No Cost Organizing for a Chest Freezer

Where I grew up, chest freezers were a staple in just about every home. As the years changed, so did the freezer styles, but what didn’t was their necessity. Though I’ve moved, I haven’t made the lifestyle change – having a freezer is just part of how I live. And oddly enough, I’ve never made a style switch, either.

Hang on tight for design inspired photos you’ll be dying to pin ;-)

Like this one of our freezers in the basement!

Chest Freezers

Okay, I’ll just say it. This post is not photo pretty, but it does have a few tips!

Keeping a chest freezer organized can be a challenge, so what can you do?

1. Sort the contents by group, and place like things together.

Labelling for Freezers

We have two freezers, so I thought these signs would help hubs know where things go :-) Okay, they’re for me too! We had a mix of everything in both, and wasted time rooting through each one! Even with one freezer, making a basic list of what’s inside can be helpful. And if you want something super handy, but with a lot more cool factor, placing a chalkboard decal right on your freezer is an easy way to keep things up to date.

2. Tag your frozen goods with dates, and place the oldest items on top.

Here my new and old are placed side-by-side, but I still wanted to make sure we were using the older fish first. Ideally you will want to date your individual packages, but my Dad and his buddy keep us supplied in fish, so we process quite a few at once. That’s where this next tip comes in. And I have to give my Dad credit for this one as he’s done this for years!

3. Contain your frozen packages in boxes within the freezer.

Notice the circle in the first photo. That’s space over the freezer motor, which is pretty hard to maximize. The box provides storage for additional items that would otherwise slip off the tiny shelf.

More reasons I like to use boxes:

  • You can fill the bottom of the freezer, and then optimize the vertical space that’s left, by layering another row of boxes on top
  • You are able to contain like things together, which makes them easier to retrieve
  • It’s easier to move a box, than it is to move a pile of random packages
  • Boxes help protect vacuum sealed packages, like what our fish is in, from breaking open
  • Boxes are easy to come by, and you can cut them down to size
  • This is a great way to reuse something you probably already have!
4. If your freezer is full, take a quick photo of the outside and list what’s on the inside.

Print off the photo on plain old paper, and start writing in what you have and where you’ll find it. This isn’t meant to be all pretty and perfectly formatted. It’s just another way for you to find things quickly without having to search through your freezer. If you want to forget the whole photo thing, draw squares and fill them in instead! Remember, chest freezers are deep, and brrrrrr, cold… do you really want to be searching through that?

More things to keep in mind:
  • Ensure your individual packages are fully frozen before stacking others on top
  • Use thick, strong cardboard boxes, because they will eventually soften and want to bend over time
  • Fold the flaps closed before stacking another box on top, or place a heavy, flat piece of cardboard between the boxes

And… you don’t have to use cardboard boxes. You can use whatever works for you… just remember that plastic gets brittle when it’s frozen, and any moisture turns to ice on it’s surfaces. As for metal containers… well, we don’t even want to go there!

So tell me, do you use a freezer? What are your strategies for keeping it organized? Oh, and how many of these photos did you pin ;-) !!!

I hope you had fun reading this… it’s been pretty rainy here, so organizing something is always a great way to feel productive when you’re feeling kind of house-bound!

Fun fact:

Did you know there’s actually a name for the sign strategy I used to identify the old and new fish? There’s a system in Japan called Kanban. It’s not an inventory control system, but rather a scheduling system. My little cardboard cards are a very basic form of what’s actually quite a sophisticated system. Click here to read more! It’s pretty interesting. I included this to show you how systems can be as basic or as complex as you want to make them, but what matters in the end is that you have a system!

Have a great weekend, and thanks for stopping by!

Photography by Sheila Zeller

Comments

  1. I don’t have a chest freezer, but if my family on the island would bring me some fish I would for sure! Smart idea using boxes to contain everything.

  2. I love this idea Sheila! What a great way to be organized. We don’t have a freezer chest but I think I need to do this even my frig freezer. Just this week I found a bag a frozen veggies that must be at least 5 years old..I am so unorganized freezer wise. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Thanks, Linda! Fridge freezers are just as tough as chest freezers – you always seem to be rooting around for something that’s at the back, and I honestly don’t know where those mystery packages hide themselves. Could’ve sworn it wasn’t there the last time I looked, right? ;-)

  3. My husband would have loved this but it would have driven ME nuts, it is sure not for everyone ( wonder how your hubby can handle it?)

    • So, I’m curious… do you have a chest freezer? And if you do, what’s your secret to finding your frozen goods? Would love to know how others make it work. Hubs is good with the new system… but we’ll see how it goes as time goes by :-)

      • I think my secret is – not to buy more then you really need in a year,we just bought a whole cut up neighborhood lamb , no boxes in our freezer,one side blueberries, on top pretzels, my side frozen leftovers and the lamb, in the baskets meats and things soon to be used,( don’t forget bread,) a bit messy but I never had problem with the way I keep it. Hubby has his doubts sometimes – so!

