Organizing the Freezer (Freezer Days Q & A)

I’ve just started venturing into the world of freezer cooking (thanks to you!) and now I have a freezer that is just in complete disarray. I
want to be organized and make it easy to find things. How do you organize your freezers? (fridge as well as big deep freeze). Any helpful tips would be appreciated! Thanks.

– Lindsay

Lindsay asks a wonderful question. While having a freezer full of great things to eat is a definite boon to the home cook, it doesn’t help you if you can’t find anything!

Unfortunately, I’m not the one to answer this question. My freezers are currently in shambles. The girls and I went looking for ice cream the other night, and we had quite a time of it. Our chest freezer is one giant pit!

So, I would love to know — and so would Lisa — how do you organize your freezer? Please share your approach in the comments and make sure to tell us what kind of freezer you have: side-by-side, upright, or chest.

How do YOU organize a freezer?

 

Curious about freezer cooking? Consider purchasing my cookbook, Not Your Mother’s Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or your local bookstore. It’s chock full with over 200 freezer-friendly recipes, planning pages, shopping lists, cooking plans, and basic and advanced how-to’s to making freezer cooking work for any home, family, and lifestyle.

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Comments

  1. I just have a freezer over the fridge – small, but I still lose things! I organize by place: veggies, cheese, butter and baggies of premeasured stuff like recaito) on the door, meat and prepared meals on the bottom shelf, and breads, ice creams, etc (larger and/or more frequently used items ) on the top shelf. Unless it won’t fit then I stuff whatever in an empy space until I can move it where it should be ; )

  2. We have a chest freezer and the system that is working best for us is to one basket that came with the freezer and slide across the top, 3 file crates/milk crates (1 w/ fruits, 1 w/ veg, 1 w/meats), and one wire basket (prob. intended for desk use, found at the thrift store) for breads. That still leaves other open spaces for big bags of chicken or pans of ready to go meals. It stays pretty well sorted and isn’t too much of a job to clean since I can easily remove each basket to really see what I have to work with.

    • We just brought home a chest freezer today, and I organized it that same way!!! I haven’t had to use it yet, but it sure looks nice:)

  3. I’m fortunate because I have a gigantic upright (ranching family…). I have 5 shelves and 6 door shelves.

    Each shelf is dedicated to a type of item – top shelf is sweets and desserts (cookie doughs, ice cream, popsicles, etc.) 2nd shelf is breakfast items (muffins, fruit, etc.). 3rd shelf is convenience items (pizza, chicken tenders, fish sticks, etc.). 4th shelf is vegetables and sides. Bottom shelf is meat and make-ahead dinners.

    I invested $50 over the course of a year in freezer bins from the container store, so bags of veggies, fruits, homemade sauces in zip bags, etc. are held in their own bins. Made a huge difference. I also bought some restaurant jelly roll pans for $8/2 that I keep the ice cream on. Learned the hard way that when you lose power, things melt and drip. This is also why I keep my meat and dinners at the bottom – makes it easier to clean up if you have a disaster.

    The door shelves are filled by category as well – nuts and flours at the top; coffee and chocolate next; anything that can melt all over anything else is at the bottom. I also keep ice packs for lunches in the door.

    For immediate needs, we use the freezer side of our kitchen fridge. In there are all the everyday things – open veggies, fruit for smoothies, breakfast items for immediate consumption, etc. When we run out of something, I take it from the outside freezer and replace.

  4. We have a 5 cu.ft. chest freezer. I use plastic square tubs ,not sure of the name, from the dollar tree to organize. As I do more freezer meals, I want one tub to contain one week of meals.

  5. I’m looking forward to seeing more of these answers! I’m working on making my own freezer meals and trying to figure out how to store them most efficiently. Right now, I’m freezing them lying flat (in a small cookie sheet), and hope to stand them up in the bottom drawer of my freezer (side by side). I’m hoping to put smaller/thicker items (steaks, pre-made burger patties) in another drawer. A third drawer is the perfect size for freezer cartons (that I use to store homemade ice cream/sorbet). I still have two shelves, and may adjust them a bit, but wonder if anyone has suggestions for organizing the shelving just a bit better that what I’ve come up with so far.

