If your freezer is a chaotic mess of ancient ice cubes, half-empty ice cream containers, dead bread, and questionable leftovers, you’re not preserving your food well, and you’re not making the best use of the space.
Here are some freezer basics.
Make sure your freezer is the right temperature
Your freezer keeps spoilage at bay by slowing down bacterial growth, as long as you keep it at 0°. Even if you have a newer fridge with a digital display, don’t trust it—test it. Get a refrigerator thermometer and check it regularly to make sure the temperature is stable.
Keep more food in your freezer
It may not be intuitive, but a full freezer actually takes less energy to stay cold. Freezers need air to circulate as well, so make sure to leave a little bit of space.
Watch out for freezer burn
Frozen food that isn’t well sealed loses moisture. And that’s exacerbated when the temperature in the freezer is inconsistent. Freezer-burned food is nasty and leathery, but it won’t kill you. Still, it’s best to avoid the problem by sealing your food in airtight bags or containers.
How to stock your freezer
If you’re like most people, you’ve spent your life stuffing food into the freezer at random. But there are better ways to preserve food and make it last. Here are some hints.
Don’t block the vent
You don’t want to impede the air flow in your freezer, because it may cause the temperature to fluctuate. Leave some clearance around it, about five or six inches.
Check your icemaker
If your ice maker is always running, it could make your freezer too cold, and even cause your refrigerated foods to freeze. This issue may require a service call.
Set up a rotation
Go through your frozen food regularly and actually cook it, so it doesn’t go to waste. Consider moving the stuff that has been in the freezer longest to the front, to remind you use it up. The front of the freezer tends to be warmer, but since it's easy to see what's there, it may encourage you to use that food first.
Your leftovers won't last long in your freezer if you don't pack them up right. So, make sure you have a good supply of freezer wrap, zip-lock bags, and plastic containers.
Label and date contents
If you’ve ever pulled out a container of food you couldn’t identify, you probably already know why this is a good idea. You might not want to serve spaghetti with salsa instead of marinara sauce. (I know from experience.) And if you don’t remember when you put something away, you may be hesitant to use it. Get a Sharpie and masking tape, and label everything that goes in your freezer, starting now.
Get rid of boxes
Want to free up some freezer space? Throw some boxes away. They get soggy and torn, anyway. Take popsicles out of the carton and put them in a zip-lock bag. Toss the frozen waffles box—you already know how to toast them–and label the inner bag. It helps to be able to see how much you have at a glance, so it may help to slip the bags into a single clear plastic bin.
Store similar types of food together.
It’s easier to grab what you want if you group your groceries. So, store fruit with fruit, meat with meat, etc.
Now that you know how to organize your freezer, go in and get rid those scary leftovers that have been in there for a year. You’ll likely free up plenty of space to freeze some delicious meals you’ve prepped for next week. And make sure you label them, so you don’t forget what they are.