Make your freezer twice as big and twice as easy to find things in by using these 3 tips.
People are always asking me how I get so much done. Part of it is because doing things is literally my job, but mainly it's because I'm a doer. I like to start, do and finish things. That makes me a doer. The thinkers among you are way smarter than me, way more insightful, and would probably do a far better job at all of the things I do … if you could ever stop thinking and actually start doing. But you don't.
Then there are the starters. The people who like to start a job to see how it's going to look or work and once they've done just enough to see that … they stop. These are the people living in homes with one strip of wallpaper on the wall, one refinished floor board and an exercise bra that's been exercised in exactly once.
But there's one other small way I get things done. By taking the time to organize shit. When I redid my entire house on a whim my whole life got easier. I knew where things were, I knew when I was running out of toilet paper and when someone wanted to borrow a book I could shoot my arm out like a Jack-in-the Box and pull it back with that book in my hand. This kind of organization takes time, a lot of time, to do, but in the end it saves you even more time. And it honestly does. It's not like when people say installing new windows will save you money in the long run. It won't. The long run would have to be 250 years long for you to save the money those windows cost. You will be warmer in the winter and have a better view of your neighbours fighting though, so it's still kind of worth it.
When I redid my kitchen I also redid my mudroom, which I've never shown you. What I did was remove the pantry from my old kitchen and dragged it into my mudroom. My neighbour who helped me pull it out in one piece thought I was crazy. Maybe I am. But the pantry idea isn't proof of that.
I then trimmed the pantry in and built some shelves to the left of it and framed them in along with my upright freezer. Add a door to cover up the freezer, paint everything the same colour and BOOM you have a good lookingish mudroom for barely any money.
Wait. That wasn't the point of this post at all. The point of this post was how to get twice as much stuff into your freezer. O.K. Let's talk about that.
But before we do take a look to the right and see the one thing that really improved my mudroom. It's a shoe closet from Ikea. I've wanted it for years now but could never be bothered to actually go to Ikea, drag it off of their warehouse shelf and bring it home. Just before Christmas I had enough time to do that. I had enough time because I took the Christmas Pledge by the way.
So now that my mudroom was lookin' so organized it was time to REALLY organize my freezer. This is my freezer "before" shot. I know. It looks pretty organized already right?
But here's the thing. Take a look at the photo again. LOOK at all the empty space. Everywhere there's emptiness is a spot that actual food could be stored. I'd sometimes try to compensate for that by piling food up higher and higher in the containers. It was always a crapshoot as to whether a falling filet or a bag of perogies would be the thing to break a toe when I opened the freezer.
When I was up to 9 mini-marshmallow sized casts on my toes I started to look for better containers for my freezer. Ones that would take better advantage of the space and let me fill up the rest of my freezer. No joke, it took months to find the right sized containers. And these still aren't exactly right. For them to be MOST efficient they should have straight sides so there are no gaps in between them, but I gave up on finding straight containers that were also the right size in terms of width, depth and height.
Behold the Organized Freezer 2.0.
Putting all the food into better sized storage containers has done 2 things. It's used up almost all of the available space in the freezer, but even more importantly it allows me to see exactly what is in every inch of the freezer. The containers are clear and they're labelled. Anyone who has ever owned a chest freezer knows what happens when you can't see what's in your freezer. 7 year old containers of weird gummy goo that used to be ice cream. That's what happens.
A disorganized freezer means there is ice cream in this world you are being deprived of eating.
Stop this craziness now.
Just by using these new containers (which I got on sale for $1.49 each) I've increased the amount I can fit into the freezer by almost double.
Add in this next tip and you'll love your freezer so much friends will think you met on Tinder. Because Tinder is all about love.
FREEZE IT FLAT
If you can freeze it flat in a baggie, DO IT. Soups, stews, gravy, sauces, broth … anything that doesn't have big bones sticking out of it can be frozen flat. Just pour whatever it is into a baggie, lay it flat in the freezer (putting it on a plate or baking sheets helps keep it really flat) until it's solid and then stack them. Freezing everything flat will gain you all kinds of space in your freezer.
Plus it makes things easy to flip through and when it's time to use it, flat baggies defrost quicker.
That's really all there is to gaining a ton of space in the abyss you call your freezer.
1. Store everything in clear containers that use all of the available space in the freezer.
2. Label the containers so you can find everything easily.
3. Freeze it flat.
Sound good? Now stop thinking about it and just do it. (Nike really has something there with that phrase). And once you start doing it, finish it. That's all there is to getting stuff done.
Well that and a little bit of crazy.
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I was going to say something snarky like "how many people are you feeding there Karen?", when I remembered your vegetable garden and all the lovely things you grow each summer. I am doubly awed.
Yah, sadly almost none of that is in my freezer, lol. It's in the pantry next to it. Which is also full. An update on how everything I grew is storing 5 months from picking it. So snark away Tricia! ~ karen!
wowsa! judging by all the comments, you really struck gold with this post! Lots of great ideas, but i'm trying to figure out how I can apply them to my side by side refrig-freezer, which is the worst for trying to keep organized. My freezer is only about 12 inches wide so I don't have much to work with. Any suggestions for organizing such a small, narrow space?
Hi Mary! The bins will still work great for that. You just have to find the right sized bins that will stack. :) ~ karen!
OK..I have a medium size chest freezer but I can still separate food into containers like you did..I always flatten what I can to freeze it..Must go buy some containers now as I am not sure what is in there anymore..need to clean out my fridge freezer too..I want to make lists of every item that is in each container and how many too or I will totally forget..Thanks Karen!
This is great, truly a great set of ideas but where do you put the ice cream?
