Stockpiling a decent freezer stash can really help save on the grocery bill, but having your freezer is disarray causes you to think you’re out of something when you’re not! Here’s a simple way to organize your freezer and determine food safety during an extended power outage.
Simple Freezer Organization
We have several large freezers and over the years, we’ve discovered that the best way to organize your freezer to avoid food spoilage and having items get lost in the shuffle is to separate them using clear storage tubs.
Using the totes makes this very easy to organize your food by date as well as type. Each type of item gets its own tote: chicken, pork, beef, ground turkey, halibut, frozen vegetables, cheese, etc.
Divvying the contents of the freezer into totes makes it very simple to see which items are running low and need replenishment without having to keep lists on the freezer. To get the most out of the space, freeze items flat (such as soups, pie fillings, etc) and then, once they are completely frozen stand them up in the individual tote tubs.
How to Organize Your Freezer
We’ve found that labeling the totes helps keep them organized and deters family members from shoving items into containers where they don’t actually belong.
I created these freezer labels based on the items that we use most. There are several different ways to use the labels. You could print them off, cut them out and then laminate them so they are washable with a warm, wet cloth.
I found that the lamination method works best if you’re attaching the labels to slide out metal drawers. The labels aren’t affected by the cold or moisture in the freezer and they last indefinitely.
Or, you can adhere them to the storage tote box using clear packing tape. The trick to any of these labels is to adhere them to a room temperature box. If you have unlabeled totes in your freezer already, don’t make the mistake of attempting to apply a label to a cold box, it doesn’t work.
Once you’ve labeled all of your totes, you should work quickly to transfer the frozen items in you freezer into them, to avoid minimal thawing! I also recommend wearing a decent pair of gloves.
Choosing Categories to Organize your Freezer
The categories you choose to organize your freezer is entirely up to you and is dependent on your family’s needs. We have hunters in our family, so we include a container for venison. I also like to make casseroles ahead of time by doubling or tripling recipes. I have a separate tote specifically for casseroles that are ready for the oven.
In addition to the casserole category, we also have a “Singe Serving” box. This works particularly well for leftover items, such as a single serving or two of meatloaf (perfect for a quickie meatloaf sandwich), a single piece of pie or cake, etc. These are items that our family has likely already had leftovers at least once and no longer in the mood for. They would end up in the trash otherwise.
By freezing them it creates a box of quick grab and go meals (or snacks) and reduces waste. When our boys were little, I would print menus on the printer and hold “restaurant” night, letting them choose a meal that was in the single serve box.
For example, there might be meatloaf, chicken cordon bleu, or chicken pot pie to choose from. The kids got to order what they wanted, all of the items were warmed in the oven, and all I had to do was serve a side salad to pull it all together. It was a fun way for them to “dine out” without spending a bunch of money actually dining out.
I use the door of the freezer to organize dessert items, such as homemade slice & bake cookies. I rarely bake an entire batch of cookies at once, instead, I form the dough into a log, freeze it, then cut it into thirds, which equates to about 1 dozen large cookies per “log”. That way, the cookies are always hot and fresh from the oven (or air-fryer during the summer months!).
As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, I use my vacuum sealer, a lot. I prefer to make meal kits to save time. This includes ingredients for chowder, such as this seafood chowder kit containing haddock, scallops, clams, and shrimp.
I also use a category for breads, rolls, and biscuits. This is especially handy now that our kids are grown. We package items in groups of half dozen, whereas we frequently cooked a full dozen when they were home every meal.
Having worked in a restaurant, we follow the FIFO rule, which is First In, First Out. Essentially what the means is- you use things up in the order that you purchase them. If you have frozen chicken in your freezer and you buy more, you place it BEHIND the chicken already there- so that the chicken you purchased first is used first. This way, you’re not ending up with freezer-burnt food that has lost quality and nutrients.
The containers used here were purchased at Lowes in the storage/organization department for about $2-3 each. Originally, I purchased the heavy-duty black plastic ones that are meant for garages because they dip in the front and make it easy to grab items quickly.
The other containers are clear plastic tubs that I purchased at Walmart for $2-3. They slide out easily and work great. You can fit 2-4 containers per shelf and still have room between them for loaves of bread, ice cream, etc.
For our family, this method is preferred over the “make a list of the freezer contents and cross it out as you go” method because it seems that I was the only person in the household to ever pay attention and cross things out! It also makes it simple to “eyeball” what items you’re running low on. The next time you grab a package of chicken or pork (etc) you can see quickly whether you have plenty or need to add it to the grocery list.
Food Safety due to Power Outage
We live in an area that is prone to severe storms, tornadoes, and the occasional hurricane as well. It’s not unusual for us to lose power one or more times per week. Since we have a tendency to travel, camp or otherwise spend time away from home doing other things, it’s imperative that we know how long the power has been out to ensure the food in our freezer is safe to eat.
The easiest way to do so is to fill a straight edged cup 3/4 of the way full and freeze it. Once it’s completely frozen, place a quarter on top. In the event of a power outage, the ice will start to melt. If you think there’s been an outage, simply check to see if the quarter is still on top (or the middle) of the ice, if it isn’t, that means the freezer dropped to an unsafe level and the food may not be safe to consume.
Free Printable Freezer Labels
If you like my homemade freezer labels, you may print them off for your own personal use.
If you’re unsure of which size totes are needed for your freezer, take a note of what model freezer you have in your house. The next time you visit your favorite Lowes, Menards, or Home Depot location, make a point to grab a couple of different size totes from the aisle, then go find your model in the appliance section.
I prefer this method because I’m more of a “hands-on” type of person who needs to see how something is going to look, rather than just trying to picture it in my head.
Of course, you could always just measure the inside of your freezer as well. Having a well organized freezer makes it easier for us to keep our grocery budget under $300 a month for our family, and take advantage of seasonal sales cycles.
Love these free printable Freezer Organization Labels? Pin it!
How do you organize your freezer? We’d love to see your tips as well . . .