The Organized Freezer

I seem to spend a large portion of my life keeping track of food.

How much food is in the fridge? How is the food doing in the garden? Is there food in the pantry? Writing missing food down on lists.  Keeping track of where that food list is in the house.   What will I make for food today?   When’s the last time I pooped out my food?

It’s time consuming. So a few days ago I figured I should do something, anything, to cut down on the amount of time I spend keeping track of food.

I did that,  by … keeping track of food.

Whenever I make meals, I often have food leftover. A lot of people with only one or two people in the household see this as a problem. They think this is one of the downfalls of cooking for one.  The fact that one person can’t eat a whole pan of lasagna.

Those people are stupid.

First of all, one person can totally eat a whole pan of lasagna, and the fact that you think you can’t really means you think you shouldn’t which proves you are a person of superior willpower.  Good for you.

Second of all, a whole pan of lasagna never needs to be wasted, it needs to be frozen!

Cooking for one or two is the best thing EVER because you almost always have leftovers. And if you have even just 3 or 4 braincells remaining after a day at work you should have the mental capacity to remember to freeze the leftovers.

My one piece of advice with freezing leftovers? Do it RIGHT AWAY. Do not stick the leftovers back in the fridge, click your heels and walk away thinking “I‘ll take care of those tomorrow“. Because you won’t. They will get pushed further and further back into the abyss of the refrigerator until one day, 7 years from now you’ll look behind that jar of sweet pickles to discover something that’s now fur covered and has almost mastered the basics of language.

So the freezing of leftovers I’ve had down pat for a while.  I even threw them into the same general area of the freezer so I knew where to root around if I didn’t feel like making dinner.

But my method seemed inefficient.  I know this because I found a container of frozen pizza sauce dated 2001 last week.  (that’s another tip, write the date you packaged the item with a Sharpie on your Foodsaver bag, freezer bag, mason jar or tupperware container)

So, even though it was a pajama day, I threw on my shoes and ran to the Dollar Store to pick up some containers for organizing.  I pretty much blended into the rest of the Dollar Store shoppers pajama outfits.

This is what I ended up with.


In the main portion of my freezer (I have a small upright freezer in my mudroom, but this method can be used with any regular refrigerator freezer) I labelled bins for the various meats I keep on hand.  Steaks, Ground beef, Chicken, Roasts.
Organized Freezer 1


For the freezer door I bought small plastic bins and put them in the door shelves.  I have no idea what idiot thinks these door shelves should be designed like an enormous hole with a single inch wide bar holding everything in place, but as I said … those people are idiots.  Unless you have a large carton, things inevitably slip out and crash onto the floor.

The small plastic bins in the doors stops smaller things from plummeting to the earth.  These door bins are reserved for seafood, pizza dough/pie dough, frozen rhubarb and a few other things.
Organized Freezer 2


And finally, the best part ever.  I bought 3 bins specifically for leftovers or foods that I’ve premade.  Like that famous leftover lasagna, or premade hamburger patties, or frozen pesto.
Organized Freezer 4


On each bin I’ve attached a note that says what’s in that specific bin and how much.  When I take something out and scarf it down, I cross it off the list.  When I add something new to the bin (like I did yesterday with Curried Cauliflower Soup) I write it on the list.

Not only are my leftovers easy to find, I know at all times exactly what I have in there.


Organized Freezer 5


I don’t mean to brag but I feel like a better person than everyone else now.  I walk among the rest of you with the knowledge I am … s l i g h t l y … better.   And with a few bins, a pen and a piece of paper you can be better too.

And chock full of lasagna.  Garfield


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  1. Jamieson says:

    Wow I was truthfully excited by all that organization.
    This comment stream isn’t monitored by mental health agencies, right?

    • Karen says:

      LOL! You’re funny. On a serious note, this is one of the BEST things I have ever done and if you do it you will instantly be a better, happier person. ~ karen

  2. Shannon says:

    You make me laugh 🙂

  3. Amie says:

    I once found a 12 year old jar of jam in my mums fridge. I’m pretty sure it winked at me.

    Storing leftovers immediately is a no brainer for us; but we are no where as tidy as this. Love the organization! I actually want to go clean out my freezer now.

