Shh… don't tell anyone I'm poor. They all think I'm living frugal and green just like everyone these days. This is a blog about a senior citizen living a frugal life, on a fixed income, in a low income food desert, and passing along knowledge from lessons learned. Some she learned from her Grandma Mama many years ago and some learned only a few days ago.
A major part of my food storage is an upright freezer. Maybe the way I organize mine will give you ideas for how to organize your own freezer. If you are curious, here are some links to posts on my other blog about organizing my freezer. You can see how it all evolved from an early very complex system to the simple one that I have today and possibly pick up a few hints.
This is a photo of the way I organized it last year. I knew what I had and where everything was but I wasn’t happy with it. I wanted to try something different again.
The very first thing I did was ask all the neighbors to pick up all the items that belonged to them. That cleared out over half the stuff taking up freezer space. Next I took everything else out, cleaned it thoroughly, and fixed the problem of ice build up at the bottom. A frost free freezer should not have ice build up. I wrote about that in a previous post a few days ago.
When I began putting stuff back into the freezer I put my newest organizing idea to work. I still wanted it be easy to add stuff and easy to retrieve stuff and I wanted to know exactly what I have. This time I wanted only my own food and not the neighborhood’s food.
It’s Murphy’s Law that the one item you need will always be on the very bottom of a stack. I already knew the best way to store food was to have them lined up like books on a shelf instead of in stacks.
Food comes in all manner of shape and size which makes it difficult to line stuff up and have it stay that way. Containers do solve that problem. The container should be what works for you. It should corral your food so nothing is sliding around or hiding from you. I went through my container storage and found a few that were all the same size and had lids snug enough they will not to pop open when turned on their side.
Now I’ll give you a tour of my freezer as it is today. I may change the actual containers later but these accomplish the purpose.
The top shelf of my freezer is for smaller containers of things that I use often. For example: a container for lard to be washed, bacon bits, homemade ham bullion, chicken stock, sometimes eggs, and of course the ice trays.
The next shelf with the red lid boxes. These containers hold packages of pre-chopped or pre-cooked items.
They hold small bags of stuff like chopped onions, diced bell pepper, individually wrapped slices of cheese, single wrapped hot dogs for my furkid, single serve size of frozen fruit, and pre-cooked pasta in meal ready portions. Sometimes there will be slices of homemade bread, corn muffins, or biscuits all individually wrapped.
Almost all recipes are written for families. Its very difficult, and energy wasteful, to convert recipes to singles for cooking. With a freezer I can make the recipe as it is and have the convenience of eating only what I want without any waste.
The third shelf is dedicated solely to flash freezing foods. I use this shelf almost everyday. Currently I have peaches freezing. When the peaches are done I’ll pack them into single serve size and move to a red lid container.
The fourth shelf has two larger containers without lids. I treat those like drawers to be pulled out. Within each container are numbered zip bags with vacuum sealed packages of meat inside. I have these numbered bags lined up like books inside the containers. Sometimes I have soup or stew in zip bags that I lay flat on a tray to freeze then store in these two containers too.
Each meat or meal is stored in the numbered bag to make it easier to find just the right one. I remove any items from cardboard boxes filled with air and store only the inner package along with the cooking instructions.
The bottom basket is for larger items like whole chickens, turkey, and large roasts. I have those in plastic grocery bags to prevent me from dropping one on my foot. Its easier to hold bag handles than it is to hold a very cold and heavy item. The bags have a number tag on them. There is also a bag of blueberries and a box of grapes in the basket.
On the door are items I don’t want in containers. There is smoked sausage, chocolate milk and yogurt for Ladybug, brown sugar, and the blue box has ice cubes.
There is butter, ice packs, hot dogs, flour, and corn meal. I usually have yeast there too but I’m out of it at the moment.
I keep an inventory list of everything in my freezer. A list is the most important part of every good freezer organization. The inventory list is like a map or an index file to know what you have and where everything is located.
On my list are only four columns of information. (you can click the photo to get a closer look) I still need to add on the door items.
box or bag # = this is the location of the item
date= this is the day it goes into the freezer so I’ll know how long something has been stored and if it should be used right away
item = what it is
count or pounds = such as 3 pork chops or 2 pounds ground beef or five biscuits or 1 cup macaroni. This is useful when planning meals
My list doesn’t require much time to maintain. My list is typed and printed out. When I use an item I simply cross it off. When a food is added I write it on the paper. About once a month, or when needed, I go to the computer and update my list to print a new one. I fold and carry the list with me when I shop. This keeps me from purchasing items I already have.
I’m happy with the new simpler freezer organization. I know exactly what is in it, how long its been in there, what should be eaten right away, and where to find it when I want to eat it. I don’t have to pull stuff out in order to find what may be hidden someplace in the dark corners. I don’t have to move anything to get to an item on the bottom of a whole stack of items. I don’t worry about a heavy frozen chicken falling on my foot. Best of all, I don’t buy duplicates anymore unless I just want duplicates. AND everything in it belongs to only me.
Now keep in mind that absolutely no organizing system will work unless you actually USE it once you have it.
I hope you enjoyed the tour of my freezer. So, what do you think? Does it inspire you to get your own freezer organized?