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Please don't remind me that I'm poor; I'm having too much fun pretending I'm simply "living green" like everyone else these days.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Organize the freezer

Wanna know how I organize my freezer so that it rotates the oldest stuff out first?  This system will work for any freezer.

Let me explain, I have both an upright freezer and a side by side refrigerator.  I prefer not opening the large freezer any more than necessary.  Using my way of organizing I can take out a week's worth of items and put into the smaller one, which means I open the big freezer only once a week.  Those with a refrigerator box type freezer or a chest freezer or even a side by side freezer can do the same thing I'm doing. 

It bothers me to stack things on top of each other.  It seemed like every time I needed a meat for dinner, it was always on the bottom of the stack.  When I would go to take it out, the whole stack seemed to collapse and slide around the freezer or out onto the floor.  Let me tell ya, a frozen 4 lb roast landing on your foot is not fun at all. 

I also don't re pack meat when I buy it.  I leave it in the original packaging but put the whole thing into a plastic freezer bag. I figure that the original package keeps meat fresh, like forever, in the store so why wouldn't it work as a freezer wrap?  Adding the freezer bag is like double wrapping. 

In order to know exactly what's in my freezer, how old it is, where in the freezer it's stored, how many pounds, and what it cost, I needed a list. So I made one.  This list will be good for insurance purposes should I ever loose it all again due to a long power outage.

I needed extra freezer bags too.  I use only the gallon size for meats.  I will use them over and over again.  Why?  Because they don't need to be thrown away.  I never thought I would say this but...  I will wash and re use them.  The meat doesn't actually touch the storage bag because it's stored still in the original package.  Soap kills germs doesn't it?  "They" tell us not to re use freezer bags because "they" want to sell more bags.  The inside package is taken out of the freezer bag as soon as I remove it from the freezer.  I don't thaw meats in the freezer bag.

In order for this organizing to work, I need to be able to find what I'm looking for quickly and easily.  I decided to number the bags.  But how to number so it's easy to see?  More often than not the bags are folded around the meat inside which means writing on the bag wouldn't work.  I know, I can make labels.  Kind of like the tabs for in a binder.  But what to make the labels out of? 

Hmm... I have a couple of rolls of package tape not being used.  I make the labels out of the tape.  It's water proof and should stick to the bags even if frozen.  This was easier to do with room temp bags.  I tried putting a label on a frozen one but it wouldn't stick.   Removing it from the freezer caused moisture to form.  Tape won't stick to a wet bag.  I numbered the bag labels.  See how they look similar to binder tabs?

So I start removing the frozen meat from the bag it's in and putting it into a numbered bag.  Hmm... how to organize so I can pull one package out without the jumble mess?  Hmm.... storing upright like books should work.  See.... now the labels are visible and the package is easy to remove without a mess.

This can be done in any freezer.  Side to side works better than front to back.  If you have a chest freezer you could stand the packages on end inside a box then stack the boxes.  Having everything numbered and listed you know exactly which box the chicken breasts are stored or the hamburger for next week's meatloaf.  Get the idea?

All I need do now is repack everything into numbered bags.  As I do this, I write down the information onto my list.  I plan to type it into a spreadsheet so I can update weekly.  I will print out an updated list each week and put it into my household manager binder just in case.  Knowing exactly what's in the freezer helps with menu planning and grocery shopping.  This system saves money, time, and space.  Hmm... medical bills too because nothing will accidentally fall onto my foot.

If I want to use up the oldest package before it goes bad, I look on the list.  If I want to see if I have ground turkey, when making out my shopping list, I look on the list.  If I want to make a weekly menu, I look on the list.

I'm going to add another column to my list.  Currently under "cost" I have listed exactly what I paid.  The new column will be the "original cost".  I buy lots of sale and discount foods.  I want to know the total savings over a year.  With this organizing system, before opening the freezer door, I look on the list and know exactly where to look.  I move a week's worth of foods to the refrigerator freezer and move flash frozen foods from there to the big freezer. 

On my list is a column to show which shelf the number I'm looking for is located.  If you use boxes in a chest freezer you would list which box.  When I re use a bag number it may not go back into the same spot.  The newest may not be the same poundage as the one before.  This is why I have the column for where the number is stored.  The column will look something like this:  "2R" for second shelf on the right or "3M" for third shelf in the middle. 

One coulmn is for poundage or number of items.  Say for example I know I'm fixing a recipe that calls for 2 lbs of ground turkey.  I look on the list.  If I plan to have burgers for dinner, I look on the list for a package with 2 or 4 preformed burgers.  My list will also have precooked meals in numbered bags.  I often cook (or just prepare) a double batch, one to eat, and one for the freezer.  You would be surprised at how well almost any precooked meal fits into a gallon size freezer bag.  

So that's it for my freezer organizing.  I hope you find this a good idea and start using it.  You might think that keeping a list is just adding more work; but, it will help you much more than the time it takes to maintain it.  2 or 3 minutes a week to update the list and print out a new copy is not bad compared to how it will help in the long run.  Now you will know when to use something because it may go bad.  It's on the list.  You won't be buying what you don't need.  It's on the list.  Ok, you get the idea.  I need to go finish my own freezer organizing project.

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