When you feel organized in your day-to-day routine, it shows itself in so many ways throughout your life. While it may sound like a small undertaking, keeping my freezer cleaned out and organized at all times makes me feel better about myself and makes smoothie making, whipping up quick dinners, and food storage a much more pleasant experience.
Everyone’s aesthetic is different, so consider the ideas in this article as suggestions to create your own freezer magic—ones based simply on things that work for me. By all means, improvise and find a system that suits your lifestyle best. Once you do, you’ll realize you’re not only saving money, but feeling more zen every time you hit your kitchen to create even the simplest meal. Here are 12 strategies for making your freezer more efficient in every way possible:
1. Mason jars are great for storing rice, grains, seeds, nuts, shredded coconut—even liquids like soup (see below). They are available in a variety of sizes and colors so you can find styles to meet any storage need. They also look great lined up in your freezer door. Remember that when freezing any liquid in glass, don’t fill your container past three-quarters full to avoid breakage.
2. Box it. No more discovering seven-year-old bags of frozen peas at the back of the freezer. Transparent storage boxes are a great, inexpensive (especially if you reuse old containers from around the house) solution for organizing frozen fruit and vegetable bags. Organize by category and label each box accordingly. The boxes are easy to pull out so you can see exactly what you have and always know when it’s time to restock.
3. Silicone ice cube trays are great for freezing stock or leftover pan drippings to use when making soup or flavoring sauces. They’re also perfect for making coffee or tea ice cubes, which you can use to ice your morning joe or tea so they don’t get watery.
4. If storing rice and grains in the pantry, place them in the freezer first for at least 10 days. This kills any larvae that may have found a home there in the store.
5. Frozen shrimp are economical and reliable in a dinnertime pinch. They’re also great for a quick high-protein stir fry or light snack. I love that I can cook the exact number I need and leave the rest in the bag.
6. Didn’t get around to cooking that steak, chicken, or fish in your fridge? You can freeze them for up to three or four months. Pop in a freezer-friendly container and label with the contents and date. When you’re ready to cook, just place in your refrigerator overnight and cook as directed.
7. Keep a backup loaf of bread in the freezer. It will stay fresh for three or four months, so whenever you run out of fresh bread, just pop a couple of frozen slices in the toaster and you’re set.
8. Don’t throw away soft, bruised, or overripe fruit. Cut it up and freeze it to use in smoothies or to blend and make popsicles. Make sure to evenly space the fruit slices in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze them before transferring them to a silicone container for storage so that the pieces don’t stick together. Fruit will stay fresh in the freezer for three or four months. Date your bag and you’ll never forget.
9. Prep and freeze soup. Soups and stews are a great last-minute meal option to have on hand for school lunch or whenever someone is sick. Whenever you’re making soup, double the recipe, allow half to cool, pour in airtight glass containers three-quarters to the top, and freeze. When ready to eat, thaw in the fridge and reheat. Soup will stay fresh in the freezer for up to four months, so be sure to label the container with the date and what’s inside.
10. Forget store-bought soup stock. Instead of discarding vegetable peels, tops, and scraps, dump them into a container in the freezer. When the jar is full, dump the scraps in a large pot of water, boil, strain, and voila, homemade vegetable broth for pennies.
11. The best bread backup ever. No matter how delicious your pancakes or waffles are, occasionally there are leftovers. These are ideal for freezing for future use, either to pop in the toaster on those mornings you don’t have time to make breakfast, or to use my favorite way, as the “bread” for lunch sammies. (Once you’ve had a waffle PB&J, you’ll know exactly why I’m never without frozen pancakes and waffles in my freezer.)
12. Freeze homemade baby food, pestos, and leftover sauces in single-serve glass storage cubes. Only fill three-quarters full to avoid breakage. When ready to use, defrost by placing in the refrigerator overnight.