Because who wants to waste food. Smart Martha, here, with some helpful advice. If we use our freezer wisely, we can store foods that would otherwise get thrown away. We can also buy foods more inexpensively in bulk and store them in the freezer. And finally, if we have a handle on our well-stocked freezer, it can end those last minute trips to the store or restaurant. So you see, there are many,many benefits to keeping control of your freezer. Here are a few steps.
Clean. (If not too bad go to the next step.) If you haven’t cleaned out your deep freezer or chest freezer, or even your freezer in your refrigerator for awhile, it may be time. You can simply unload all of your frozen items in a box and put outside if it is cool where you live. Since I am too lazy to haul them the whole way out there and it is finally warming up, I just unload them all into a cooler and work quickly.
(If you’ve got the kind of freezer that needs to have all of the built up ice and frost melted out, you might want to put the food in coolers and put it outside in the cold, unplug the plug, and wait a day for the freezer to defrost. Or if you don’t want to wait, you can try a blow dryer–although I’ve read that it is not recommended, I’ve done it many times and it works great. I’ve also heard of putting in pots of very hot water and closing the door for awhile and repeating until it is all defrosted.) Wash out with a warm wash cloth.
Unclutter. By unclutter, I mean get rid of the frozen food that you know you will not be eating. These are those half-opened popsickles that were stuck to the bottom or some mystery stew that it totally frosty–although, I’d probably stick it in a pot of hot water and see what kind of soup it could turn into.
Organize. For the most part, I can keep my freezer part of the refrigerator simply organized. I put meats on one shelf, frozen fruit on another, desserts on another, etc. My deep freezer doesn’t organize as easily. What I’ve tried to do is keep all of the other frozen food such as frozen meals (either bought or leftovers), bags of veggies, ice cream, and other meats in this freezer. I use a reusable grocery bag for the veggies so I can just pull that out and look for the bag of veggies that I need.
Use Labels. You may think you will remember what is in the ziplock bag or Tupperware, but you won’t. On the plastic bags I just use a Sharpie that I keep in a kitchen drawer. On the containers, I use a piece of masking tape labeled with a Sharpie, or if it has a dry, smooth surface, I use a dry erase marker to label it. This marker comes off in the dishwasher.
And Use a Dry Erase Board. To keep track of what is in there, I use a dry erase board that I keep on my refrigerator. In theory, everything that is in the deep freezer is written on that board. If you’ve just emptied out your deep freezer, now would be a good time to start this list. Otherwise, just pull a few things out and shuffle some things aside to see everything in there. If you don’t have a dry erase board, just use a piece of paper for now. Every time I buy new food that goes in the freezer, or even freeze some leftovers, I write that on my dry erase board. When I get something out of the freezer, I simply wipe it off.
Another way I use this board is for meal planning. I look at the board before planning my meals for the next week. If something has been on the board for a while, I try to incorporate that into next week’s menu.
A warning! Don’t put this board where little children can reach it. They will erase it. Also, don’t stress out if you get completely off track with your board. It is hard to get all family members to remember to mark off the frozen pizza they ate when they got home from school the other day. Just like so many other things in our life, we have to keep up with it, and when we get really behind, we just start over. It isn’t unusual for me to wipe off the board completely and get one of my older kids to do a “freezer inventory” for me as one of his chores.
Have Staples, Ready Meals and Bargains. I find it very handy to have certain staples always available in my freezer as well as emergency meals. To have these all written on the board saves me a lot of guessing. It can also save me a lot of money by stocking up on hamburger or mozzarella cheese or whatever when it is on sale. When I plan my menu, I can keep in mind which staples I have stored away that I got at bargain prices and use these. When inventory gets low, I can look for sale opportunities to restock. Also, if you’ve bought whole cows or pigs, (I always picture opening the freezer and seeing an actual cow looking up at me. LOL) using this list on your board is a good way to keep track of this meat as well.
By having emergency meals,( I mean frozen complete dinners that can just be thrown in the oven or a pot–we have chili like this a lot) I can resist the temptation to go out for fast food or spend too much money at a restaurant when I just “don’t feel like cooking.”
Mary and Martha of Bethany, pray for us!!
copyright Smart Martha 2014