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Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: 10 tips for organizing a chest freezer

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays

I'm curious as to how you keep your chest freezer organized. I've been trying to stretch my grocery trips to once every 12-14 days, and I'm happy with it so far, but my freezer is a wreck! I have a running list of its contents so I know what's in there, but with so many oddly-shaped foods in it (bags of bread, jars of broth, bags of veggies, etc), it just ends up being a huge jumble of stuff. Then I get annoyed when I have to dig through everything to find what I need. Any advice?

My chest freezer

We have a 7-cubic-foot chest freezer, which I think is a great size for holding lots of food (if well-packed) without becoming overwhelming to organize!

Here are some tips for how I keep my chest freezer organized and under control:

1. I don't have a lot of different, little items floating around. We buy things in bulk, so I usually have 5-10 pounds or more of any given item. Fewer items = easier to keep track.

2. We find and use medium-sized cardboard boxes that fit the width of our freezer. I have a stack of several boxes that fit just perfectly along one side of the freezer. I put smaller things (like individually frozen/sealed fish fillets) in the boxes, and it's fairly quick and easy to unstack them and get to what I want -- even if it's near the bottom. I find that boxes are the most efficient space-wise for the freezer. For "tote-like" boxes, just cut off the top flaps.

3. When stacking foods, alternate types. When I stack several bags of frozen veggies, or several boxes or bags of frozen fish or meats, I try to alternate the types as I'm stacking them. This way, I never have to move 3 bags of green beans to reach the corn! ;)

4. Take foods out of their original packaging and re-package them. See the bag of Pollock in the top right corner of my freezer picture above? It's actually stuffed with 2 bags' worth of fish. Many boxed or bagged freezer items are individually wrapped inside the bag or box, and can be opened and re-stacked or re-packaged to take up a lot less space, and this helps things be less crowded and more organized.

5. Put extras of things on the bottom of the chest freezer. We froze gallons of fresh blackberries last summer, and I keep a bag handy to use from. The other bags are packed in the bottom of the freezer, where they're out of the way.

6. Go through "the little stuff" and use it! I find that "the little stuff" tends to get freezer burn if it's not used within a reasonable time frame. I keep little things like bread crumbs (from homemade bread), dry yeast, chopped nuts, etc. in the door of my small freezer so they don't get lost AND so I can remember to use them!

Freezer meals stacked in the freezer

7. Have a freezer inventory sheet. I made a simple one on a scrap paper with lists of my freezer meals and tallies (in pencil) for the number of each. Why tallies in pencil? It's easy to erase tallies as they're used -- or to add a couple more on later if I've made extras of something! So much nicer than crossing out a number to write a new one. :)

8. Every couple of months (or before any big shopping trip or stock-up), go through the freezer. I pull almost everything out, look over what I have, and stack it back in a reasonable fashion. It probably takes me 10-15 minutes to do this with my chest freezer, and afterward I have a much better idea of what I need to buy, or what I need to focus on incorporating in our menus. :)

9. THINK before you freeze. Some of my freezer untidiness is simply a result of freezing something to avoid having to eat it. Leftovers that we didn't really like? NOT a good candidate for the freezer. Sure, it'll keep the food from spoiling, but we probably won't feel like eating it later, and I'll just end up shuffling it around and around until it's so freezer-burned I throw it away.

The same thing applies to packaging. When I take the time to properly package something for the freezer, it stays fresher and I won't dread the possibility of freezer burn later. I've had food that I thought was probably freezer burned (due to my poor packaging) and I ended up waiting until I was SURE it WAS freezer burned, and then tossed it. How sad! It's much better to plan ahead and/or take the time to package well before freezing. :)

And on a related note -- label everything, even if you're sure you won't forget what it is.

10. Hmmm, I think I am out of freezer tips! ;) Anyone have a good one for my #10?! :)

By the way -- I'm sure that upright freezers are easier to organize than chest freezers, but I love having a chest freezer. Chest freezers are more economical than upright ones in a variety of ways (price, operating cost, usable space) which is why we decided on a chest freezer.

I've also found that packing my chest freezer efficiently (especially the cardboard box tip -- #2 above) has really eliminated most of the frost accumulation. Only the top few inches of my chest freezer has a thin layer of frost -- the rest is completely frost-free -- after a whole year of use without defrosting! :) So -- I guess that's the #10 tip. ;)

Related posts:

Freezer meal tips
Labeling frozen food
Frozen food tips
Freezing casseroles without tying up a dish (video)

To Participate in Kitchen Tip Tuesdays:

Post a kitchen tip in your blog. Link to this post, and then leave your link here, so we know where to find YOU! :) No giveaways or non-tip posts, please!

