Na Na pinches her pennies (aka frugal living)

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.

Organized freezer

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.

Freezer in 2011 and freezer in 2012 and freezer in 2013

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.

Food and kitchen 2014 043

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.

Food and kitchen 2015 608

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.

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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.

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The next shelf with the red lid boxes.  These containers hold packages of pre-chopped or pre-cooked items.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

 

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16 comments on “Organized freezer

  1. Christa N
    October 4, 2015

    We have an upright freezer that is full. My husband hunts and fishes. I have a small garden every summer. We also purchased a 1/2 beef this past spring. We can a lot of the fish and veggies but we’re still struggling for space in the freezer. We’ve even argued about who gets the last remaining space in the freezer…..the gardener (me) or the fisherman (him)….lol! I’ve been looking for an easy system to organize our freezer. Thank you for your detailed explanations on how and why you organize it the way you do. That was very helpful.

    • Na Na
      October 5, 2015

      You’re welcome. Its always nice to hear I’m helping someone.

  2. Jackie
    October 3, 2015

    I think you have organized your freezer wonderfully for you. I really need to get into my two and sort things.

    God bless.

    • Na Na
      October 4, 2015

      Thanks Jackie

  3. Barbara
    October 3, 2015

    Very nicely done. I would love an upright freezer but have a chest one. Way less organized. Enjoy it!

    • Na Na
      October 4, 2015

      I actually think I would like a chest freezer better but I’ve never had one so I don’t know for sure.

  4. Linda S.
    October 3, 2015

    Do you have any thoughts on organizing a chest freezer? I use a couple of fabric reusable bags for oft used things (breads, muffins, veggies) so I can pull the bag out while I search & don’t have to leave the freezer open. Things seem to travel around in there. I only have one basket; been looking for a couple more @ thrift stores but no luck.

    • Na Na
      October 4, 2015

      The most important thing about an organized freezer or even an unorganized one is your list. Just knowing what you have and how long you’ve had it will save money. If you also include a freezer location to your list then you make an item easier to find and use.

      You can always use more reusable bags and number them or maybe dollar store storage containers with lids might be a good option too. I can’t remember their actual name right now but the lids have locking handles. You want something large enough to hold items without being too big and too heavy to lift out. Even though you’d be stacking them these would make it easier to retrieve stuff from the bottom. You could number them too which is essential to finding stuff in a freezer.

  5. Nathalie
    October 3, 2015

    Wow. It makes me wish I had a large upright freezer like yours! It looks so neat 🙂

    I have a side-by-side refrigerator/freezer and I keep my vegetables and fruit in that one. I should try your system as it’s messy. My main freezer is a chest freezer. It’s hard to organize. What I do is use reusable bags to hold the items. I have a couple of bags with chicken, a bag with beef, a bag with pork, a bag with baked goods. etc. It’s easier to get to the bottom of the freezer that way (since something has to be at the bottom anyway!) but the bags can be heavy to lift. There is a basket where I keep smaller items (guacamole, sausages, sticks of butter) and then on top of that I balance the 3 ice trays that I use to make ice cubes since my icemaker doesn’t work anymore.

    I keep a running list of what is in my freezer on Google Drive and my calendar reminds me to cross off what I have used that day every night. I tried putting a printed list next to the freezer but I just wasn’t using it that way. Also, since it’s on Google Drive, I can access it from the store from my phone if need be.

    So this works for me, but if I had the choice, I’d rather have your freezer! Great job. Thanks for taking the time to type up the post.

    • Na Na
      October 4, 2015

      Ha Ha Ha, it only looks good right now because I cleaned and straightened it all up. Just wait till I start shoving stuff in it because I haven’t the time to deal with them during a Christmas rush. I don’t have a cell phone so the google drive wouldn’t work for me. I’m actually a pencil and paper type person anyway.

      I only have a bar fridge but my daughter has a side by side. She has an ice maker and water dispenser on the door with takes up quite a bit of room in the freezer. She bought open top containers with handles from the dollar store. Those fit perfectly in hers and keep stuff contained.

  6. sarasinart
    October 3, 2015

    Mine is pretty well organized, but yours is better!

    • Na Na
      October 4, 2015

      Thank you. Do you have an inventory list too? Does it help you save money?

      • sarasinart
        October 4, 2015

        No I don’t keep a list, I just have things organized so I can find them and keep a list sort of in my head. The freezer saves me lots of money cos I can buy stuff when it’s cheaper and in bulk, and have a place to store it. I’m able to grow stuff in the garden so I have a lot of things I put away from there in my freezer. That’s a blessing for sure.

        • Na Na
          October 4, 2015

          I envy you. My mind can’t remember that many details anymore. Some days I’m lucky to remember I have a freezer much less know what’s in it. 😉

          • sarasinart
            October 4, 2015

            And for all those times, lists are great! I have to write down reminders of things to do or some of them just don’t get done. 🙂

            • Na Na
              October 5, 2015

              So right!

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