How to achieve your freezer’s full potential

MarY HUNT

Is your freezer a money-guzzling storage facility for mystery meats? An oversized ice maker? It’s time to learn how to turn that box of wasted cold space into the money-stretching time-saving household appliance it was meant to be.

TIPS

Temperature

Set it to the coldest setting so you maintain a constant temperature of zero degrees or lower and ensure food will be safe to eat.

Efficient

A full freezer uses less electricity. When food inventory is low, pack it full by adding containers of water to fit the empty space.

Right wrap

Wrap food tightly to prevent moisture loss that causes food to become dry and discolored. Then, wrap it again in a thicker layer of foil, plastic or freezer bags. The second wrap keeps out odors.

No burn

Trapped air causes freezer burn. To prevent it, select a container small enough so your contents fill it. And skip the fancy sealing machine. Using a freezer bag. Seal all but enough space to slip in a drinking straw. Inhale on the straw to pull out all the air. Quickly seal the bag and pop it in the freezer.

TRICKS

Burgers

Separate individual hamburger patties with squares of waxed paper or parchment, and then stack them in a freezer bag. You can do this with tortillas, too.

Bagels

Bagels can go from freezer to toaster without thawing. Slice and wrap each bagel in plastic, slipping the wrap between the two halves first and then around. Store in a freezer bag.

Bacon

Roll up the bacon in tight coils, each with two or three slices, and pop them in a freezer bag. Remove and thaw one or more coils at a time.

Cookie dough

Divide the dough into balls, and arrange them on a lined cookie sheet. Once frozen, place the balls in a freezer bag. Bake as many as you’d like without defrosting.

Casseroles

Whether original or leftover, line a casserole dish with foil before filling it. Seal tightly, and freeze. Once frozen, remove the foil package from the dish and store in the freezer. When ready to bake, slip food from foil, place in the same dish and bake.

Freshly baked muffins

Make your favorite muffin batter, and fill muffin pans lined with paper cups. Instead of baking, stick the pan in the freezer. Once frozen, pop the muffins into freezer bags. When ready to bake, take the number of muffins out of the freezer; put them into the muffin pan; and bake according to the recipe, adding about five minutes.

Stock

Pour stock or broth into a coffee mug lined with a quart-size freezer bag. Seal the bag, and lay it flat on a cookie sheet. Freeze.

Nuts

They taste fresh for months sealed in a freezer bag. No need to defrost –frozen nuts chop just as easily as fresh.

Dry goods

When stored in the freezer, flour, breadcrumbs, cornmeal, oats and other grains — even potato chips and crackers — are protected from humidity and bugs. Make sure bags and containers are closed tightly.

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Sometimes it’s the most unusual thing that turns out to be the magical solution for a household problem — things like a hairdryer, a bottle of essential oil or a tube of toothpaste.

Dear Mary: We had a very bad dark-pink 7-foot stain in our white fiberglass whirlpool bathtub from previous antifreeze winterizing. I had tried many things to remove the awful stain, including baking soda, soft scrub, bleach, scrubbing bubbles and mildew stain remover, among other things. I was about to give up and live with the long ugly pink stain when I tried non-gel toothpaste. It came off 100 percent! The tub is beautiful and sparkly again. I don’t know if anyone else might have this issue or a similar one, but I wanted to share with you. — Gail

Dear Gail: Wow, that’s amazing! Thanks for letting us know. For readers running for the toothpaste to treat their own stubborn stains, let me caution to always test in an inconspicuous place to make sure you will not be making an already difficult situation even worse. It’s just a good idea. As always, I’d love to hear from anyone for whom this tip saves the day.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving. com and author of 18 books, including her latest, “Can I Pay My Credit Card Bill With a Credit Card?” You can email her at mary@everydaycheapskate. com.