When it comes to feeding my family without spending all day in the kitchen, I consider my freezer to be one of my most valuable appliances.
A part of almost every meal we eat comes from the freezer, and many of our bread, cookies, bars and other baked goods are simply pulled from the freezer on an as-needed basis.
We are fortunate, now, to have an extra deep freezer in the basement. However, there were many years when I only had the freezer on top of our refrigerator and I made it work.
No matter what size freezer you have, there are ways you can maximize your freezer space — saving you time in the kitchen, energy cooking daily meals, and money buying in bulk (and not resorting to fast food as often).
Win, win, win!
1. Use the smartest containers.
If you want to make the most of your freezer space, stick with square or rectangular containers as round containers waste valuable real estate (these are some of my favorite freezer containers.)
Please don’t go out and spend a fortune on new storage containers, but be aware of this the next time you replace your food storage. You can also look for square and rectangular containers at thrift stores.
Gallon-size ziptop bags are another great space-saving option. You’ll be amazed how much you can fit in your freezer if you use bags!
If you’re really hard-core, measure the inside of your freezer and search for containers that fit your exact space.
2. Label everything.
It’s frustrating when you can’t find the food you need in the back of your freezer after spending valuable time and money preparing casseroles, soups, broths, and baked goods.
An easy solution = label all your freezer bags and containers.
I keep a Post-It Roll and pens in a kitchen drawer to label the date and contents of everything I put in the freezer (masking tape or painter’s tape work too).
Labeling the food takes 10 extra seconds and can prevent frustration and ruined recipes down the road — take it from someone who once used ground beef instead of ground sausage in quiche. Gross!
It’s also helpful to include the cooking instructions directly on the label or bag so you don’t need to dig up the recipe later. This makes it extremely easy to give a freezer meal to someone else.
3. Practice portion control.
No, this is not a weight loss tactic!
Instead, consider how much of a particular food your family eats in one meal and freeze your food accordingly.
For example, I freeze rice, chicken, ground beef, and my homemade refried beans in 2-cup portions — which is the right amount for one meal for our family.
I also freeze frozen fruit in quart-size bags, which is enough for 1 batch of smoothies.
And when I make a casserole, I freeze enough to fit in a 9″ x 9″ pan as that’s how much we eat for one meal.
This allows me to defrost one container at a time and prevents wasted food.
Related Reading: A few of our favorite freezer meals.
4. Avoid freezer burn.
Although I made do with a small fridge/freezer combo for years, one of the main reasons I love our deep freezer is that it prevents most freezer burn.
Our deep freezer is not a “frost-free freezer” so it holds its temperature much more constant than a frost-free freezer, thus, more effectively preventing freezer burn.
Of course, this means we need to manually defrost our deep freezer every year, but that’s a job I’m willing to tackle for longer-lasting freezer foods.
Related Reading: How we defrost our deep freezer.
If you don’t have a deep freezer, here are a few steps I’ve taken to reduce freezer burn.
- Double-wrap bread, muffins, and cookies.
- Package everything in containers with tight-fitting lids.
- Wrap store-bought frozen food in freezer paper or aluminum foil.
- Open the freezer door as few times as possible
- Date your foods (see #2) so you know what to eat first.
5. Eat from your freezer.
It’s easy to get so caught up in “stocking your freezer” that you forget to actually work frozen foods/meals into your weekly meal plan.
If you often forget about your frozen foods, you might consider taking pictures of your freezer each week or keeping a running list of all the foods in your freezer in a notes App on your phone. Either option makes it easy to “check” what’s in your freezer when you’re at the grocery store.
Personally, I take a weekly “inventory” of our freezer when I make our meal plans on Sunday and before I head to the grocery store.
Another fun way to clean out your freezer is to implement an eat-from-the-pantry (and freezer) challenge where you don’t allow yourself to buy any groceries other than fresh produce and dairy for a specified period of time in an effort to use up much of the food you already have in the house.
Related Reading: Master list of freezable foods.
Utilizing our freezer and maximizing its storage capacity is one of the many ways I’m able to simplify our weekly meal planning, stretch our grocery budget, and minimize my time in the kitchen!
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