  4. I feel as though you heard me cursing in the garage Thursday night hopelessly searching in the bowels of my freezer for chicken breasts I was sure were there. Ziploc bags slipping here. popsicles falling out of boxes there. Pizza crusts breaking and several mystery items later I still had no chicken breasts…turns out they were in the fridge freezer. These are great suggestions. I was thinking I just needed a bigger one. Mine is a baby one like yours on the right but growing up ours was huge, and at our farm we had three large ones! Like you, it’s a part of how I preserve and cook…not sure I could live without it! I promise to try the boxes and the sheets. Thanks Sheila!

    • Oh, that’s always the way! I was going to mention something about the fridge freezer… we go through that, too! It drives me crazy to be searching when all I want to do is get dinner on the go. Grrrrr! :-) I hope your weekend is going well!

  5. Oh my gosh, what a great post!!! I’m forwarding this over to my in-laws !!! I remember growing up with a big freezer in our laundry room. My mom would be forever be searching for whatever it was she was trying to find forever!!!!

    • This is too funny! My hub’s mom is the one who said my system would drive her nuts :-) Funny how it all comes down to personalities in the end! We had a good laugh with her about it, and I’m 100% sure she won’t be buying in! She’s sticking to the way she’s always done it!!!

  6. i am the in-law. Tracey must have been looking in our freezer….it’s a disaster…LOL

    • My mother-in-law was pretty clear this system was not for her! We just laughed, and will carry on. She will continue to do it her way, I’ll keep doing it mine… and my hubs, well he’s kind of caught between the two styles. Hmmmm… nature vs. nurture, or I wonder… maybe it’s the other way around! ;-)

  7. I love it Sheila – you are my kind of gal !- I love being organized and you have some great tips! I still use a chest freezer, now I want to get in there and organize it better. Thank you :)
    Enjoy your day!

  8. Those signs are cracking me up!! It’s like ‘freezer mgmt for dummies’ … meaning it would be perfect for my husband. ;) The whole first in first out is beyond his scope of reason. :) But the use of the boxes is pure genius!!

    • Oh my, I ‘have’ to tell my hubs that one! He’ll cringe at the thought of ‘freezer mgmt for dummies’… he’s not a big fan of those books, but if the shoe fits, right? ;-) Or, maybe it’s, if the box fits!!!

  9. I have never owned a freezer because I always thought it would be a nightmare to keep things organized. This is really clever Sheila. I love the new freezers with the shelves but I imagine they are probably quite pricey. Maybe I’ll consider a chest freezer after seeing how organized you really can be!

  10. My parents had a chest freezer in our garage to store …

    wait for it …

    an entire cow! I’m talking every single piece – organs and all!

    We were thrilled when we had filet mignon on the table – but when they started breaking out organ meat, we were glad to feed it to our dog!
    Kelly

    • That’s too funny! I grew up on venison, but lucky for me, my Dad wasn’t so keen on the organs and like ‘stuff’. He’d give all that to his friend who looooved it. I was so OK with that!!! LOL :-)

  11. We have two chest freezers in the basement, and I HATE them! It drives me crazy having to dig down to the bottom to find something, and then as I root through the stuff things slide around and fall down into the gap I’m making trying to get to the bottom. ARGH! And I inevitably end up with the lid closing on my head I bend down to reach for something. Both our freezers are litterally filled to capacity, and I usually end up yelling for hubby to come and re-organize everything because I can NEVER get the lids to close properly after I’ve moved things around to get to what I want (and I often can’t even find what I’m looking for – ARGH!)

    So that being said, I think I’m going to implement your freezer tips! Either that, or stop grocery shopping ;-) The box idea is especially good – I”m going to try that one. We already have stuff pretty much divided into meat in one freezer and everything else in the other freezer. Although there’s always overflow… *Sigh*

  12. We have a chest freezer, but I’ve thought about getting rid of it because there’s never much in it. On the farm growing up ours was always full of meat, baking, vegetables from the garden and casseroles my mom made up for busy times. I think because we live in a large center we can purchase stuff more regularly and don’t feel we have to have so much on hand like we did in the rural area. A friend of mine just put a stand up type in her kitchen that looks like a fridge and I think that may be the way to go in our next house.

  13. We have been thinking about getting one of these since I want to do a much better job of planning and organizing food! Sounds like a god winter project. Great tips my dear :-)

  14. Helperlady says:

    Air movement is so important in a freezer. Doesn’t the box limit the amount of air that surrounds the packages within the box?

    • Definitely, air movement is important. I haven’t found the boxes to be a problem, but we are careful when setting things in to ensure they have a chance to freeze fully. Once they’re frozen solid, we nestle them into the appropriate spot!

  15. Pamela Miller says:

    Hi Sheila: I just found you through a search for organizing ideas for a new freezer we are getting. I love the box idea but do you ever find that the cardboard sticks to the sides or bottom of the freezer?

    • Hi Pamela,
      So far, so good! Our cardboard boxes are still in tact and not sticking, and we have had to shift them around. So far it’s still working for us! Good luck – I hope you find it works for you too!!

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