Make the Most of Your Freezing Friend
Updated March 2020 – Since my original chest freezer organization ideas post in August 2013, I have moved two times and downsized my chest freezer space from two large chests to just one. Now, in the midst of a huge worldwide quarantine, freezer organization is even more important.
Have you followed our 3 month food supply guide? That will make a great companion to this piece, since you’ll want to incorporate mid term storage items into your freezer organization.
Have you ever been in the following scenario? It’s grocery shopping day. To complicate matters, you’ve had a hectic day and it’s late, but the shopping needs to be done. So, after an overly long shopping trip (given the news lately, one that involves lots of canned and frozen foods), you finally get home.
After walking in the front door, you pile everything on the kitchen counters, asking the kids and your spouse for help putting things away. But where does it all go?
Sorting things into the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer area, everyone takes a pile and puts things away. How does your family put the meat, vegetables, and ice cream into the freezer? If they are like mine, they finish as quickly as possible and dump everything in there into a big pile.
It’s amazing how quickly the organization plan you have for your freezer will get out of control. A family friendly system is a necessity if you expect your kids and spouse to help you keep it organized. Otherwise, they will just drop food anywhere in the freeze without any regard for whatever you have planned. Thus the mess begins again and rapidly spirals out of control.
Last Saturday was dedicated to pulling out the contents of my freezer and re-evaluating my organization plan. In order to keep things together, I needed something super simple that everyone can use. So, I decided to keep the bag and cloth box plan from before and instead give each bag a number.
The next thing I did was create a word document with a series of boxes labeled with the corresponding number. I hand wrote all the items that I placed in each bag. On top of that, I write down how many of each item we have in the bag.
That word document is now hanging on a hook next to the freezer. Trust me when I tell you that it is a huge load off my back. Does this sound like a good plan? If you like what you’re reading, don’t stress about making your own document. Get a free copy of the label document in pdf format with this link.
Now, when someone wants to find stew meat they can look at the inventory and find bag #1. Looking for chicken? That’s in bag #3. Do we have any blueberries left? Yep, they’re in bag #6. Remember to cross it off the list when you remove an item, please! It’s as easy as can be! Now, in just the last few days of meal preparation, I’ve found my stress levels during cooking time going way down.
In addition, when someone goes to the freezer they can add things to any bag they want. All they have to do is write each item down on the inventory sheet. Of course, it may not be as easy as dumping it all in a pile, but it is simple enough that my family can follow the rules.
So, where do we start? Just follow these eight simple steps below for how to put together the ideally organized and neat freezer. Have more tips? Add your comments to our comment section below!
My Updated Chest Freezer Organization Plan
FIFO – First In First Out
“First in, first out” is a basic inventory practice. Be sure that you are using the oldest items in your freezer first. That means you will need a way to keep track of what you have in there and rotate it regularly. Another way to maintain the “first in first out” rule is to physically rotate the older items to the front.
You can also do this with the entire freezer bags. This way, you ensure that you don’t leave that one pack of frozen veggie burgers in the very back for five years!
Keep track of what you’ve got
Keep a simple freezer inventory list in a handy place and teach your family to use it. At our home, we put this inventory list on a clipboard on the wall next to the freezer. I set up a word doc and printed out pages marked with each bag number.
With this system in place, my family can write when they take something out or add something in. It is right there, within easy reach. Pro tip: if you have kids under the age of 12, who tend to write in huge letters, give yourself plenty of spaces in between the lines. The only way this method will work is if the whole family is involved. So, be sure to find ways to accommodate the little ones.
Bins and bags!
Use a series of easy to move bags and bins to separate the food. Since the main challenge with chest freezers is effectively using the bottom area, I chose to use cloth shopping bags and bins to do this. They were inexpensive and will be easy to move.
Avoid plastic bins. For one, plastic is generally bad for the environment, so do your part in making the planet more livable! Second, plastic is prone to cracking under freezing temperatures.
Bag ’em and tag ’em!
Label each one by making tags for each bag and affixing them to the bag. I made laminated tags that should last a long time and can easily be re-tied and moved when I need to. Plus, my family will have no doubt about what is in each one.
If you have a multi-colored pack, you can also color code your bags. For example, frozen meats could go in the red bag, frozen vegetables in the green, ice cream products in blue, and frozen fruits could go in yellow. Get the kids involved by letting them come up with the color coding. This way they’ll always know where everything is too!
