The refrigerator gets all the love when you’re trying to eat smarter – and healthier. After all, there are few better feelings than a fridge that you’ve meticulously stocked with fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and more, with every square inch of space packed with fresh, tasty options. There’s just one thing you may have missed, though: What’s in your freezer? Making the most of that Deepfreeze can be a great way to reduce shopping trips, save money, and give you nutritious, versatile options – as long as you’re freezing the right way, that is.

Do: Consider Post-Thawing Texture

Some foods remain precisely the same after freezing and thawing as they did when they were fresh. For instance, fish, hard cheeses, meats, and sliced bread all regain their freshness after being refrigerated. But softer cheeses often change texture, such as goat cheese, Brie, or Camembert. Many frozen fruits and vegetables also tend to undergo a texture transformation that makes them great for smoothies, soups, and casseroles when thawed, but not as ideal for eating fresh.

Don’t: Let Leftovers Sit Out Before or After Freezing

It's a popular misperception that freezing would eradicate any bacteria present in leftovers. Sadly, that is not the case. Many foodborne microbes can withstand freezing and pose a problem later when the food is thawed, especially if it’s not subsequently cooked sufficiently. This is why, for example, not every fish can become sushi fish. It’s unsafe to let food thaw at room temperature because bacteria can multiply rapidly and create toxins that will survive the cooking process – even if the food is cooked to temperatures that kill the bacteria themselves.

Do: Pack Your Freezer Full

Although your electricity bill will appear better, this is not a food safety recommendation. Since it requires more energy to maintain the freezer at below-freezing temperatures when only a few items are stored within, using as much of the available space will boost your efficiency.

Don’t: Use Whatever Plastic Bags Are Handy

Typically, freezer-friendly plastic zip-top bags are more expensive than standard plastic zip-top bags, but they are worth the money because "freezer bags" are not a gimmick. When food is stored in packaging that isn't freezer-compatible, its quality degrades more quickly. The reason for this is that additional air entering the package could result in freezer burn.

Don’t: Thaw on the Counter

Thawing food properly is critical to preventing foodborne bacteria from multiplying to dangerous levels. Don’t plan on thawing any kind of food at room temperature, even seemingly “safer” options like leftovers or cooked meats. Instead, she offers these four methods:

Thaw by Cooking: This works especially well for small pieces of food, including ground or chopped meat.

Thaw in the Microwave: This is typically the second-fastest way to thaw food (cooking is the fastest). It’s not recommended for large food items, such as whole chickens, but it is ideal for smaller foods or foods that will be added to a larger dish later.

Thaw in Cold Water: This method takes about 20 to 30 minutes per pound of food. As the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) points out, make sure to use waterproof packaging and change the water every 30 minutes.

Thaw in the Refrigerator: This is by far the easiest and safest way to thaw frozen food, but it takes the longest. Depending on the fare, it can take 24 hours per pound of food.

Do: Refreeze Properly

A good rule of thumb is to avoid refreezing previously frozen and then thawed items whenever possible because the moisture lost during the initial thawing procedure will impact food quality.

You can make the most of your freezer as a go-to location for nutritious meals if you have safety precautions and excellent habits in place. You could even be able to extend the time between shopping trips if your area is well-stocked.