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Labeling stuff for the freezer and refrigerator


Fat Guy
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I really need to get better about this. In the past couple of days, I've reheated chili instead of soup, toasted a sweet bread for a savory sandwich (that actually came out okay), and been unable to tell which container of meatballs was older.

Do you label the stuff in your freezer? Do you have any advice on how I can get onto the path and do it well?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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What are you using for storage?

I put dates on things (I just use whatever marker is laying about), but I use clear, lidded containers or clear, heavy-duty freezer bags (both of which are reusable, mitigating my environment-related guilt pangs), so I can usually tell what's inside without making a note of it. If the item being frozen is not so easily identified (e.g. gravy or some other brownish substance), I do add a note regarding the contents. When I reuse the container, I cross out the previous date/note. Over time the older things wash or rub away completely, so the container never actually gets covered up with writing. If you're tossing the container after you use it, that wouldn't even be an issue.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
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My Dad puts food in plastic containers and writes the name of the dish and the month on the lid, e.g. "Squash Soup Aug '11". It then sits in the freezer for months. A couple of times a year he goes in and defrosts stuff, throws it away and cleans the containers up (or throws them away depending on their condition). It's a time honoured family tradition. He has good intentions, but it never works out!

ETA:

Oh some things that do get eaten from the freezer are the portions of meat and fish my Dad puts in there. He is the only meat eater in the house so he buys a chicken or whatever and portions it up. These get carefully wrapped and put into a plastic bag which is clearly labelled with and identifier ("chicken breast") and the date. This has worked out well for my Dad as he can make himself small portions of non-veg food easily.

Edited by Jenni (log)
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For liquids, different sized plastic containers from Chinese take-out. Scotch tape on lid and write with black marker what's in it.

For solids, portion out, wrap in foil, put in plastic bag purge air and use black marker.

Dating is an obviously good idea which I never considered.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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Do you label the stuff in your freezer? Do you have any advice on how I can get onto the path and do it well?

Of course. Keep a roll of masking tape and a Sharpie in the kitchen and, as they say in that commercial, just do it.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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I have four sharpies.. Red ( Beef ) Blue ( Pork ) Green ( chxn ) and Blk ( misc )..

and I just write on the bags. I mostly bag and stocks are old cottage cheese containers

( yikes ).. Top labled.

Its good to have Morels

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I have four sharpies.. Red ( Beef ) Blue ( Pork ) Green ( chxn ) and Blk ( misc )..

Best new idea for me.

I have the most complicated freezer storage plan, but it actually works for us. A deep chest freezer...hard for a short old lady to use.

OK. Multiple plastic square buckets bought from a store...original contents: their muffin mix. Square fits really well. A computer generated schema in which each area of food has its own place: cooked meat, uncooked meat and fish, vegetables, fruits, baking things, Mexican ingredients, etc.

Then within each bucket are placed packaged foods, some in reused plastic containers with top sticky labels, and others in plastic bags, either with contents written on them or pieces of paper stored within with contents marked in pencil (that's because you can't write on some bags and sticky labels can fall off so easily). My schema is held on the adjacent oil tank side by magnets.

Oh well, it works.

%7Boption%7Dfreezer diagram (jpeg).jpg

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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I use recycled grey plastic tubs (available widely down here for takeout), and write with sharpie on the lids regarding contents and date. For meats, these go into freezer baggies and are unlabeled because I have no difficulty telling the difference between chicken breast, say, and a chunk of fish. I rarely freeze bread unless it's already gone terribly stale and I'm saving it for stuffing. And of course the pureed veggies, applesauce, and shredded zucchini are in pre-measured amounts in freezer baggies with clear labels - applesauce and squash puree look a lot alike after they've frozen...

Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

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Like the sharpie people I've become better since I started a system where I only need to find a pen, not a label. I stick a HUGE label on and write what's inside in quite small letters at the top. Then next time I cross this out and write what's now inside underneath. It looks dreadful fo course, but it works for me.

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I bought a retractable, felt-tipped (marker) pen specifically designed for kitchen use. It writes directly on tupperware-type plastic, or freezer bags, and washes off. It's proven good at resisting being accidentally rubbed off.

Of course it has one of those splendid Japanese product labels that are written so small you can't decipher them. The big letters say "Deruzou", the product name.

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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I have a Sharpie-type marker always handy, so it's easy to write on stuff. If you don't have the Sharpie handy, it's too tempting to just stick things right into the freezer and figure you'll take care of labeling later, or you'll remember, or whatever.

Many things go into the sort of freezer bag that has a space for writing labels. And I also have a roll of masking tape in the same handy kitchen drawer as the Sharpies. If it's something wrapped in foil, I write on the masking tape, and then wrap that tape around. I haven't had any trouble at all with the masking tape coming off. I, too, write what it is, and the month and year. The trick is to write on whatever labeling method you're using before you fill it or chill it or whatever, when it can be impossible. Even a regular ball-point pin writes just fine on those plastic freezer bags in that label spot. In fact, I prefer it to a Sharpie on those bags.