  6. I knew it had to be an upright for me, or everything would be lost! Three major shelves: vegetables, main entrees & soups, and party things on hand: sometimes mini meatballs, chicken tenders for the kiddies, mac-n-cheese in large trays, and desserts. It makes it so much easier when family Christmas party time comes around! The soups are mostly for my lunches – in individual portions.

  7. Great topic! We have a large up-right freezer and two large deep freezers (a few of my clients pay in pork or beef). Tons of food and I get lost among it all. The beef and pork are primarily downstairs and we just pull from there as we plan weekly menus but the up-stairs freezer is a mess. It breaks my heart when I loose food to spoilage or freezer burn and look forward to more tips from your readers.

  8. Great ideas! I’m in the process of cleaning out an old chest freezer and moving stuff into a new chest freezer. I’m doing it slowly because I’m trying to find ways to keep things accessible and neat in the new one. So far I’ve just been using all of the baskets that we had between the two freezers. And I think we somehow picked up some other wire freezer baskets along the way. I have 3 of the sliding baskets across the top and another 3 down below that I’m using. I like the idea of using a milk crate – I might try that to stack on top of the other baskets. Thanks!

  9. I’m always looking for new ideas for freezer organization. I have a 15 cu foot chest freezer, and I currently use the square bottom “green” shopping bags to store like items…chicken, pork, beef, seafood, frozen veggies, frozen fruit, etc. I make a map and post it directly above the door so I can see where things go. I layer the bags and keep track of which layer and which section each bag is located. The bags are easy to life out, and seem to stack up fairly well. My system isn’t perfect, but it is flexible for when I have lots of some items and few of others. Baskets took up too much room, and plastic got brittle too quickly.

    I found an old foodsaver vacuum attachment at a thrift store, and when it works, it is great. I’ve just about convinced myself to buy a new one, since vacuum sealed foods don’t freezer burn and stack well into the freezer. the bags ARE more expensive than ziplock freezer bags, but I love how much longer my meat keeps when it is vacuum sealed.

  10. I have 2 tubs that I picked up at Walmart, they stack on each other sideways, they have notches in the bottom so you can stack them. (not sure what they are called) The 2 fit perfectly inside my chest freezer, I use one for vegetables and one for meats. The wire basket that came with it I use for bread, and underneath that on the shelf I use to stack meals (which I don’t do a lot of).

  11. Since even with organizing shelves/tubs, I still have trouble seeing everything in my chest freezer, I keep a magnetic dry erase board on the freezer lid (with a dry erase marker and eraser magnet-ed to the lid as well). I have listed everything that typically goes into the freezer in two columns, with columns beside each where I make tally marks for the number of the item in the freezer. When something goes in, tally marks are added. When something comes out, tally marks are erased. It’s not perfect, because sometimes we forget to erase or add marks even though the board is right in front of us when we open the freezer, but it does give us a good general idea.

  12. We have found that using Paper Bags from the grocery store works great!

    Each bag is a certain item like chicken, or dairy, or breads, or beef.

    We double them up if they are heavy, and we just stack the bags on top of each other.

    When we need a certain item, we just take out the bag.

  13. We only have a small freezer (on our fridge) so I tend to only make ahead and freeze soups and sauces. I out them into quart size ziploc bags, freeze them laying flat. Once they are frozen I put them vertically (like books on a bookshelf) and they (somehow) take less space and are easier to access.

  14. having just lost the entire contents of our fridge and freezer due to a 5 day power outage, I am absolutely reluctant to stock up much in my freezer unless we commit to purchasing a generator. I completely see the benefit of freezer cooking (especially during those super hot summer days when I wished I had some cooked ground beef for slow cooker taco filling or sloppy joes that would provide good meals without heat in the kitchen) but for right now, I’m a bit gunshy. Do those of you who have extra freezers have a backup plan for when a power outage strikes? I am sure our loss is over $300 or more and I’m not even someone who freezer cooks. I just always had stocked my freezer well but it was truly sad to throw away freezer bags of marinated chicken, ground beef bought on sale and packaged in smaller bags, etc.

