I would like to try some of your frugal living suggestions, like freezing leftovers and produce, but I have a problem. My freezer is just TOO SMALL!
I live in an apartment and only have a limited amount of space. Should I just give up trying to cram more food into the freezer or is there some magical solution to making it work?
Iwanna Bigger Freezer
Dear Iwanna Bigger Freezer,
There is hope! I lived in an apartment for a few years before moving to our current home. I found a few tricks to maximize freezer space there, and I’m sure you’ll get great tips from my readers as well. Some people are so gifted with space organization that they almost make it an art form!
When we moved here, there was an existing standup freezer in the basement, so I am now spoiled. However, having more space means I need to be even more organized in how I organize the food so I know what we have, where it is, and when we need to use it up.
6 Tips to Maximize Freezer Space
1. Do a freezer inventory (yes, even the weird shaped ones in the back) – and write it down. Is everything in your freezer food you are planning to eat over the next 3-6 months? Do you know what all the items even are? Are there items whose space you would rather give up for something else? I took out the ice trays, loaf of cheap bread, etc., in exchange for room for more cheese, meats, and meals. A simple freezer inventory will help you keep track of what you have on hand. I have used my pricelist for this or a grocery list that has the items we tend to keep stocked.
2. Stay organized. Label everything when it goes into the freezer. I’ve had several instances of thawing the wrong item for dinner and having to come up with a different meal idea at the last minute. I was sure it would be obvious what the item was, and that I would remember later. After mixing up containers of Potato Soup, extra coconut milk, and leftover Fettuccini Alfredo sauce, I conceded that I needed to invest in labels. Now I have a sharpie marker, pen and self-adhesive labels right by the freezer, so I have no excuse for not labeling food on its way in. I put the food, quantity, and date on the freezer bag or container. I also add an “S” for safe or “NS” for not safe if there is a question of whether the item is allergy safe for me.
3. Use smaller containers. Shape is important when trying to fit more into the freezer. As you can see from the picture, freezing liquid items — such as crushed tomatoes, broth or soup — flat takes up much less space than tossing them in any direction. If you buy packaged foods, you will notice that a large part of the package is wasted space. When you come home from the store, get in a habit of transferring items to freezer bags and recycle the unnecessary boxes. If you need the instructions, cut that part off and stick it on the bag. You can use small boxes or plastic bins to group bags of like ingredients, such as produce or meats. Eco Tip: Wash and reuse freezer bags when they have not been used for meat. If you frequently buy the same products, simply label the bag with the category – waffles, fish sticks — and use again. You can also use the removable labels.
4. Shrink the food. The first time we had our garden, we still lived in the apartment. We overplanted everything and had boatloads of bell peppers. I thought I’d save time and freeze them whole. Not only did they take up an enormous amount of my limited freezer space, but they didn’t thaw very well for using the way I needed them. I learned to dice them or cut them into small strips, freeze on baking sheets, then seal in bags. I do this now with peppers, carrots, celery, onions, green beans and berries. The pieces don’t stick together this way, so I can easily take out the portion I need when I am cooking, and they take up minimal space. Cabbage and zucchini are great shredded, for soups and baking in the colder months.
5. Do a little cooking. Instead of freezing ingredients separately, prepare them first as individual meal portions, bags of muffins, or containers with the right amount for your family dinner. They not only take up less space than raw ingredients, but you also have ready to thaw meals and snacks on hand for times you can’t cook.
6. Prioritize. Make choices of what you will use your precious freezer space for by what would save the most money, or be most useful and efficient for your family. Think about would be best, given your unique situation. Would it help you save on groceries to take advantage of a Buy One Get One Free sale on meat and freeze the extra? Perhaps having a couple complete meals ready for your spouse to reheat while you are working late, instead of ordering takeout, would be helpful.
Think about the way you will use the ingredients and freeze them in the way that makes most sense for reuse, such as having shredded, pureed or diced ingredients on hand, or freezing browned meat. Cheese can be saved in blocks or shredded. Even foods like milk can be frozen. You just have to decide what makes the most sense for your family so you use the space for items you will actually use. Hope this helps!
I’m sure my other readers will offer their great tips and ideas in the Comments below.
Letters from Sunnybrook
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