  4. Jane says:

    If you buy 2 of those little green lattice baskets and cut one end off each one, you can overlap them in the door and fill the whole shelf. That is, if it annoys you that they don’t fill the whole space.

  5. Marti says:

    How do you get all this done, what with having to iron your socks and panties? Gracious!

    Seriously, nice job on the bins. But wouldn’t a clip board on a nail over or next to the freezer (or use the fridge as a dry erase board?) be better than trying to get ink pens to operate on frozen list that invariably falls off because the scotch tape you hung them with is less effective in the freezer?

    Nice freezer graphic. Did you draw that one yourself? And does your mudroom freezer have genuine artificial wood handles?

    • JennyW says:

      Thank you Marti! Karen, how on earth do you get tape to stick on things in the freezer? I’v tried being organized in the freezer, but gave up due to “labeling” problems lol!

  6. Becky says:

    sniff sniff. I have a chest freezer. Mine will probably never be this organized.

    Its tiny, and e v e r y thing falls straight to the bottom.

    • Karen says:

      I know all about it Becky. I *used* to have a tiny chest freezer and I HATED it. I gave it to Betty and bought this one a few years ago. Cheap! (from Costco) ~ karen!

      • Alice says:

        I have a large chest freezer — any suggestions on how to organize it?

        • Lynne says:

          When I had a chest freezer I bought some stackable plastic bins and built little towers from the floor upwards. It certainly helped with the organization issues.

  7. Amber says:

    I was going to ask how you have so much free time to organize your freezer. Then I realized it’s because you have an organized freezer!
    I have homemade burritos, peas, raspberries and a roaster chicken in the front of my freezer. Everything else is too far back for me to think about, and whatever is back there has probably devised a new world order and is plotting a takeover through cyrogenics and a judicial application of tater tots..

  8. Edith says:

    The toenail on my left big toe has a permanent split in it since 1989. Why? Because when I opened my freezer door the 24 pound turkey tumbled out, bounced off the garage floor, and landed on my big toe. It’s the kind of pain that travels up your spine and blows out your fillings!

    Anyway, since then I’ve been REALLY careful about how I stack my goodies in there. But I’ve never thought about using bins…..what a great idea! Thanks Karen!

  9. Barbara says:

    Dates added to the lists would work better for my short term memory!

  10. Christina B. says:

    Awesome post! I have to organize my freezer/s this week when it’s cold enough! And Garfield made my night/morning! lol

  11. Kat says:

    I applaud you… I love portioning and freezing all my home made meals as it keeps me from buying frozen dinners but alas I have a chest freezer. But with some cardboard boxes, a sharpie and every single empty Zerto Asiago Shredded Cheese container (they are clear and I can see if it gets freezer burnt and sort of see whats in it) I get to take home made dinners to work every day. Don’t microwave those containers! But it is so great knowing I get to eat my good cooking every day while my grown son still eats his frozen dinners as he seems to have a left over food phobia and considers my frozen food as leftovers! He is weird!

  12. calliek says:

    I have to admit I’m jealous of all of your freezer space. We have a very small fridge with an even smaller freezer so not much room for multiple bins. I have a much scaled down version of your system- one bin (cardboard boxes actually) for meat, one for veggies, leftovers usually go in stackable containers (I like to reuse the square style that storebought coleslaw comes in) , and 3 of the large version fit in the single door rack to hold odds and ends. The best thing is I didn’t buy anything new, just used what I had on hand and it’s worked perfectly for about 3 years now. Of course with that little space there not much worry in losing things, although I’m pretty certain that bottom of the stacking containers in the back has last years currants still waiting to be made into jelly.

  13. Jake says:

    I am off to do this right now, this very minute. This has been on my ‘TO DO’ list forever, well for the last three years. My tetanus shot is up to date and garbage bags are at the ready, lord knows what’s in the bottom of my freezer.

  14. Louise says:

    My freezer takes up the upper third of my fridge, so it’s pretty small. Since it’s absolutely crammed full (right to the top), I couldn’t possibly have room for bins. I try to keep the meat organized in one section, fruit and veggies in other sections, but it’s still a mess. I feel so . . . slovenly. And inferior. :-c Big sigh.