In order to keep the kitchen tips more easily accessible, posts not adhering to these guidelines will be removed. We need to be able to easily find/see what your kitchen/cooking tip is. :) Thanks for your participation! :)

Leave your tip links in a comment. I'll manually add them to this post!

1. Use Pam to set nail polish (Frugal in Florida
2. Buttermilk substitute (Living So Abundantly)
3. Tart-making tips (The Local Cook)
4. Ground turkey and chopping olives tips (Robin at Happily Home After)
5. Shred chicken in your mixer (Shannon at Chickens in My Kitchen)
6. 15 green and frugal foodie tips (The Cheapskate Cook)
7. Meatloaf meatball tips (Tried It Liked It)
8. Cookie sheet comparisons (Gretchen at Extraordinary Ordinary Life)
9. 5 alternative uses for dish racks (Rachel at Trial and Error Home Ec)

Comments

Think

::giggle:: I like the Think Before You Freeze :) That's so true! Ok, my tip? Use Pam to set your nail polish ... only because the kitchen is WHERE I always smudge them! If I could stay out of the kitchen for just ONE hour it wouldn't be so bad :)
http://www.learningthefrugallife.blogspot.com/2012/02/frugal-tuesday-tip-week-54.html

(PS - the kids are getting so grown up and beautiful, glad to here Joshua is recovering ... thoughts and prayers continued your way ... take care of yourself too!)

OOPS

wrong link I think on the nail polish setting...

http://frugalinflorida.blogspot.com/2012/02/nails-and-nail-polish-manicures-all.html

Buttermilk

I don't have a freezer chest, but we are considering getting one. This is a great resource if we do. ;) My post is a tip on how to make a buttermilk substitute.

http://livingsoabundantly.blogspot.com/2012/02/buttermilk-substitute.html

Tart Tips

Thanks for hosting! I'm linking up a post about making tarts - it's part of my Back to Basics series. Lots of tips.

http://thelocalcook.com/2012/02/06/queen-of-tarts/

Freezer Ideas and Tammy's Tues Tips

Tammy,

Your freezer "system" is already quite organized ... I have freezer envy :) I'm going to try a couple of your ideas! Two things I do that you didn't mention is: 1) color code my freezer bags (red = meat, green = veggies, etc) I use a Sharpie marker and just color a small circle or square next to where I write the bag label ... when I'm searching it helps to id a "possible" bag! 2) I have two freezers (inside with the fridge and one in garage) and I **try** to treat them as different zones (inside = fruit, veg, bread, and an empty freezing shelf) (outside = meats, prepared dishes).

And I have a post for Tammy's Tues tips: http://happilyhomeafter.blogspot.com/2012/02/in-kitchen-turkey-picadillo-sandwiches.html

This is a tasty and nutritional weeknight meal that both adults and children can enjoy. The tips I've included are how to use the less expensive ground turkey (85% lean) in this dish in a healthy way and chopping olives safely,

Glad to read the recovery is going well at your house.

Robin
happilyhomeafter.blogspot.com

Shred Chicken in your mixer

http://www.chickensinmykitchen.com/2011/11/kitchen-tip.html

Thank you Tammy!

Thank you Shannon...

We raise our own meats, and this week we had just butchered 6 ten month old cockerals. We like our meat to have a lot more flavor and texture, but it also means that the meat is usually tougher. I have some bone and joint problems, and working with the tough meat, when it is cooked and cooled can present some problems for me. I had boiled up 3 birds, and pulled the meat off the bones and needed to put it into the freezer in portions. I tried your suggestion on some breast meat, and it shredded up so nice! I loved the texture it gave those tough breasts! I cooked some King Ranch Chicken tonight, and it was great! My husband said that I should write you and tell you a special *thank you* from him.....that was how much we liked it!!!! I will use my mixer from now on!!! I am going to try it with goat and venison too! Thanks again!

You are so welcome! We farm

You are so welcome! We farm and have a bigger family, so I roast and cook 40 lbs-ish of chicken breasts at a time, and then freeze the shredded chicken in bags. Using my mixer has saved me so much time! I am so glad it worked for you too.

15 Green & Frugal Foodie Tips

Here's my tip!
http://thecheapskatecook.com/2010/09/13/15-green-frugal-foodie-tips/

Love your freezer tips. I tend to pack leftovers we didn't like into the freezer, and you're right! They just get shifted around until they go bad. Definitely not efficient.

