The Best Ways to Double Your Freezer Space This Summer, According to Organizing Pros
Ah, summer. The season of sun, sand, and more zucchini than we know what to do with. (Oh, and berries. And tomatoes, too!) If you struggle to eat all of summer’s bounty, there’s an easy way to keep it for months to come: Freeze it. This preservation method is simpler than canning and it’s efficient. But open up that freezer and take a peek. Is it ready for a mountain of fresh strawberries? Or is it already stuffed to the brim?
Not only is a packed freezer harder to navigate, but it’s also less efficient and can cause uneven freezing. In the interest of tidying up our freezers and maximizing the space we have, we spoke to two professional organizers about how to get our freezers in fighting shape for the summer. Here are eight effective ways to increase your freezer space.
1. Start by taking everything out.
When was the last time you took everything out of your freezer? Not surprisingly, it’s the first step to creating more space, because you’ll inevitably discover a handful of things that should be tossed. Sharon Lowenheim, a professional organizer who specializes in apartments and small spaces through her company Organizing Goddess, suggests doing this more often than just summertime: “At the beginning of each season, take everything out and make sure you know what you have before putting everything back in.”
Be sure to open up containers to do a thorough inspection; if anything is freezer-burnt, spoiled, or just plain old, throw it away (or compost it). If you have an especially large freezer, keep a cooler on hand while you clean to ensure nothing melts or begins to thaw, says Caroline Solomon, a pro organizer who blogs about all things organizing, decluttering, and cleaning.
This is also your opportunity to clean it, advises Solomon. “Say goodbye to the mystery food splatters and crumbs. I recommend spritzing it down with equal parts vinegar and water and wiping it with a clean rag.”
2. Invest in rectangular and square containers.
Now that your freezer is clean, it’s time to restock it! Both Lowenheim and Solomon recommend using square or rectangular storage containers — not round. Although containers with rounded edges look chic and modern, they create wasted space, and are more challenging to pack in tightly. Why? “No corners!” says Lowenheim.
3. Stick to one brand of container, if you can.
This is less about creating a Pinterest-worthy aesthetic in your freezer than it is about efficiency. Solomon notes that using a variety of different brands means playing a not-so-fun game of Tetris when organizing the freezer. Solomon is a fan of glass, which is easy to clean, and lasts “forever.”
“My go-to brand is Rubbermaid,” shares Lowenheim. “They stack beautifully in the refrigerator or freezer, and they also nest in the cabinet when you are not using them.” Bonus: They have a venting tab that allows for efficient cooling.
4. Resist the urge to freeze everything.
Solomon speaks a hard truth: “The temptation to freeze every last strawberry is real.” But there are so many other ways to use up a bounty of fresh produce that don’t involve your freezer. “Consider adding them to baked goods (hello, blueberry pie),” she says. “You could also oven-dry fruit if you don’t have a dehydrator and use them in granolas, baked goods, or enjoy on their own as a snack.” Pickling is another smart preservation technique that leaves room in the freezer for the stuff that really needs to go there.
5. Use a file folder organizational system.
Instead of stacking items like the leaning tower of frozen pizza, Solomon recommends using the “filing folder” method. A standalone organizer, like this handy one from YouCopia, will allow you to see all of the packages and boxes with a quick glance. “That way, you’ll be able to retrieve that pizza box in an instant instead of searching through contents stacked on top of it.” This is also a clever way to keep bagged items (such as peas or mixed berries) from descending into chaos.
6. Corral frozen items in bins.
If you’re the “overflowing” type of fridge organizer, streamlined bins can help keep things stay tight and tidy. Solomon likes to use multipurpose bins, but notes that they’re only useful if you use them to maintain food zones. In other words, don’t just cram that box of Popsicles next to the package of ground beef because there’s room for it.
7. Make an inventory of everything in the freezer.
Much in the way that tracking every purchase can help you stick to a budget, documenting your freezer’s contents will ensure you don’t buy more than it can fit. Solomon likes using a Dry Erase marker and updating the list every time something gets added or removed.
8. Consider a chest freezer.
Of course, splurging on a second freezer isn’t an option for everyone. But if you have the space and budget, a chest freezer can be a game-changer for the serious food preservationists (and buyers-of-bulk). To ensure that your extra freezer doesn’t become a dumping ground, Solomon suggests zoning it out according to different food categories. “Maybe the upper left side of the freezer is designated for prepared frozen dinners, the upper right side is for frozen fruit, etc.”
How do you clean and organize your freezer in preparation for summer’s bounty? Tell us in the comments below.