  15. Maureen Locke says:

    I want an upright freezer 🙁 but in the meantime, I use reusable grocery store bags and put different products in each. Eg, beef in one, chicken in one, pork in one, froz veggies in one, hmbg in one and I save my basket and the ledge under the basket for leftovers. Most of the time my freezer is full to the brim, but I know where to find whatever I need in no time. My husband on the other hand…. aiyiyiyi. I only send him to the freezer when the item I need is visible immediately when lifting the lid. I LOVE your idea of the bins though.

  16. Kelly says:

    So my husband is apparently normal after all — here i thought he was a bit OCD with his freezer list next to the grocery list and masking taping the name/date on each little freezer pack. (He also hangs shirts with the buttons all facing west, puts his clean underwear at the bottom of the stack so he wears it evenly. I figure if mine makes it into the closet or drawer, I’m doing just fine thank you.)

  17. Bre says:

    I have 2 freezers. One a top my fridge and a wee upright the size of a bar fridge. Nothing gets lost in there except stuff we lost interest in. And then there’s nowhere for it to hide. That’s also my theory on purses, too. I’m often asked how I can have a small purse. Well. If it’s small, it doesn’t fill up with “junk” and extra stuff in the first place. That’s how I stay organized.

    • Kristin says:

      I agree! I accidentally bought a big purse because there was nothing to show scale and I got it online. It’s a really nice purse, but stuff gets lost in there! I’m not kidding when I say that one time last spring I cleaned it out and found a sixteen-ounce bag of golden raisins, a lemon, a roll of masking tape, and a large retractable tape measure.

  18. Kyle says:

    I think I just had an organizeasm! I bought all kinds of books on make ahead meals a few months ago…..I will now add the dollar store into that process! Thanks!

  19. Tigersmom says:

    Now I know what those voices are that I hear when I open the fridge.

    (Not really, I am a container addict and have been known to shout, “Bins for everything!” upon entering the dollar store. I have found them to be the best way for me to keep just about everything organized.)

    However, I do NOT have an additional freezer to the one in the bottom of my kitchen fridge and lament it often.

    I have freezer envy and must investigate prices for one for the garage immediately.

  20. Amy says:

    I have a piece of chalkboard vinyl on the outside of the freezer door to list contents/quantities but I hadn’t thought to add the bins – I like it!

  21. Venesa says:

    I adore organizing ANYTHING. I have clear plastic bins, similar to yours, that I’ve been using in my freezer for years, but after seeing the bins you put on the door shelves I’m on a mission to find some! Love that idea! No more early morning surprises when the frozen strawberries land on my toes!

  22. KimC says:

    I am passing this ingenious solution on to my Mum who is lucky enough to own an upright freezer! I however, will have to store that idea for now as I am a shorter person who must stick my head into the chest freezer and use my stubby arms to uselessly wade through the bricks of food just to locate a bag of peas! As much as I try to organize the food by categories my husband and kids love to keep it in more of a dishevelled state. Maybe I’ll give the bins a whirl anyway until I can get my hands on an upright freezer…Costco, you say?

    • Karen says:

      Costco. Yup. And when I used to have a chest freezer I used bins as well. It does make it easier because instead of pulling out 70 individual things to get to the bottom, you just have to lift a couple of bins. ~ karen!

  23. Jack says:

    Excellent idea……..but if next you are considering organizing your food pantry or cupboards with each category of canned food carefully aligned in neat stacks and rows or heaven’s forbid, you start organizing your basement so that every tool is hanging off a peg board and screw, nut, and nail are separated, labeled and assigned to mason jars, you might want to consider the possibility of your being adopted.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Uncle Jack. LOL. As it turns out, I’ve done both of those things on numerous occasions. The results last exactly half a day until the basement Gremlins show up and … well then the place looks like you’d expect after a Gremlin rave. ~ karen!

