brown butter? Bread crumbs or ground walnuts? If you can't identify them, toss them. And, next time, use freezer labels when storing the stuff so you know what you have and when you froze it.

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