Tips on using freezer well - stocking / organizing / cataloging... [moved from Home Cooking]
I need some remedial help, all. I live in the middle of nowhere, so learning to use my freezer really well would 1) keep me from wasting both food & $$ and 2) give me a whole new set of options for meals. It's a bin freezer, at the bottom of my refrigerator, and it has a top shelf thing that slides independent of the bin.
In my dream freezer, I'd have some meat, some portions of bean stew, some frozen vegetables from the store, some frozen pesto & herbs from my garden. Whole ginger & lemongrass, A variety of stocks, some home made pastry for last minute guests. Poppy seeds & nuts like hazelnuts that can go rancid. And a little space, so that when I have extra of something, or pastry to chill, I can pop it in. Ha! And nothing would be in there for more than a year. Ever.
The reality is - um - different. I have gotten the hang of putting a date on the things that go in there - with blue painters tape, which I love because it stays on when frozen, but leaves no gummy stuff to clean off the container - but I have no clue what's at the bottom of that bin, and whatever is down there has been there a long time.
Is there hope? Are there suggestions? Does everyone else have the hang of this?
My only freezer is one that sits above the fridge, so we are in a similar situation on the lack of space and shelves for organizing.
One thing I find that helps is, I found a couple of cardboard boxes that are narrow and as tall as it would fit. Having them at the sides in the freezer, they are great for keeping the smaller sized, or more delicate packages. It helps to keep them from getting lost, and I can always lift the whole bin out to look for something or reorganize.
If you have a Droid, buy My Pantry 2 app, and you can put your pantry, freezer, everything on their pantry section It's attached to a shopping list, so you can "put away" what you buy .in the freezer when you shop. At the end of the evening, I go through and delete whatever I used. I never know where my list/spreadsheet/dry erase board pen was, but I ALWAYS know where my phone is and always have it with me. Also, I'm not the only one in the freezer.
My fridge is not magnetic so I bought a package of stick-on wipe boards (found them with the Wall decals at a discount store), one lives on the fridge for shopping lists, appointments, etc and the other on the freezer with a rough list of what & how much is in there. In the freezer we use Ziploc containers and just write right on them - no sticky residue. Most of the ink comes off in the dishwasher and what gets missed comes off with a quick swipe with a dish cloth as they get put away.
I have a freezer such as yours and I'm *sure* there are things I should ditch in the depths of that drawer. we also have a full sized upright freezer full of stuff that should be ditched. i can't decide if we're organized enough to actually USE the upright, or if we should just clean it out and unplug it.
I'll have to run these suggestions by DH and see what he thinks.
I am a freezer nut. I have three freezers :) Organization is important. Here is what I do:
I have plastic bins for small items so they don't get "lost ".
I have sections in the freezer : the bottom drawer is for meat, the next shelf is for breads, next for veg,etc. Plastic bins on each shelf hold sauces, broths, herbs, precooked items, deserts, cheese, etc. Items in the door are butters, nuts, booze, pizza toppings,etc.
If you have sections or shelves that always contain certain items you don't have to look everywhere for it.
Painters tape and a sharpie is what I use also. I use zip bags, my foodsaver and glass jars. I freeze in ice cube trays, muffin tins and on cookie sheets then move them to other containers. Freeze flat when possible. Package in sizes that you will eat. I mark how many on the tape also (like "2 big chx breasts"). I also sometimes measure how much broth and mark it or say something like "cooked ground beef- use in chili". It helps to remind yourself what you thought you might use it for. Don't think you will remember 3 months later, you won't. Be specific -and you will use it more easily when looking for dinner.
I go through the freezer every spring to use things up, give away, compost, or throw out. This is very easy to do and only takes 10 minutes if you have bins and date label each item on your tape.
Thanks for the responses. I have just the one drawer with pull out shelf on top, so I have less organizing space for the better / worse. I definitely need some containers to help corral stuff. I also need a way to remember what's at the bottom. The dry-erase board seems practical but improbable as a solution for me, although I do have a little place for one. Maybe I have to start thinking about it differently - like get exactly what I want in there & then "replace when used," rather than the "oh, I might use this later" approach. (The sucessful "oh, I might use it later" approach seems like advanced freezer territory to me.) Sedimental - I'll be aspiring to your level of organization over the next few weeks... It's nice to know someone has it in hand.
I can't say that I do this, but before my in-laws moved to Florida, my mother-in-law literally kept a list of what was in her freezer (extra freezer in basement) on a dry-erase board which was attached to the freezer door. When something went in the freezer, it went on the list with the date.