  24. Pat says:

    I will reinforce how important this is to keep track of the food. I am about to empty a huge chest freezer full of old food in my parents’ basement. Just under the top layer which was 2011, I have come across dates of 2005, 2003. What lies beneath I cringe to think. This will be a 4 person production on a bonus dump day using a large pick up truck. They own two freezers and just kept filling them up and not using the food as fast as when they had a house full of kids. Habits are hard to break, I guess, when it comes to buying food on sale, freezing from the garden crop, etc. It is a crying shame to see the waste. Listen to Karen and organize your freezer so you DO NOT WASTE FOOD.

  25. Sandy says:

    Great idea!!

  26. Ruth says:

    This post resonated with me on so many levels…. I need to get out more. 😀

  27. Vanessa M says:

    “s l i g h t l y … better”….I’m with you, Norma Rae!

  28. Debbie from Illinois says:

    I am so glad you share your endless knowledge with us!!! Love the door baskets!!!

  29. Ev says:

    I’m green with envy! We have a small chest freezer on an enclosed porch right by the kitchen door. I hate that thing. Location great, nothing else great about it. My husband of many, many years does not like uprights, so there you go. Hats off to you Karen! Love the organization!

  30. Ann says:

    My freezer so seriously needs defrosting right now. I can no longer slide the baskets in from the top that are supposed to hang from the top inside edge to hold small things. The freezer is actually pretty clean and tidy otherwise and there are probably only a few odd things that are older than 10 years in it!!

  31. jainegayer says:

    My freezer is a jumbled mass of disorganized food. I don’t know what the h— I have in there. And I usually am too impatient to root around in there for what I need. So right after coffee I’m on my way to the Dollar Store to buy bins and become a better person. Thank you, Karen.

  32. Langela says:

    Karen, freezers are for filling and forgetting until they go bad and thaw everything and I have to throw everything out. You are so weird. Superior, but weird.

  33. Lydia says:

    I love this Karen! But, what do you store things like lasagna and soup in? Freezer bags? I feel like lasagna would be difficult to transport without it sliding apart. I’m always throwing away leftovers after a day or so. I need to start freezing them!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Lydia – For freezing lasagna I cut it into individual sized portions, place them on waxed paper on a baking sheet and freeze until solid. Then I bag them using my trust Foodsaver. Soup either goes into Ziploc style freezer bags or tupperware containers. ~ karen!

  34. Melissa says:

    Well, it’s official. The upright needs to go, which means our small chest freezer can fulfill its destiny as a kegerator.

  35. Traci says:

    This is great! Another similar idea that I’ve used successfully is to put a dry erase board on the fridge. I wrote “things we need” and “leftovers” on it leaving space to write underneath the headings. When I put leftovers in, I would write them on the fridge. For some reason, when everyone could read what leftovers were in the fridge they would seek them out and actually eat them instead of them going to waste as they had often done so before. Also, people started writing down things they finished off which made making a shopping list a little easier. This is great if you have more people in the house and your leftovers aren’t usually enough to freeze. It kept a lot more food out of the trash!

  36. Thera says:

    Love it, however agree with the above re paper/pens. How about painting the fronts with chalkboard paint!!!!

    And le sigh, I too have a chest freezer.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Thera – I just pull the paper off, bring it 3 feet to the kitchen table and add or cross off whatever I need. Or, I bring a pencil to the freezer with me. It’s not a problem. Honestly. ~ karen

  37. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    I also have a small chest freezer..when you figure out how to organize one let me know..Yours is great!!

  38. Linda says:

    I mistakenly read “Prepared Meds” on your bottom left green bin LOL (and no I don’t take meds – must be my eyesight) 🙂

  39. Jodi T. says:

    This is great…

    But really, all I can think about now is Lasagna. My MIL used to make it for Christmas (sauce from scratch – the whole shebang) and I have NO IDEA HOW TO MAKE A GOOD SAUCE.

    Help me Karen. Give us your lasagna recipe. Better yet, SHOW IT. 😉

    • Karen says:

      Jodi T – One of the best lasagna recipes I’ve come across is the one from America’s Test Kitchen (which includes the homemade sauce recipe for it). ~ karen!

  40. Erika says:

    That looks so great! I wish I had room for an upright, but I just have my small chest freezer tucked under the stairs in the pantry. I keep a list of items in there on a clip on my fridge, though, and usually remeber to check things off. But I seldom have leftovers for long enough for them to become semi-sentient, because whatever I don’t eat for dinner I have for lunch the next day, or two, depending on how much is left (spaghetti sauce is the one exception – that is bagged and labeled). But I’m OCD like that.

