Whether you have a stand-alone unit or yours is part of the refrigerator, your freezer is either costing you a lot in wasted energy or it's saving you a bundle in food costs.1. Get a refrigerator/freezer thermometer to check the temperature. The closer to 0 F the better. Food kept at 0 F will last months longer than, say, 20 F or 31 F.
2. Trapped air causes freezer burn. Make sure you select a container small enough so the contents fill it. You can remove a great deal of the air from a freezer bag without a fancy vacuum-sealing machine. Seal all but enough space to slip in a drinking straw. Now inhale on that straw to pull all the air out of the Bag. Quickly zip the last bit. Pop it into the freezer.
3. It takes a lot more electricity to keep an empty freezer at 0 F than it does a full one, so pack it as tightly as you can. If you don't have enough food to do that, fill empty milk cartons with water and freeze them. The square shape is better than round jugs because you can stack them like bricks. Bonus: You'll have plenty of fresh water in the event of a power outage.
4. The simplest way to preserve fresh tomatoes is to freeze them whole. Just rinse, dry and spread them out on a cookie sheet. Freeze overnight. When they're frozen, put in a freezer bag and return to the freezer. To use, remove them from the bag and thaw. When they're thawed, slip the skins off and use in your favorite recipes. They will not be like fresh tomatoes, but they're great for making sauces, chili, etc.
5. You can freeze fresh zucchini. Choose young squash with tender skin. Wash and cut them into 1/2-inch slices. Drop them into boiling water for three minutes. Cool promptly, drain and package in zipper-type bags or containers, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Seal and freeze.
6. With fresh herbs, wash, drain and pat them dry with paper towels. Wrap a few sprigs or leaves in wax paper. Seal in a freezer bag. Freeze. While they're still frozen, whack the bag on the countertop and the herbs will shatter. Chopped herbs in an instant! Use as you would fresh.
7. Onions: Chop and spread into a single layer on a cookie sheet. Freeze. Once frozen, pour them into zipper-type bags or containers and put back in freezer.
8. Cheese freezes well but changes consistency. Once it's frozen, you won't be able to slice it. Instead of freezing a large block, grate the cheese before freezing and freeze in smaller portions.
9. Inventory: The worst thing for your electricity bill is to keep opening the freezer. Post an inventory list on the door. When you use something, mark it off. Now you can "shop" the list, not stand there with the door open.
10. Before freezing bread and bakery items, slip a paper towel inside the bag to cover the item. Reseal, pressing out as much air as possible. It will be fresh months from now. I haven't a clue why this works, but it does.