By Emma Stessman
There’s a good reason why the ‘fridge selfie” is a thing and the “freezer selfie” is not.
“The freezer is like a wasteland for good intentions,” says Ann Lightfoot, the co-founder of the professional organizing and decluttering company, Done & Done Home.
Meaning even when you take the time to stock it with frozen scraps to make a stock or prepped meals for the weeks ahead, things get buried under boxes of veggie burgers (for, like, years!) and berries end up freezer-burned because you lost them amid the cluttered mess.
This matters because the freezer is such a great tool for making fast, healthy meals and preventing food waste—if you do it right.
To help, we ask Lightfoot for her advice on how to better organize a freezer, so you can easily reach your frozen kale for smoothies or better-for-you pints of ice cream without having to sort through piles of old, forgotten foods.
How to Create a More Organized Freezer
1. Take everything out
It’s what you would do if you were cleaning any other part of your house, Lightfoot says, and the freezer is no different. “Take every single thing out, and then see what looks gnarly––you know, where ice cream has spilled out and frozen again,” Lightfoot says. You also want to look at the food you’re pulling out and evaluate what you want to keep and what you should probably throw out. Like lasagna that’s been lurking in the back of the freezer for two years? It’s definitely time to toss it. “You’ll be surprised what’s actually in there that you don’t want in there,” Lightfoot says.
2. Scrub it down
And if you find your freezer has a few re-frozen soup drippings––or even if it doesn’t––give it a good scrub, making sure to cover all the corners and surfaces. A clean slate will make you want to keep things neat going forward.
3. Label your foods
If you constantly find yourself questioning whether that container of lentil soup you pulled out is from last month or last year, labeling will help. Lightfoot recommends writing what the food is, the date you made it, and how to cook or reheat it if needed. “[Use] white labels and clear, block labeling with a sharpie––so there’s nothing mysterious in any way,” she says. “And always get a brand of labels that you can peel on and off because you don’t want to spend even one minute of your life trying to pick a label off.”
If your freezer is the type that pulls out below your refrigerator, Lightfoot recommends sticking the label on top. “So you’re looking down on a label instead of having to lift things out [to see what it is],” she says. (Brilliant!) “Even if you have to take the top row and lift something up, you’d be able to see what’s beneath more easily.”
4. Stack smart
Also, if you have a pull-out drawer freezer, you want to make sure the foods you need are easily accessible––so you don’t have to go through a process of pulling everything out to get to that one thing on the bottom every day. Lightfoot says to put lighter and more commonly used food items on top. Another trick: “For packaged foods like ice cream bars or ice cream sandwiches, it’s better to take them out of the cardboard boxes that they’re in and put them in a clear plastic container,” she says. That way, they’re not taking up quite as much space.
5. Make the most of your space
Even if you have a full-sized freezer, you might benefit from adding a few bins or containers. Play around with the structure of your freezer, if you can, and find what works best in your space. “Try messing around with your freezer,” Lightfoot says. “Like, my freezer has a rack in the middle, but when I take that rack out and stack the bins inside there, it works way better.” Try to find bins the match the size of your space, or ones that can stack on top of each other, so there aren’t awkward, unused spaces. Put similar items in the same bin and label it.
6. Utilize the freezer door
If your freezer has a door, it’s a great place to put some of your most-used items, Lightfoot says. Since it’s so easily accessible, it’s the perfect spot for anything you might need to grab on the go.