  41. Lori Hall says:

    Doing this soon. I hate the freezer door compartments!!!

  42. JebberJay says:

    In 2005, my mom had a tin of condensed milk that exploded in the cupboard, blasting the door open and covering the ceiling and kitchen with green slime. The best before date was 1981. Sigh…

  43. Kitten Caboodle says:

    Have you ever considered a FoodSaver? You really need a FoodSaver. It is my second favorite appliance, behind TiVo, in terms of being a life-changer. I’ve had mine (the same one!) for over 10 years – it won’t die. It’s perfect for people who cook for only 1 or 2 or like to cook in big batches. It keeps leftovers fresh forever and saves space since it sucks all of the air out of the bags. It’s also perfect if you buy meat at the warehouse stores – just break it down into meal-size portions. Soft or liquid items need to be frozen first but I just use those cheap Gladware bowls for portions – pop them out when frozen and freeze them in the bags/rolls and they will keep forever. You can use it in other ways too: I reseal potato chip bags with the heat sealer (got your attention there, didn’t I?). I made small bags from the rolls and sealed up a bunch of beads. I sealed scented candles I was shipping so that the other items in the box didn’t smell like lavender upon arrival – you can’t ask that of a Ziploc bag. So many uses! Like I said, it’s a life-changer.

  44. Deb J says:

    Great idea and very tidy freezer. Unfortunately, in my experience, this only really works if you are either the ONLY one to EVER go in the freezer or, like my sister, you are married to someone even more anal than you are. My husband is notorious for packaging things up (he has one of those vacu-sucker machines that take all the air out – good but ….) and then not labeling them. ‘I’ll know what it is’. Riiiight. Once they are frozen into a plastic block, pretty much everything looks the same. Then he doesn’t want to thaw it out ‘cos he doesn’t know what it is. Needless to say, my freezer does not look like yours:(

  45. Donna says:

    Ok, gonna head over to my Mom’s house to do this. She lives alone but still buys like all 5 kids still live at home. We sneak old stuff out of her freezer each time we visit. I think she has frozen meat that’s older than her grand kids in there!

    Maybe if it’s organized she’ll realize she doesn’t have to buy more. Yeah, right.

  46. Laura says:

    “Elementary, my dear Watson!” Is it ‘odd’ that I am frantically calculating in my mind when I can get to the $ store, ASAP??-like it’s a matter of near life or near death?!

  47. kelli says:

    REALLY? My freezer is one of those cheap-ass top/upper models attached to a cheap-ass bottom-of-the-barrel model fridge…i constantly fight freezer burn, a slow/noisy ice machine (that is, when it’s not overflowing), and never have enough space for what I want to put in it. Ah, the joys of apartment living… 🙁

  48. Sally A. says:

    Can someone recommend a food saver brand? Or is it that FoodSaver is the brand? I also am reminded that I need a new freezer. My refrigerator freezer is so narrow that I can’t lay a frozen pizza in it flat. So after the Blue Star stove, I will get a Costco freezer. I’m finding it very pricey to read your blog. 🙂 Seriously though, thank you for your great helpful hints! OMG you should totally write a book with all of your hints in it like Hints From Heloise but better!

    • Karen says:

      No problem Sally A. That’s what I’m here for. In return I ask you to tell all your friends and family about my site. 🙂 If you tell strangers you get extra points, lol. Foodsaver is an actual brand. There are other food sealers but that’s the one I use. My recommendation is to buy a Foodsaver and buy the smallest one they have! Takes up less storage space. ~ karen!

  49. Arlene says:

    My Mom, of course named Betty, kept two large chest freezers meticulously organized and labelled until she died three years ago at age 82. That’s why my 86-year-old Dad could eat farm-picked gooseberries marked “1968” this year, 2013. “Fresh as the day she picked them,” was his loving comment. (He always has been known for his stomach of steel.) Imagine what my Betty could have done with a Dollarama in the nearest town. Kudos to you, Karen, and thanks for bringing back great memories…

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