I suppose I missed this in the 65-plus-replies-that-aren't-counted comments on this post, but... where is the ice cream mentioned in the section after the first photo of "2.0" organized freezer? You talk about ice cream, but... is it on the door? (Disaster. Door items defrost first and are then refrozen, repeatedly. Very detrimental to quality of ice cream.) So... where is it? What kind is it? What flavors do you have? You don't expect me to believe that you, with the abs-'o-steel, only stock one flavor, right? You're a variety gal.
Actually Marti, I don't often buy ice cream, lol. There is in fact ice cream in the door, vanilla, but the only reason I bought it was to make the hot buttered rum recipe in the middle of December. I used half a tub for that. It's still in the door with an exact measurement of half a tub, minus one bowl. I'm more apt to eat my late night, guilt calories in the form of a steak and fries. ~ karen!
I found a potential source for straight sided containers!
in the absence of straight-sided containers, matching slope-sided ones will tessellate more closely if you turn every other one upside down; if the lids close tightly and they aren't so big that once filled they're too heavy to lift off the shelf, shouldn't cause a problem.
I soooo need an upright freezer. My chest freezer is a mini one, and it's still impossible.
Thank you for the idea! My freezer is now easily accessible.
I'm imagining this will prevent me from throwing out long, lost unrecognizable frozen "creatures"
My next task are my photos that are in shoe box type storage. Any ideas Karen?
Hi Maryanne - Thanks! I too had boxes and boxes of photos dating back to my parents' grandparents! One winter I bought a bunch of nice black leather bound photo albums and every night sat and organized them while I watched television. It took almost the whole winter, but I got them all into albums. They're organized according to date. ~ karen!
i originally had my photos in cheap craft store albums. The backs broke and the sleeve tore from the binding.
That is why I put them in the boxes. Which was a mistake.
Good idea about the leather albums. I will start to hunt for sales.
As always Karen, thank you for keeping me inspired!
I am here to attest to the wisdom of the "freeze it flat" method. Alas, I do not have a big freezer. I have only the teensy one on my fridge. So finding a way to store as much as possible is critical, especially since I am a family of one (and one furbaby) so I cook and freeze leftovers for quick meals on work daysand days I don't feel like cooking. To describe how much room this will save you let me tell you about the day I entered into the 'freeze it flat' world. My freezer was packed with those lovely freezer boxes and packages from the grocer's freezer section. Not room for one pea more. So, I took advantage of a sale on freezer bags and changed my ways. I bought quart size bags, just right for defrosting a meal's worth with some left over for work lunch. I repacked everything in the bags and repacked my freezer. Amazing! I had almost one third of my freezer space back! Empty! Begging to be filled with new goodies. The bags are much easier to rearrange as I rotate my freezer foods too. I am a 'freeze it flat' girl now and will not go back. I have only space for two plastic containers which hold my work lunch reserved. This way I can pack two lunches, freeze them, then pull one out before bed the might before work. By the time lunch rolls around the next day, my lunch is thawed but still cold and need only be heated in the microwave to eat. Try freezing flat, I am sure you will find your freezer is bigger than you thought.
I must have missed a post, ,,,why do you have so much space allocated for "cabbage rolls". Are they something special, large, what???? I've never made a cabbage roll, so am curious.
LOL. I grow cabbages so in the fall I make a batch of cabbage rolls. One or two cabbages make a LOT of cabbage rolls, so I end up with a ton of them. :) ~ karen!
I would love if you'd do a post (even if you don't have one of these) on how to organize a chest freezer! I've tried a lot of these suggestions in mine but when you have to pile stuff on top of each other, it really screws up the plans of being able to see everything. Any ideas?
My deep freeze is organized using milk crates and cloth grocery bags. They are easy to lift out to get to the things below.
That's what I do, too; use cloth bags and try to keep them in the same part of the freezer all the time - I also keep trying to organize them - newest on the bottom, oldest on top. I'd love to have an upright freezer, though.
Is it safe to store food in plastic? I've been using mason jars, which are admittedly awkward to navigate around in a freezer. Doesn't plastic leach chemicals?
It depends on the plastic and it depends on the temperature. I don't heat things up in plastic, but I don't mind freezing stuff in it. It's all a matter of your own personal degree of caution. :) ~ karen!
LOVE organizing and am always watching your site for tips so I thought I'd share a variation on one of yours. I also freeze what I can in freezer bags – but, instead of stacking them I file them in a plastic thing-y I found at the dollar store that exactly fits the width of the freezer bags. The distance between my shelves is perfect height for them standing up too so no wasted space there. I just pull the file "drawer" forward to retrieve what I need. One bad FAIL I made though was saving money by purchasing a non-auto-defrost stand-up freezer. It's been a work horse – bought at Sears about 150 years ago but I curse that bit of savings every time I have to defrost the dang thing. Worst appliance regret ever.
What’s up with the cat litter?
😆 I was keeping my seafood in it to contain any shellfish smells. ~ karen!
I love the freeze flat approach. Very good for my homemade tomato paste because the flats are thin enough that I can just snap off a piece of the size I need. Marshall's and TJ Maxx have clear, straight-sided polycarbonate bins for the refrigerator that happen to exactly fit frozen quart flats. (Or if you want to pay more, you can get them at Blood Bath and Beyond). They don't have lids though.
When the power went out for an unknown extended period of time when we were out of town we had a sad, sad, freezer situation. The neighborhood dogs got amazing carnivorous treats. And I became the butt of jokes in the family when we found a bag of Callibaut chocolate hunks that was older than my eldest child by 4 years! I think I got the last laugh though because I scraped off the bloom and snuck that chocolate into desserts for quite some time. Except for the white chocolate. Ideas?
I'm not a white chocolate fan so I can't help. Although I CAN tell you pineapple chunks are delicious dipped in it. ~ karen!