Compartmentalize, compartmentalize, compartmentalize!
Think big when it comes to organization in your freezer. Compartmentalize for easy access. Split your freezer into sections and keep different kinds of food in each area. Meat should go in one section, precooked meals in another, and fruits and vegetables in a third area.
Consider using your kitchen freezer for short term freezer items and opened bags of produce. Think in terms of what you use most often, as well as thinking about what is going to spoil faster. By contrast, your chest freezer is best for your longer term storage items. Remember, frozen cuts of meat can last up to a year, but ground meat shouldn’t stay in the freezer longer than 4 months before using!
Freeze items flat
After you have frozen your items flat, stand them up and stack them like a bookshelf. This represents space saving at its best! It also looks unique and, dare I say, stylish. I place my precooked foods in Ziploc bags or FoodSaver bags and freeze them flat. The next step for me is to use the wire bins that come with the freezer and stack them upright with the name of the dish written at the top.
If you’re extra organized, consider placing all of the boxed items together in order to maximize space. Oftentimes, the box itself takes up unnecessary space, with the item contained in secondary plastic within the box. In this case, just freeze the item in its plastic wrapping and add that cardboard box to your compost pile.
Use energy efficient packing
Do you have extra space in your freezer? Be mindful of how much energy you’re using. Fill up your freezer by placing water bottles in the bottom. A full chest freezer is energy efficient and will save me money. If I have extra space I will fill it with ¾ full pop bottles.
This gives me the flexibility to add and remove bottles as I need to and helps retain the cold inside the freezer if the power is out. Why ¾ full bottles you may ask? Water expands, so keeping them 75% full prevents exploding bottles! You can also fill your freezer with ice bags to fill out your space.
Make it accessible
We have a family rule not to put anything on top of the freezers. No exceptions! That means everything from sports equipment to old boxes that are on their way out. That way we can always get into them easily and get what we need without moving a bunch of stuff around.
Following these straightforward and simple steps can prove wonders for your chest freezer. These guidelines will save you a lot of time in accessing items when you’re cooking. And don’t underestimate the headaches this will save you when it comes time to shopping!
Next time you need to make a grocery run, just take a quick glance at your printed word document in the freezer. This will let you know what you need to replace and what ingredients you already have for parts of your next family meal.
Here’s the Original Chest Freezer Organization Ideas Post From 2013
I have two chest freezers that were very unorganized. Now, you would think that because I use them as part of my food storage plan, I would have a system for finding things easily. But you would be wrong!
We moved a few years ago and I have just dumped our things into them. Beef from a cow we had butchered, vegetables and fruits I’ve taken the time to prepare, cheese purchased in bulk and repacked into smaller manageable sizes. It’s a mess! Now that I’m moving again I desperately need some chest freezer organization ideas.
The Chest Freezer Organization Problem
First, I have no idea what’s in them. For example, are we getting low on ground beef? I think we have a few whole chickens left, but which part of the freezer are they in? You see my dilemma…
Next, I don’t know what to put in each freezer. Should they each have a different purpose? One for beef and one for other meat. One for meat and one for precooked meals? It is currently a big jumble.
Furthermore, chest freezers are hard to organize, especially the bottoms. You always need to stack things on top of each other. How will I get past that?
Finally, I’m a frugal gal and I don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on freezer organization.
I have been putting off doing this for so long, but the move has given me inspiration. I did the research and purchased the things many months ago and never found the time. Now I’m glad I have.
I should show you the reality… here is a picture of my freezers with all the stuff on top! Yikes – how did we get in there?
These websites were useful as I was doing the research to make my plan:
The Kitchn – This site also offers good freezer organizing tips, including different ideas for different types of freezers. It also offers helpful hints for good frozen meal preparation and
Stuff Parents Need – Tiffany offers four more tips on different ways of organizing the deep freezer, another term for chest freezer. This is a good resource if your chest freezer came with dividers included for sorting your inventory.
sZinteriors – These guidelines are great for no cost organization. It is a particularly good resource for how to freeze items ahead of time for good storage.