    • S, that is awful! We almost had that happen a few months ago. I had just one grocery shopping, loaded up the fridge and 2 freezers, and the power went out. Thankfully, when I was getting ready to unload the food and take it to my parents, the power came back on. I almost cried, because that was all the money we had for groceries that month. When you are ready to stock up again, keep in mind dry ice works wonders! We’ve had to do that before. Also, you might try looking on craigslist for generators. That’s what we’re doing. Great insurance for food!

      • I have also asked friends to take my perishables if they have power and we don’t (we get ice storms a lot and have trees go down). I keep jugs of water interspersed throughout to make ice in case the power goes. And remember that not all items go bad- nuts, bread, crumbs, flours, waffles, etc. will be okay. Concentrate on keeping your big ticket items like meat frozen and let the rest go if you have to.

  15. I use plastic storage totes for my meats and anything that may melt. I also use the free printable from http://organizedhome.com/printable/household-notebook/freezer-inventory to make a list of what is in my freezer since it is in the shed and I don’t plan to dig through it looking for a lost bag of meat that should be in there. There are several other printables that come in handy too. I love organizedhome.com

  16. I use the sliding baskets that came with my chest freezers for the prepared food (freezer cooking or prepackaged things). (I have a small chest freezer, and a medium sized one.) I purchase beef and pork, so one is the beef freezer and one is the pork freezer. When I got meat from the butcher, it came in paper bags, and that was so convenient to put in the freezer. I’ve just kept using that method. I just kind of know what is in each bag. Then I have a bag for frozen veggies, chicken, and other categories. It works pretty well for me right now. I have boxes at the bottom for the fruit and other things to keep them together also. It’s an organized mess, but I know where things are and it makes it easier to get to the bottom to get things from there… I just have to take a few bags out and then I can get fruit or whatever I need. My mom always had 3 big freezers and she uses a variety of boxes to organize. I don’t have as much room, so the bags take up less space. I do occasionally think about what I would do in the case of a power outage… and I hope the generator my hubby bought would be able to keep up with it.

  17. I haven’t seen this posted yet, but I believe it is very important. My permanent marker is my best friend. I label Everything that goes into my fridge/freezer with the date and what it is, how much, what type, etc. For example, Ground Round, 2lbs, 9/4/11. Do this before you load your bag and you’ll thank yourself later.

  18. I haven’t really begun compiling freezer meals, but in anticipation i have been saving photos on pintrest…there are some amazing ideas and i <3 organizing also has some great photos!! I CAN be done!! good luck!!

  19. I have a chest freezer where I store all I my marinated meats, veges and breads. I store the snacks, freezer waffles, lunch items and small items on my everyday list. I have a freezer inventory marking when they go in and when they go out. There’s a free printable I use on my site!

  20. I have an upright freezer with five shelves which I delegate to different foods: vegetables and fruits, soups and leftovers from other meals that can make a new meal, packaged meals, breads, and meats. On the door I keep frozen juice concentrate, crumbs, nuts, flours, and loaf breads. To organize more, I bought plastic bins from the dollar store to divide up plastic bags holding chopped veggies, soups, cooked dried beans, etc. I also bought wire shelves at WalMart that are intended to give you more room in your cabinets. I cut up a sturdy pierce of cardboard to put under the feet. Now I can divide my shelves even more. I am working on keeping a written inventory so I can use my food more wisely. I couldn’t live without my freezer!!

  21. i have an upright. I have premade foods on top, meat/dairy 2nd shelf, veggies/fruits 3rd shelf, baking mixes/flour bottom shelf, spices in the door. this seems to work well for me. We use the freezer in our fridge for things like ice cream and coffee. i am LOVING the idea of bins from the dollar tree. I think i’ll pick up some of those this weekend.

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