Tips for Organizing Your Freezer – Use it Like Another Pantry

Last year I took a good hard look at the crypt that was my freezer and determined to do better about being organized and thoughtful about using up food that we already had on hand before trucking off to the grocery store.  What I found was that a little organization and intention went a long way and that with a little labeling and a little container love I’d created a system that not only reduced our food waste, but turned my freezer into another pantry of sorts.

ways to organize your kitchen and your freezer

Before I got organized about my freezer, it was a place where all food went to die.  After a resting period in the tundra, it moved directly to the hens or the compost pile depending on what unidentifiable object I thought I was looking at.

Use Your Freezer Like a Pantry
Now, however, I use the freezer as I believe it was intended, as an extended pantry.  With labels on everything and containers that stack and easily organize, I no longer dread opening the freezer, but instead go to it on a regular basis to supplement and add to meals in the works.  When I’m doing my regular rotation of food in the fridge and clearing out little bits of this and that, the freezer is just one more place I go for inspiration.

Also, no longer is the freezer a stuffed-full, can-barely-close-the-door sort of place.  Instead, I use it often to pull weeknight soups or stews that can be ready in minutes.  Just add salad or cooked greens and presto, dinner is ready.  The freezer stock is rotating on a regular basis just like my dry pantry items.

  1. Make soup, omelet, or pizza kits with little leftover bits from the fridge – remember to label everything
  2. Think about your freezer as if it were another pantry. Use it often and regularly.

Annie
How do you organize your freezer?  What works for you?

Tips for Organizing Your Freezer – Label Everything

Organize.  Budget.  Plan.  Diet.  What a perfect time of year to focus on getting organized and tidy in one or more areas, such as, ahem, my closets.  But closets are for another day.  Today is about the freezer.  I’m not really a New Year’s resolution sort of gal, but I do like this time of year for checking in about my habits and making sure that I’ve got a good handle on the life I’m choosing by the choices I’m making.  And while the garden is asleep and the winds whip and roar outside, it feels satisfying to turn my attention toward the house and our inside life.

labels for organizing the freezer

One of the things I focused on last year around this time was our food waste.  And while the compost pile is always ready and willing to receive any and all organic matter, I wanted to get even better at consuming our food before it headed to the big pile out back.  I already had a handle on rotating stock in the fridge, using up pantry items, and having a pretty good plan for leftovers and little bits.  I’ve written about good strategies for leftovers before and will be sharing more as we go along this winter.

The freezer, however, was another story. You know, that place that we relegate unused food, wait until it has freezer burn, and then a year later throw the unlabled and unknown mystery items into the compost pile?  Might as well be Siberia.   Yup.  That’s the thing I wanted to be better at.  So I’ve come up with a couple of strategies – all of which I knew and none of which I did much of until last year.

Label Everything
All of the changes I made were fairly small and didn’t take much doing, but the biggest of all was labeling everything that went into the freezer.

Basically, if I don’t label, I may as well just skip the freezer and toss everything in to the compost bucket straight off.  Once something goes into the freezer without a label, it’s never coming out as something useful.  Why not?  Because I NEVER remember what the thing is.  I always tell myself I will.  But I don’t.  Because it get moved around.  Because once it’s frozen it doesn’t look exactly as it did when I first put it in there.  Because I can’t smell it to figure out what it is.  Because I can’t taste it to figure out what it is.  Because.  Just.  Label.

Once I gave in to the idea that my intellectual prowess was not strong enough to overcome the freezer vortex, I started to love opening the freezer.  A year later it’s even more organized than it was initially and it’s something I use all the time, not a place to relegate unmentionables.

To make things easy, because who has time for anything else, here are a few tips:

  1. Make up labels ahead of time, so all you need to do is write and slap
  2. Store the labels and pen in the kitchen somewhere close
  3. Use a waterproof pen or marker, not a gel pen that will smear if it gets wet
  4. Label the top of the lids for a bottom or chest freezer and the side of the containers for a top freezer so you can see the label easily
  5. Date everything

Annie
More to come in this series – stay tuned!