If you shop in bulk to save money and freeze extra portions for future feasting, you are one smart consumer! Just keep in mind that nothing stays the same forever, even frozen. In fact, you’ll want to take note about this frozen-food caution…

The esteemed Cook’s Illustrated journal tested the quality of frozen chicken breasts and found that after only two months frozen, the meat was slightly less tender. (Although meat frozen indefinitely, if thawed correctly, is still safe to eat even though the quality may have suffered, according to the FDA.) So it pays to keep an eye on what you keep in your freezer! Here are some essential freezer food-storage tips…

Put a label with the date and the contents on each food container you freeze. Do not delude yourself into thinking that you’ll remember what you’ve frozen and when. We speak from experience.

Simple labeling trick: Place a piece of Scotch tape on the cover of your plastic container, and label your item with a dark Sharpie. The tape will come off easily without ruining the container for future use.

When you freeze food in a resealable plastic bag—the less air, the better. The trick to getting the air out is to insert a straw in the bag with the food. Close the bag as much as you can, except for the straw. Using the straw, suck out the air from the bag. Now this is the tricky part—quickly remove the straw and close the bag completely before air gets back in. Be sure to label the bag with the date and contents before you suck the air out of it.

Note: If you feel nervous about doing the straw trick with raw meat, carefully attach a vacuum cleaner nozzle to the outside mouth of the straw and “vacuum” the air out. We prefer wrapping meat portions tightly in foil (see below) and placing them in a labeled plastic bag.

Do not wrap food that’s headed for the freezer with reused aluminum foil. Crinkled foil can create little holes. Those holes will let air get at the frozen food and may cause freezer burn. Splurge with a new piece of foil each time you wrap food for the freezer.

Extra quality and portion control: We take safe storage a step further by first wrapping the food in plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil. And if you’re wrapping single-serving items such as burgers or hot dogs, wrap them individually for easier separation in the future.

Thanks to CooksIllustrated.com, FDA.gov and The Journal of Food Science for help with this tip.

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