Your freezer can be your best friend when it comes to meal planning – but only if you keep it properly maintained. It’s important to keep your freezer organized so you can make the most of the space available and find the items you’re looking for. I suggest that you put the heaviest items on the bottom of your deep freezer. This will ensure that more delicate items, such as loaves of bread and other baked goods don’t get crushed or otherwise damaged. It’s also a good idea to put meat on the bottom of your freezer, so if something happens to leak before it’s frozen, you don’t have chicken juice leaking on all of your other containers. This will be less likely to happen if you properly package your food for freezing.
Be sure to clearly label EVERYTHING with the date and contents. Arrange your items in the freezer so that you can see labels and expiration dates. This will make it easy for you to identify and grab the item with the closest expiration date. This is especially important for your freezer cooking meals. If you don’t know what’s in a container, chances are it will languish at the back of the freezer and not get used.
It’s also a good idea to keep an inventory sheet of what you have in your freezer. You can write or type in your items and meals and check them off as you pull them out. This will also tell you when you’re about to run out of something. There’s nothing more frustrating than planning a meal around bone-in chicken breasts you swear you’ve got in your freezer – only to find out later you used the last of them several weeks ago.
It’s a good idea to defrost your deep freezer at least annually. Depending on the humidity where you live, you may need to do it more often than that. Any time you notice frost/ ice starting to build up, it’s time to defrost. If you don’t defrost on a regular basis, you are running the risk of increased freezer burn, plus your freezer won’t be working at optimal efficiency. I usually do this in January or February, when it’s freezing cold outside. I borrow a few extra coolers, load them up with my food, and put them out on the back deck (or in the garage if it’s cold enough) for a day or two while I let my freezer defrost. I scrub out the freezer really well before I load my food back into it. Certainly, you could let your freezer inventory get nice and low before you defrost. Or if you have friends or family with extra freezer space you could borrow for a few days; that will work too.
Want a copy of my Freezer Inventory sheet? Email me at Christine@ChristineLuken.com and I’ll gladly send it to you!