Idea for freezer cooking: meatloaf meatballs

Here is my link with how I mix and shape meatloaf meatballs (freezer cooking, individual portions, easy to thaw and reheat) without ever having to touch the raw meat (eeeewwww!): http://trieditlikedit.wordpress.com/2012/02/06/liked-it-meatloaf-meatballs-a-k-a-no-touch-meatloaf-recipe/
I love your site, thank you!!!!

This is quite timely since I

This is quite timely since I plan on organizing my upright freezer tonight but I couldn't think about how to organize my chest freezer. We just keep our meat in our chest freezer but it would be nice to have steaks in a box and so on.

My kitchen tip is about cookie sheet comparisons (http://extraordinaryordinarylife.blogspot.com/2012/01/kitchen-tip-cookie-sheet-comparison.html)

Thank you,
Gretchen
Extraordinary Ordinary Life

I'm laughing at Tip #9

Because I TOTALLY do that. And it's so true. I made a lasagne not too long ago. No one was thrilled with it. Half of it was left over after dinner. So I wrapped it up and put it in my freezer. Guess where it still sits? Glad I'm not the only one who does that. :-)

Here are five ideas for

Here are five ideas for alternative uses for dish racks.

http://trialanderrorhomeec.blogspot.com/2012/02/ktt-uses-for-drying-racks.html

-Rachel

Stacy Makes Cents's picture

Nice

Wow! Your's is way more organized than mine. :-)
I do have an upright freezer, and I wish I had a chest freezer instead. I don't like the storage in the door because I don't feel like it gets a good enough deep freeze. And for me, it is hard to organize - yes you have shelving, but the stuff gets pushed to the back and it's hard to see, just like in a chest freezer. I think they both have their ups and downs...but I grew up with a chest freezer, so I prefer them.

~Stacy from Stacy Makes Cents

Thank you

Thanks Tammy. I just purchased a small chest freezer last week so this is great!

Removing labels

here's my tip for removing labels from jars

http://www.ithinkicansquared.blogspot.com/2012/02/removing-labels.html

Thanks!

Thanks for answering my question, Tammy! I'm going to ask my husband to find me some cardboard boxes in our basement (that's his domain - I try not to go down there unless I have to. :-)).

I love the tip for using

I love the tip for using cardboard boxes. When I get a deep-freeze one day, I will try that for sure! I'm also a big proponent of not freezing stuff we won't eat. Just because it's a leftover (and I don't want to throw it away) doesn't mean it will be eaten after having been in the freezer. IN fact, if no one liked it, then it will definitely NOT be eaten. Why take up the space?

Here's my link to cooking dried beans. I know most people who read your blog know this stuff, but I've found a lot of friends struggling with grocery costs and maybe someone else out there could use a helpful little tutorial to get them started.

Thanks for your amazingly awesome site!

http://www.growinginhisglory.com/2012/02/kitchen-tip-4-how-to-cook-dried-beans.html

Your Mexican Black Bean Burgers

Hello Tammy,
Just want to say I made your mexican black bean burgers and they are so good! Love the cilantro and hot sauce together. I'm thinking I would also use this as a bean dip -minus the egg of course. Ya know, just season the beans as you've indicated, including hot sauce and cilantro and then just dip chips or veggies. I taste tested before adding egg and the bean base so reminds me of that Frito bean dip. Thanks for this recipe.

Freezer issues

We have both an upright (18 cu ft) and a downright, (24 cu ft) so organization is critical to avoid wastage. The tips on using boxes, colour coding etc are all good but our experience has proven that packaging is the most important. A vacuum sealer is highly recommended as this procedure will retain freshness for a year and more. Failing that, double wrap meat, fish etc in saran or similar. Ziplocks are NOT a good choice for freezer storage. the old brown freezer paper actually works better than these.
Labels, as mentioned are essential. Be sure to put the date on it as well as the contents.
We do a monthly review of the contents and plan menus around those that are getting older. That usually involves an hour on Sunday morning. An hour a month is certainly worthwhile when considering what could be lost.
Finally, use your steamer to resurrect freeze dried veggies, (as long as they smell OK.) Vacuum packing eliminates freezer burn and flavour transfer.
We buy 5 lb blocks of cheese, (much cheaper than retail quantities) cut them into 8 oz slabs, vacuum them separately and enjoy the additional flavour as they continue to mature while in the spare fridge. Zero mould or waste.
Hope this helps!

Thank you so much!!

I love these tips for both my fridge freezer and deep freeze. Tip #2 is my favorite. I never knew what all was at the bottom of my deep freeze. The deep freeze was such a mess I didn't know where anything was and didn't want to take time to see what was at the bottom. It's 100% better because of these tips. Thanks!

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