How I Label Food for the Freezer

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Jessica Fisher)

It’s happened at least once that I’ve reused a plastic ice cream container to freeze something and forgotten to label it. Do you know how disappointing it is to reach for chocolate gelato late at night and realize that it’s actually gravy?

Those are what we call teachable moments, folks.

(Image credit: Jessica Fisher)

Since you don’t want to mistake your freezer meals, it’s important to label the packages for the freezer. Here’s the who, what, why, and how of freezer labeling:

Who: Everything

If it’s not in a labeled, purchased container, you should label it. This is especially important when you share a kitchen with others or reuse commercial containers. Ahem.

What: Name, date, serving instructions

My carton of gravy should have been labeled, “Beef Gravy, January 15, reheat in a pot on the stove.” But, it didn’t, and masqueraded as ice cream.

Proper labeling will help you avoid confusion, remind you how old something is, and help someone reheat or cook the food property.

No, your memory is not good enough. And who wants to dig up a recipe when freezer meals are supposed to save you time?

Why: So you don’t mistake gravy for ice cream

‘Nuf said.

Why I Need to Keep a Sharpie by the Freezer (Image credit: Anne Wolfe Postic)

How: With a permanent marker

I’ve got more than a few unusual tools in my kitchen, including one that is perfect for freezer cooking: The Sharpie.

Present in probably every office and desk drawer in the country, the Sharpie marker is ideal for labeling packages of food for freezing. It works well on all kinds of packaging (insert link to packaging post), including glass. Eventually it washes off glass, or you can use some rubbing alcohol if you’re in a hurry. Sometimes I see phantom marks on plastic lids, but it doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

One caveat: do your labeling while your containers or ziptop bags are empty or at least room temperature. Hot or cold temps can alter the effectiveness of the marker, preventing you from putting your best penmanship forward.

I’ve found the Sharpie to be more reliable than any other form of labeling. I’ve got several stashed in my kitchen drawers.

Mystery meat is no fun. Especially when you want ice cream. Be sure to label the items in your freezer.