I Sent a Pro Organizer Photos of My Overcrowded Freezer — Here’s How She Changed the Way I’ll Store Food Forever

published Feb 18, 2024
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Freezer before organizing.
Credit: Shifrah Combiths

Shopping for our family of seven is no small task. Not only do we have different needs (school lunches, after-school snacks, snacks for sports, dinners on-the-go for sports, protein drinks for a mom trying valiantly to meet her daily protein goal, etc.), but the sheer volume of food that we need — even for just a week — necessitates heavy planning and organization. And part of that planning means relying heavily on our freezer.

From stashing treats like Trader Joe’s frozen chocolate croissants to holding standbys like breaded chicken chunks and huge bags of frozen broccoli, the freezer helps us keep backup food items on hand for those days when cooking feels like too much. But we also count on the freezer to help us prolong the life of food that would otherwise go bad, store food that we’ve made ahead, and keep items that make cooking easier (like frozen chicken stock, pre-shredded chicken, or pre-portioned tomato paste). 

In short, there’s a lot going on in our freezer, and organization is key to keeping it all accessible and useful. Unfortunately, too often we throw things in the freezer when we get back from Costco or when that extra casserole has cooled down, and optimal organization takes a back seat. The best way to remedy that, I’ve found, is to set up organizational systems during a dedicated in-between time — that is, to not try to improvise organization while I’m cooking or unpacking from a trip to the store. That’s when it can feel most like an unsolvable game of Tetris. 

My freezer had, once again, gotten out of hand, with things tossed in there every which way. To really get a handle on it, I reached out to professional organizer Rachel Rosenthal of Rachel & Company, an organizing firm in Washington, D.C,. that has served over 8,000 clients. I sent her photos of the state of my freezer, and here’s what she said to do — plus, her best tips for getting any freezer in shape.

1. Pull everything out and categorize. 

Rosenthal’s first tip was to take everything out of the freezer. (I took this opportunity to clean it while it was empty!). Next, she suggested grouping items into categories so I can see everything I have and avoid making unnecessary purchases. This, of course, saves money, but also saves storage space in the freezer and therefore time digging through it when I’m trying to find something. 

“I like using Post-It Super Sticky Notes to easily create categories and see all my freezer items on the kitchen counter,” Rosenthal says. “For example, I would group all dinner and breakfast items together.” This kind of grouping was a new thought to me. Usually, I group by food type rather than by meal. I’m excited to give it a try! She also specifically suggested that I bring the tortellini down to the second drawer. 

2. Decant and debulk. 

Once all the food is categorized, consider decanting some of the larger packed items (e.g., broccoli, wings, chicken) into smaller bags or containers so they’re portioned out,” Rosenthal suggests, noting this will save time when it comes to meal planning. I love this idea! Although I’m a big fan of decanting where it makes sense in the pantry, I’ve never thought to do it in my freezer. She went on to suggest freezing sauces or other liquids using separate flat bags to maximize space. She shares two of her favorite options for decanting and freezing: these food storage containers and freezer-safe bags.

3. Measure and add storage bins. 

Before placing items back in the freezer, measure both compartments and look for bins or containers to fit,” Rosenthal says. She specifies that it’s best to organize items in the bottom door vertically, if possible, and suggests The Container Store’s multipurpose bins and a magazine holder from Amazon as two great options. For the upper drawer, Rosenthal recommends smaller bins that allow you to see everything clearly and “avoid food falling to the bottom never to be seen again.” Sounds good to me!  

4. Take inventory. 

In this next tip, Rosenthal addresses a common problem I’ve always had. “Many of us overbuy freezer food, thinking it will last forever.” (Spoiler alert: It won’t!). But if you buy too much, you can’t see what you have before it gets too old, and you overfill your freezer space. To address the problem, Rosenthal suggests keeping an inventory of what you have. “It doesn’t need to be complicated,” she emphasizes. “I’m a big fan of using sticky notes to organize and keep track of things. Writing it down on a piece of paper or a Post-It Super Sticky Note will save you time, money, and stress.” 

Credit: Shifrah Combiths

I took Rosenthal’s tips and put them into action in my own freezer. Some of our larger Costco bags of broccoli and cauliflower rice are already pre-portioned in smaller bags within the large bags, so I left those as-is. I also didn’t feel that I had enough smaller items in the upper drawer to warrant new containers — at least not right now. I did, however, use one of my favorite organizing hacks: I put a lidless food storage container to good use by stashing loose Popsicles in one. I also loved categorizing items by meal type and making sure to put everything in place vertically so that we can see everything while simultaneously maximizing freezer space. 

What surprised me the most, though, was how quickly I was able to put my disheveled freezer in tip-top shape (even cleaning it!). I overhauled the entire thing in about 25 minutes, which just goes to show how much of an impact it makes to have a step-by-step plan for how to get these ofte-overwhelming tasks checked off the list. 

Which tip do you find the most helpful? Let us know in the comments below!