Follow this simple guide for organizing your cold-storage areas and you'll cut waste—and your grocery bill. ALL YOU Savings Star Kelly Hancock, founder of Faithful Provisions and author of Savvy Saving: Smart and Easy Ways to Cut Your Spending in Half and Raise Your Standard of Living...and Giving! helps you get a handle on your freezer with her favorite tips.
Keep it clean.
“You’ll be surprised at how messy the freezer can get,” Hancock says. “If you take the time to do the job right, you won’t have to clean it again for at least a year.”
Purge old items.
Pull everything out of the freezer, check expiration dates and throw away products past their prime. Store the keepers in a cooler while you work.
Start fresh, stay fresh.
Defrost your freezer and wipe it down, inside and out, with a cleaning solution of equal parts vinegar and water to remove odors and cut through grease. For tough stains, add salt or baking soda to make a paste and scrub.
Organize for easy access.
Put items you use frequently, such as meat and sides, on their own shelves. If you have a tendency to pick up fast food on days you don’t feel like cooking, designate a shelf to stash homemade ready-to-eat meals as a cheaper (and healthier) alternative.
Save space with bags.
Almost any frozen food—meat, fruit, vegetables, soups, sauces—can be stored in a freezer bag. Lay partially filled bags flat in the freezer (leave ¼ to ½ inch of space since frozen food expands). Once they’re frozen, stack them upright in rows, like books on a shelf.
Mark the date.
Because frozen food is often unrecognizable, Kelly recommends labeling and dating containers and bags with a black permanent marker. Even permanent ink washes off, so you can relabel dishwasher-safe containers to use with different foods.
Use Hancock’s “first in, first out” rule when you replenish your freezer (store newer purchases behind older ones, so whatever you buy first, you use first). You won’t have to worry as much about foods going bad or disappearing into the icy depths.
Freezers run more efficiently when full. Plus, if the power goes out, your food will stay frozen longer. If necessary, fill milk jugs with water to take up space.
Learn how to flash freeze.
Don’t be afraid to snap up large quantities of meat, veggies or fruit at a deep discount. You can use the process below to freeze items at the peak of freshness and later scoop out individual (or family-size) portions so you don’t have to defrost a whole bag or bust through frozen clumps.
Dice meat, vegetables or fruit.
Place the small pieces on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper. Place the sheet in the freezer for one to two hours. Once the food is frozen, transfer to freezer bags (get all the air out) and return to the freezer.
Bonus Tip: Blend fresh herbs in a food processor, adding water until the bits come off the sides. Measure and spoon herbs into an ice cube tray, freeze, then dump the cubes into a freezer bag. Pop one out when a recipe calls for fresh herbs.
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