As we've discussed before, soups, chilies, stews, gravies, stock - anything liquid - go into large, heavy-duty freezer bags (upon which I've already written the pertinent information, usually with a ball-point pen), and lie flat until they freeze. Then they're stacked up like files or old long-play record albums.

And, also like others, I do try to store like-items together - meats, veggies, cheese & butter & other dairy, etc.

Also, we have a small dry-erase board that is on magnets so it attaches to the fridge/freezer. We're all really good about keeping a running total of what's in the freezer.

When it's dinnertime, it's much easier to stand there and peruse that list than it is to dig around in the nether regions of the frozen north.

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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We're all really good about keeping a running total of what's in the freezer.

Great ideas and almost sainthood also. :laugh: We are NOT all really good. That's where my elaborate, a tad foolproof, system came from.

I've found that much of the secret is just to be sure it's easy to do. The dry-erase marker is right there attached to the board. When you're busy, you don't want to have to hunt for the marker. Also, since I do most of the cooking, I'm the main maintainer of the list.

To get everyone else in the habit of using that list, when I first put it up, I would stand there around dinnertime and ask folks what sounded good, and then read from the list. That got people accustomed to checking it regularly.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Foodsaver bags for everything that isn't liquid. Square Pyrex containers for everything that is. (Square is a more efficient shape for freezer storage.) Once frozen solid, liquids are often removed from the pyrex and bagged.

EVERYTHING gets labeled and dated. I label and date everything in the kitchen. Why not do the same at home?

And at home, we go as far as to date canned goods when they come in. (For FIFO reasons. We don't have a can rack.)

And I'd like to ditch the Foodsaver and get a Cryovac. Next time I see one at the used restaurant supply store, I might just splurge.

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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I use a sharpie on everything,,dont use tape, just mark on whatever it is...

Bud

Yes, but if it's a Tupperware (or similar) container, you don't want to write on it repeatedly, do you? Each new time you use it to freeze something?

Masking tape works great, and I've never had an issue with it coming off.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Masking tape and sharpie works ok, and I have used it in the past. But, now, I use restaurant food storage labels. I got a huge box of rolls of labels on eBay for teaching, we always ran out, and they are great. They remind me to not only write what's in the package, but to date it, add a pull date, and initial it so I know who made the item.

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I have labeled everything since back in the late '60s and '70s when I had the family at home and to save my sanity HAD to label things that were intended for a particular meal or meals.

Training the kids and my husband to actually read and respond to those labels took time but eventually took effect.

For many things that are not just temporary storage, I use my Brother P-Touch label printer. I have different sizes and colors of tape.

I mostly use Cambro containers and the Brother tape will not come off in the dishwasher. So when I empty a container of something that I always keep on hand, that container is washed, dried and refilled.

For temporary storage in vacuum bags and/or zip lock bags, I use a permanent marker. Sharpies are okay but I also use the old-fashioned china markers - I like the Dixon brand, they come in nine colors and are waterproof but easily removable with water. And they don't have that chemical smell that sometimes bothers me.

The marks disappear in the dishwasher so they are ideal for glass - no tape needed, no sticky residue.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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I have a Sharpie-type marker always handy, so it's easy to write on stuff. If you don't have the Sharpie handy, it's too tempting to just stick things right into the freezer and figure you'll take care of labeling later, or you'll remember, or whatever.

Many things go into the sort of freezer bag that has a space for writing labels. And I also have a roll of masking tape in the same handy kitchen drawer as the Sharpies. If it's something wrapped in foil, I write on the masking tape, and then wrap that tape around. I haven't had any trouble at all with the masking tape coming off. I, too, write what it is, and the month and year. The trick is to write on whatever labeling method you're using before you fill it or chill it or whatever, when it can be impossible. Even a regular ball-point pin writes just fine on those plastic freezer bags in that label spot. In fact, I prefer it to a Sharpie on those bags.

As we've discussed before, soups, chilies, stews, gravies, stock - anything liquid - go into large, heavy-duty freezer bags (upon which I've already written the pertinent information, usually with a ball-point pen), and lie flat until they freeze. Then they're stacked up like files or old long-play record albums.

And, also like others, I do try to store like-items together - meats, veggies, cheese & butter & other dairy, etc.

Also, we have a small dry-erase board that is on magnets so it attaches to the fridge/freezer. We're all really good about keeping a running total of what's in the freezer.

When it's dinnertime, it's much easier to stand there and peruse that list than it is to dig around in the nether regions of the frozen north.

Hi Jaymes. My method is very much like yours except that I keep my inventory on a computer generated spreadsheet that hangs on the side of the fridge. I also use the spreadsheet to see what I need to add to my grocery list and print out an updated version after I shop.

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