If you have a chest freezer or a deep freezer, you know how easily food can get “lost” and then freezer burned.
While you may have the best intentions of saving time and money by trying batch cooking, creating a stockpile of freezer meals, or even buying food in bulk, if you don’t keep your freezer organized, you’ll end up wasting more than you use.
Recently, my favorite grocery store had a huge meat sale, and I might have gotten a little carried away! $203.00 later… this is what I brought home:
It’s enough meat to last us for a few months, and I’m pretty sure my freezer is going to topple over from all the weight.
Stocking up on sale items is a great way to save time and money. In this busy season, I’ve been doing monthly meal planning and then grocery shopping once a month.
In addition to all my meat purchases, I’ve also been on a freezer cooking binge, which means that I’ve been doubling every recipe and then freezing enough for one meal.
Needless to say, my freezer is getting full, and keeping all of my new purchases, existing stockpile, and freezer meals organized is a challenge.
If you need a way to get your freezer organized, here are my best tips to create a stocked freezer and keep it organized.
1. Check the sales ad
Use the sales to create a plan for the grocery store.
Expect long lines in the store, so save yourself some time by creating an organized list. Some meal plans, like MyFreezEasy, come with printable, premade shopping lists. If you need to create your own list, write down the items that you want to buy in the order that you’ll walk through the store. Also, list the quantities and prices next to each item, so you know exactly what you need in the store (e.g. 4 lbs. boneless chicken breast $1.59/lb.).
2. Plan your menu
Before I went shopping, I planned my meals for the whole month for both May and June. I’m going to double each recipe and freeze half, so I planned to buy enough meat to last at least two months. On each day of the month, I listed our dinner and the recipe/cookbook where I found it. Make sure you keep the sale ad close when you’re planning your menu, too!
Right now, you can get my meal planner here for over half off using code MAYMEALS
3. Check your freezer/storage space
I forgot to do this step, so I actually didn’t buy as much meat as I originally planned because I started to worry that I wouldn’t have enough room in my freezer to store everything.
Before you head to the store, check how much space you have in your freezer.
You may want to spend a few minutes organizing and making a little more room, too.
If your freezer has a lot of ice buildup, you may need to defrost your freezer, especially before restocking. Pull everything out and store it in coolers. Unplug or turn off your freezer and place towels in the bottom. Check the freezer frequently to soak up the melted ice.
Once your freezer is defrosted, clean and then restart it. When it’s back up to temperature (the ideal temperature for a deep freezer is 0*F or below), restock it.
4. Ask the meat department for custom orders
If pork loin is on sale but you want to make pork chops, ask the butcher to cut a loin. Most stores offer this service for free, but if not, it still may be cheaper than buying pre-cut meat. Again, expect long lines for this service. You may be able to call ahead and designate a pickup time to save yourself from waiting.
5. Repack the meat once you get home
Most meat isn’t wrapped well enough to prevent freezer burn, so if you plan to store the meat for an extended period of time, add it to freezer bags (make sure you let all the air out before sealing the bag).
If you placed a custom order, you may need to package your own meat. I often wrap pork chops and steak in parchment paper.
Don’t forget to label your bags/packs of meat before you put it in the freezer, though! Make sure you write the contents, quantity, and the date on the outside of the package.
6. Batch cook some of the meat
Save yourself cooking time by pre-cooking some of the meat. This works especially well for batch cooking chicken. Watch the video to see how I do it (my daughter got up from her nap at the end of the video, so you get to see her, too).
7. Pack your freezer well
Save space by laying bags flat. Also, try to group items together, like placing all chicken in one area of your freezer.
When you add meat to the freezer, try to set new packages directly on the freezer racks (this helps them freeze faster). Make sure you’re also rotating the existing contents so you remember to use older items first.
As you’re adding items to the freezer, create or update your freezer inventory. Write a description of the item, like “shredded chicken,” the quantity (one pound), and the date you added it to the freezer.
As you remove items, make a checkmark next to each item.
To save space on your inventory, you could also write multiple items on the same line, like writing “one pound shredded chicken, four bags, 5/5/2018.” In this example, when you’ve made four checkmarks on the line, you know you’ve used all four bags from that date.
You could laminate the inventory and use a dry erase marker or print several copies and place them in a plastic sheet protector. Attach the inventory and a pen to your freezer door so that you always have it handy.
Keeping a freezer inventory will help you keep your freezer organized. It’ll also make sure that you’re using the oldest items first so that your food doesn’t get freezer burned.
I’m really falling in love with freezer cooking, and sales like the one I found recently make it all worth it (if you keep your freezer organized).
If your favorite store isn’t having a sale anytime soon, though, you can still save money by planning ahead.
I often buy meat that’s been discounted because it was from the previous day. Check to see if your store advertises that its meat is “cut fresh daily.” If so, you might be able to snag some great sales on the previous day’s meat. (Don’t worry. There’s nothing wrong with it. Stores are still only allowed to sell items until a certain date, and if you’re going to take it home and immediately freeze or cook it, you’ll be perfectly safe.)
Happy “saving money while shopping and meal planning!”
P.S. My monthly meal planner is available HERE! It has both weekly and monthly planners. Get them half off this month with code MAYMEALS