Real Mom Nutrition – This is a great site for all sorts of nutrition types. When it comes to saving freezer space, Real Mom Nutrition’s chest freezer page also includes a really helpful guide to how long frozen items will last. Definitely take a look at their chart and keep this in mind when you plan your short and long term food supplies.
QueenBee Coupons – Queen Bae is full of even more tips for organizing and maximizing your freezer space. She uses cardboard boxes and markers to organize her freezer, and even offers ideas on great frozen meals.
Are you more of a visual learner? Check out this video from our friends at “A Thousand Words” for more tips on how to best organize your chest freezer.
Do you keep a freezer inventory? What type of bags or bins have you used with success in organizing you deep freezer? What other methods have worked out for you? What about favorite frozen meals? Share your freezer storage ideas in the comments section below.
Thanks for the shout out!
Welcome! I got my idea for canvas bags from your post. They are working fabulously – even my husband can do it…
Good Ideas but would like before and after pictures 🙂
Read for a Great tip for Frugal Preppers!
Thanks Preparedness Mama for all your great posts! I had devised a system of color coded bins to try and organize my chest freezer which worked well. Each color was a different type of food, for example red was for meat, green for frozen veggies etc. Blue might be for fish. Using obvious color matches (Meat is usually red, green you associate with vegetables, Blue is the color of the ocean etc) it is easy to remember and visually spot the bin. A word of caution is to use plastic bins that have a flexible plastic. I bought some trays from the dollar store and some of the plastic just got brittle and cracked easily when it got banged around in the freezer.
I have 3 freezers including an upright freezer which I highly recommend for anyone wanting a truly organized freezer. I have a chest freezer which is good for meats and larger items but for the countless small containers I have of leftovers and prepared food I just longed for an easily accessible and viewable way to manage them. The upright is a wonder for this! Each shelf has a purpose and I also use trays to pull the containers out easily at one time.
I would like to share a tip with many of you frugal people who think they can’t afford an upright freezer. I was able to get one free ( and many other item too!) The trend now is to “Upcycle” or “Repurpose” where people don’t want to throw things out anymore for the environment or they have to pay to take it to the dump. Most of these items are in good working order, it is just because the people are downsizing or moving and want to get rid of it fast not having to bother selling it. Check your local “Buy and Sell” or Classified websites and you may find a “Free Stuff” Category where many people list things they want to get rid. Here in Canada we have “Kijiji.ca”. You would be VERY surprised at the amazing items you can get. Mason jars, canning items as well as freezers are just some items you could use. Anyone just starting out or on a budget will find this very useful.
How about a chalkboard in place of papers that easily get lost, It’d be Quick to re-mark +/- on quantity changes.
These are great ideas! I love the bag suggestion – I wouldn’t have thought of that.
I keep 7 plastic bins in my chest freezer. When i shop(talking major Costco trips), I separate the food into the bins by what I will prepare each day for one week. So a package of chicken breasts may be separated into storage bags an divided among the bins based on how many meals i will use them for. Same with frozen left-overs, etc. I use my refrigerator freezer to store one bin of food for the week. When it is used up, I bring in the next bin, so each bin has about 1 week worth or meals available. Not always 7 days of meals as we do eat left-overs that are not frozen or eat out at times.
I find this method handy when I am cooking. In place of a 9×13 for casseroles, I split the recipe into 2- 8×8 pans and freeze one for later. This also helps when garden season comes. Instead of freezing large quantities of one veggie, I freeze in portions for 1-2 meals per week. This way, I don’t have random bags of left-over freezer-burned veggies in the bottom of the freezer! Wow that was wordy!
That’s a terrific idea Glenna! We always have random bags in there…
Dan Beasley says
This is such a comprehensive guide to organizing a chest freezer. What I’ve discovered is that having a chest freezer is an investment with a positive return for my family. The reason being is that just by owning one I tend to shop for bulk meat and vegetables in order to store for future eating. This bulk savings offsets the purchase price of the freezer and offsets any energy costs (which are actually pretty low on modern Energy Star efficient freezers).
I have both a chest freezer and upright freezer too, and have found that I use/like the upright freezer on an on-going basis and use the chest freezer for long-term storage. This is because it is so annoying to dig through a chest freezer to find the good stuff at the bottom!
I wrote a guide on choosing chest freezers versus upright freezers on my site that might be helpful to anybody in the market for improving their family’s food storage situation.