Costco memberships and chest freezers go hand-in-hand; I can’t imagine trying to fit everything we buy at Costco into our regular freezer! But even though chest freezers are super useful for long term storage, they can be a little tricky to organize. Basically they’re just a giant rectangular box, and if the thing is full of frozen food, you have to dig around to get to the stuff at the bottom. I finally got fed up with how disorganized our chest freezer was, so I decided to get it organized. It turns out it was really simple to do! Our chest freezer organization system is easy to implement, easy to maintain, and inexpensive; all you need are some dollar store bins and about a half an hour!
My favorite thing about this organization system is that it’s easy to maintain. It sucks when you spend hours getting something organized, only to have it all fall apart a few weeks later because the system wasn’t simple to maintain. But that’s not a problem here! Everything is organized by type, so it’s easy to find things when we need them, and it’s easy to put away new things when we buy them!
I also set up a chest freezer inventory system so that I can keep track of what we need to buy without having to open the freezer!
Our Chest Freezer Organization System
Here’s what our chest freezer looked like before I got it organized. The chest freezer came with those two blue baskets, and they’re helpful for separating some things out from the others, but everything else was just thrown in the bottom half of the freezer. If I wanted to find the frozen dinner rolls, I had to dig past the frozen pizza, frozen soups, and frozen green beans to find them. Blech!
I figured the most useful way to organize a chest freezer would be to put “like” items together into small bins that could easily be stacked and unstacked. I started by measuring the inside of my freezer to make sure I knew how many bins would fit front to back, side to side, and how many I could stack on top of each other without running into the blue bins that came with the freezer. I also measured inside the blue bins, because it never hurts to have even more organization options!
I went to the dollar store and came back with 12 bins, four each of three different sizes.
You don’t need to get these exact bins to organize your chest freezer, and in fact, you shouldn’t, because they probably aren’t quite the right size for your freezer! When picking out bins, the important things are:
- The bins should fit in your freezer! Measure the inside dimensions of your freezer, including the height under any baskets that sit on top. Then when you’re picking out bins, set a few of them next to each other and measure to make sure that they’ll fit inside your freezer.
- The bins should have easy-to-access handles so that you can easily lift the bins out of the freezer to get at the bins below.
- The bins should be square or rectangular to make the most of the room in the freezer. Round baskets won’t efficiently use the space in your freezer because you will have gaps between the baskets.
- If you can find bins in different colors, that’s great! Use the colors to help separate different types of foods (i.e. chicken in the orange basket and beef in the blue one, etc.)
- Don’t worry too much about finding bins that are meant to stack together. I’ve found this actually limits you because you can’t have anything in the bin that sticks slightly out past the top, or the next bin won’t stack on it properly. I bought nesting bins (as you can see in the photo above) and I just fill up one bin and then set the second bin down on top of whatever is in the first bin. Since it’s all frozen anyway, you’re not going to smash anything accidentally. 🙂 The bins do tip ever so slightly if the stuff in the bottom bin isn’t nice and flat, but since my freezer is only large enough to stack two bins high underneath the blue baskets at the top, it works out just fine.
Once you have your bins, start by emptying your entire chest freezer. Pull everything out and set it aside so that you can see it all. Take this time to consolidate any bags of things, or pull separately bagged items out of boxes, etc. For example, we have a large bag of frozen salmon filets that are each individually sealed; the large bag does us no good, so I pulled each filet out and tossed the large bag. That way I can see exactly how many filets we have, and the freezer space isn’t cluttered with extra packaging.
Take stock of what you have and start sorting out items into your different bins. This process will be different for everyone, depending on what types of things you have in your chest freezer. But for example, I now have one bin for chicken, one bin for pork, one bin for beef, and one bin for fish and seafood. I also have a bin for breads and bagels and a bin for small ready-to-eat or ready-to-heat items.
Now, some things are best stored in their original packaging; just because you can fit it into a bin doesn’t mean you should. Frozen pizza, for example, should probably stay in its box. The box is nice and rectangular and will stand up on end in your freezer. If you just open one end of the box you can easily get at the pizzas, and the box will help keep them upright. Other things I leave in their original packaging are things like potstickers, bagels, tortillas, frozen veggies and fruits, etc. Just take a look at the types of things you have in your freezer and figure out what will work best for you.
Once you have your foods organized into your bins, start putting the bins back into the freezer. Put the food that you use less often into bins on the bottom, and stack the foods you use more often into the top set of bins.
If your freezer has extra baskets that came with it, you can use smaller bins to help break those up into multiple storage areas if you wish.
Don’t worry about filling your entire freezer with bins full of food. As I mentioned before, sometimes it just makes sense to leave foods in their original packaging. Just stick those things over to one side so you know where they are, and fill the other side of your freezer with bins.
Now, it’s true that if you didn’t use the bins, and instead stacked your food up and “tetris-ed” it all together, you could cram a bunch more stuff into your chest freezer. But then you would have to unstack everything to get to what’s at the bottom, and, at least for me, the small amount of usable space I lose by using bins and baskets is totally worth the ease of access to my frozen foods!
When we come home with frozen food that needs to go into the chest freezer, it’s easy to find the right bin to put it in; even if that bin is at the bottom, I can easily lift up the top bins and set them aside to get into the lower bins. And when we want to pull something out of the freezer for dinner, it’s easy to find; I don’t have to rummage through the entire freezer, just through one bin to find what I need!
Do you have a chest freezer? And if so, how do you organize it?
If getting your frozen foods organized into your chest freezer isn’t enough, I shared how I created a freezer inventory (and how I maintain it so it always has the most up-to-date info!) so I know exactly what’s in my freezer all the time!
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