Best Freezer Organization-Box Method!
‘Tis the season to defrost the freezer. Wait, what? It’s actually the traditional time of year (January) when many recommit to eating healthy and I am with you on that journey. I spent some time in the last few days asking myself why my efforts to eat healthy and lose weight aren’t successful. I boiled it down to two main reasons. First, I’m often too tired, too hungry and unprepared to fix a “healthy” meal at the end of the day so I go for the quick thing which rarely translates to a balanced meal. Second, you can’t make good choices if good choices aren’t available. Let me repeat that. You can’t make good choices if good choices aren’t available! To complicate matters, often the not so good choices are available, visible and convenient.
So how do we change that? I’ve been on a meal planning rant this week, really believing that meal planning is the key to being organized and proactive with healthy eating and cooking. I’ve tried a menu planning service in the past with some success but mostly felt I had to modify it a great deal to fit my individual preferences.
So back to the freezer. A key part of meal planning is knowing what you have on hand. It’s also a key to saving money on the grocery bill since you don’t let food go to waste (i.e. the unlabeled mystery food that might be 3 years old in the back of the freezer). Since the low was 3 degrees this morning it was the perfect time to defrost the freezer!
I started by putting everything from the freezer outside the back door and turned off the freezer.
You can use boxes, shopping bags, laundry baskets, coolers or anything you have to get it out side. The freezer defrosted completely in 2.5 hours! It didn’t take that long. I didn’t have inches of ice to begin with but there was enough frost on the shelves that items didn’t sit flat. After a quick wipe down, I shut the freezer, restarted it and let it cool for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile I gathered some boxes (you might have some boxes from online gift orders that haven’t made it to the recycling bin yet). Mini milk crates, plastic food storage containers, etc will work as well. You might check out the dollar store if you just can’t find an alternative. Then I created the broad groups and labels for each box that I wanted to use. Here are my groups:
Ham and Pork
Bacon and Sausage
Soups and Beans
Chicken and Fish
Butter and Lard
Stocks and Bones
I would recommend getting a box big enough for what you would like to keep on hand. You may only have one package of ground beef now but if you usually want to have 6 on hand, get a box that will hold 6. While the freezer was cooling for 30 minutes I found the boxes and made several short trips out the back door to organize the food. After 30 minutes the freezer was about 20 degrees and I put the boxes and food back in the freezer.
I ended up putting the soups and beans in the door since I have them in single serving containers and want them super accessible. Of course the labels don’t stick to the plastic baskets so I’ll have to find another way to label those. Everything doesn’t have to be in a box or basket! Even if you just sorted your meats it would save time figuring out and finding what you have.
Perhaps you aren’t able to use every inch of freezer space by using the box method but there are several benefits.
- Your food is organized.
- You (and other family members) can find food in seconds instead of digging through the entire freezer. You only need to remove one box and look through it for a specific item or inventory.
- If you need to move things around to make space for something you can shift the boxes instead of multiple smaller items.
- If you do need to look through a box you can remove it and look through it with the freezer closed instead of searching while the freezer stands open.
- Food items that are stacked high or aren’t perfectly flat don’t tumble out of the freezer resulting in broken containers or bruised toes.
- The boxes can provide a structure and spaces to contain other items that may not stand up or stack easily.
- You may not need to keep up a freezer inventory since you can quickly and easily see what you have by peaking in each box. If you beef box is half empty, time to start looking for a sale.
- It is easy to rotate the newer items to the back of the box when you come home with a purchase instead of re-stacking everything-huge!
I use this same method for the freezer that is part of my refrigerator and it works equally well. In general I try to keep raw food, grains and ingredients in the deep freeze and cooked meals, fruits, ice cream in the kitchen freezer but it doesn’t always work out that way.
Eating well means preparing healthy meals and that process is easier, less stressful and more budget friendly if the foundation is there. You can start at 5 pm by opening the refrigerator, freezer and pantry and try to figure out what you can make for dinner when you are tired and hungry (why do we do that to ourselves?) or you can plan what to make, have it on hand and be able to find it and maybe even prepare a little in advance.
I hope this helps, tomorrow I’m going to organize one shelf in the pantry!