I think I’m somehow hardwired to morph into full-on nesting mode during the cold, winter months. I think it’s the amount of time I spend indoors, due to the frigid temperatures outdoors.
This week marked the apex of my seasonal quandary. I had overspent my grocery budget in the first week of the year, meaning that I had just $105 left on January 5th, to feed my family for the entire month! Needless to say, in short order I realized that I needed to incorporate every grocery money-saving trick I knew, create inexpensive menus, and dig through my pantry and freezer to find ingredients and avoid the grocery store.
That’s when it became clear that my freezers had become completely unmanageable. I could no longer find anything in them and items were falling on my feet when I opened the door. So, I rolled up my sleeves and spent two hours on Saturday afternoon overhauling and organizing my freezers.
If you are in that position too, here are my tips and strategies for creating a freezer space that allows you find what you want and need and helps you use what you already have in the house. When you combine these two important, fundamental precepts, you will be able to save big money on your grocery bills.
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Step 1: Empty that freezer!
That’s right. Take it all out. Like a great painter, you need to start with an empty canvas. Grab a rag, dampen it with some dish soap or mild cleaner and wipe down all the surfaces of the freezer. I really like to use a safe cleaner without any questionable additives, like Thieves cleaner from Young Living.
Don’t forget to clean off the rubber sealer around the door. It gets gross and is liable to have some mold on it if your freezer is older and doesn’t seal as well as it once did.
Step 2: Defrost the freezer if necessary
While I am organizing the contents of the freezer, I let the ice build-up on the sides of the freezer thaw.
If you have a chest freezer, then it may not be frost free. Mine isn’t. As soon as I begin to empty the contents of the freezer, I make sure the freezer is unplugged. In about 45 minutes, the frost is melted just enough to allow me to scrape all the frost to the bottom of the freezer. Then, I put on a pair of gloves and simply scoop all the ice into a plastic container and throw the ice away. Before I put the newly organized items back, I will wipe down the interior of the freezer.
Step 3: Put all the items on the floor or a table.
It may look chaotic, but you will quickly be able to begin grouping your items into categories. Put all the “like” items together. I found packages of green beans that were no where near each other in the freezer. Put them side by side on the floor so that you can inventory them quickly. I also group all the vegetables in the same area on the floor and do the same with frozen fruit. This makes it easier to put them away in the freezer in a systematic way.
Step 4: Inventory
You will want to record the name, quantity, and size of each item. For instance, I find that you have five bags of frozen corn, (I did, much to my surprise!), you don’t need to list each bag separately. Just write “corn, 1 quart bag, and 5” on your list.
You can do this step by yourself, but it goes really quickly if you have a helper. I picked my youngest son, who wrote each item on the list for me as I orally gave him instructions.
Step 5: Use laundry baskets
Not only do I like to use laundry baskets to facilitate moving the frozen items across the floor after I take them out of the freezer, I also use them to group my categories together. As each item is added to the paper inventory, I place it in the appropriate basket.
I like to use 4 baskets. Here are my categories, but feel free to make your own.
- Heavy items (These are generally large bags and I like to position them in the freezer where they are least likely to fall out)
- Lightweight items (Like small bags of frozen vegetables or frozen herbs, teas, or botanicals)
- Miscellaneous (anything that doesn’t fit into the other category baskets)
Step 6: Put it all back in an organized fashion
I try to keep “like” items beside each other in the freezer and place fruit on one side and vegetables on the other. Use whatever method you like to insure that items don’t get “lost in the abyss” again.