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Chest Freezer organisation?

Our new duplex has an itty bitty side-by-side freezer with an icemaker taking up most of the space... so we went out and bought a small chest freezer to make room for the bulk meat and veggies that we usually like to buy (you get far far better prices buying meat in bulk at BJs than at the grocery store...)

My question is this - I have never had to deal with a chest freezer before in my life. Can you put baskets into it or make some way to keep the contents seperated to take some of the guesswork out of finding stuff? I can just barely reach the bottom, so I put a layer of ice packs into it (it'll help keep the food cold too) but it's still a big stretch. If you have a chest freezer, how have you made it work on a daily basis?

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  1. I hate chest freezers!!!!
    There was a running joke in our family when I was growing up.
    In 1958 my parents bought a commercial chest freezer from a local restaurant that was remodeling their kitchen (they built a walk in).
    My mother only 5'2" tall could never reach down into the freezer to find anything she wanted. My brother had his Bar Mitzvah in 1959. There was leftover lox from the Sunday brunch at out home, and it went into the freezer. For years my father would ask my mother where the lox was.
    In 1968 we bought an upright, the chest freezer was unplugged and defrosted to be carted away. They found the lox buried in the ice at the bottom.

    I have three freezers in my home, all are uprights. It is much easier to see what is on a shelf than have to remove everything to see what's on the bottoim of a chest freezer. If you have enough room in your freezer and can spare the freezing space, try using milk crates in the freezer. Buy assorted colors, use red for meat, blue for vegetables, green for poultry, etc. It might help, and with the hand cutouits you should be able to lift the crates in and out easily.

    1 Reply
    1. re: bagelman01

      LOL to the ten-year-old lox... I know chest freezers can be a pit of no return if you're not careful - that's why I need to be organised from the beginning! I've been reading and found one good suggestion - reusable grocery bags for sorting! I've got a bazillion of them and they only cost $1 each, so that's what I'm going to try... a different colour bag for each major food group. And I think I'll leave my emergency frozen dinners in the tiny upright - that's about all there's room for.

    2. Yes, you can use baskets in your freezer. You want to use a plastic or rubber coated metal to avoid any unintentional skin sticking to frozen metal.

      1. I get nervous when my chest freezer is even one tenth empty...it's always gotta be full. I don't know what's in the bottom.

        1. We used to have a chest freezer. When it died (while we were in Europe for 10 days. . . what a welcome home gift) we replaced it with an upright.

          Keep a running list of what is in it. If you use it, cross it off. If you add it, add it to the list. Get grumpy when other freezer users don't do this an you suddenly have no ice cream.

          I kept stuff in "zones" based on frequency of use. Bulk meats were off to their corner, frozen fruits/veggies were on top cause they were accessed most often. You could use reusable grocery bags filled with like items (veggies in one, meat in another) so you could grab the handles more easily

          1. Have never had a chest freezer, but understand the "science" that they're efficient. When you open un upright freezer, the cold air just falls out onto floor cuz it's heavier. problem with chest freezer is it's easy to become an archeological DIG to the bottom?? I'd probably hunt for bins/baskets that would fit and hold stuff byt category... chickne, fish, beef/pork, frozen veggies. I have a thrift store found Foodsaver vac sealer... wanna say an IMPORTANT thing to consider purchasing. Properly sealed, stuff is relatively indestrucible to freezing... rarely find freezr burned stuff.

            1. Many years ago, when I had a chest freezer, we did some of the things other posters have listed:

              identified the food when pagkaging it

              made lists of what was in there

              used segregated storage to keep a meat area, etc

              Yes, we did use milk crates too

              but most importantly, we had a strict FILO system [first in, last out].

              Today I have two large upright freezers but I recall the chest freezer fondly simply because it was such a PITA. It was silly happy to get it since it was so much better than the itty-bitty freezer unit that came attached to the fridge.

              To sum it all up - try to be as organized as possible so you will know what is in there. You do say that it is a small chest freezer, so you're not likely to store a huge amount.

              1. I have a very old large heavy chest freezer...it's not as easy as an upright to be able to see what's in it but I pretty much know what's in it.

                I like to keep things in plastic grocery bags if I have more than one of that item. For example, right now I have several sausages in one bag. I have assorted frozen packages of veggies in another bag, etc..

                I mentally divide my freezer up in six sections; meats, fish, etc. take up 2/3 of the space. The other 1/3 is used for veggies, fruits, breads, sweets and items like dried pasta, rice, flours etc.

                I keep all the chicken & poultry in one corner; next to that is beef & venison (and any other wildlife like squirrel, rabbit, etc.) Fish & seafood in the corner across from poultry and pork next to that. The rest of the freezer is devoted to everything else.

                1. Buy see thru plastic boxes similar to this one that you can label at the end and then have standing upright in the freezer for meats vs frozen meals vs veggies etc

                  1. We got a 15 cubic feet chest freezer when I was about 6 years old. I remember that I was not allowed near the thing. I thought that was silly since even if I fell into the thing I could just push the lid up and get out. This was after locking latches were ruled illegal for refrigerators and freezers.

                    I juat looked it up. That law went into effect in 1958, many years before I was born. It still makes me feel old.

                    1. I just bought a chest freezer and love it so far! I organized it into larger and smaller compartments with plastic bins. I keep a Google spreadsheet of its inventory which is super useful. I have organized meat by animal and then have separate compartments for sauces/condiments, leftovers and freezer meals, spices, etc. I would try to figure out what categories are most meaningful to you and then arrange in stackable organizers. When I open the freezer, I know exactly where I'm headed to get something which makes it a quick in and out.

                      1. If you have a Container Store in your vicinity, they carry all kinds of wire baskets so you can customize your space. Don't put too much weight in one basket as you will have to lift them to get at what you want. Items that you don't need to access constantly, put on the bottom. Label and date items---nobody wants to eat five year-old Mystery Meat. You can probably work out a system of putting like things with like so if you are looking for vegetables you don't have to plow through loaves of bread. As for being too short to reach the bottom, stand on a stool and lean in---just don't fall in!. When I had a similar situation we had a huge vegetable garden so that the bottom of my freezer was piled with a dozen dozen ears of sweet corn---other stuff went on top of it.

                        1. I use boxes and baskets to keep things organized. I use items from front to back and load new items in the back to keep the stock fresh. I use it mostly for veggies so each type has a separate basket. Meats are in a separate section, butter is in a separate box etc. I keep the freezer full but everything is relatively easy to reach. That system has worked for me for 25+ years (and 2 chest freezers)!

                          It makes defrosting time super easy; just pull the boxes out, place in coolers and off you go!

                          1. I just got sick of my freezer lack of organization, and due to a fairly long power out it's not as full as usual. :) I did a simple chart on excel, separated into, beef, pork , chicken, bread etc. vac sealed them in my food saver and grabbed a magnetic dry erase marker from the dollar store. I made prettier ones with contact paper for meal plans for the fridge. It's worked really well so far, 2 months.

                            Oh I also put a date section on the chart, to make sure we follow FILA.