Friday, January 8, 2010

Time to Clean the FREEZER!!

We all know it.  Food costs a lot of money!  I think most of us are very conscious about our food budget.  We try to save money by shopping sales, using coupons, etc.  Think for a minute- how much food has your family thrown away over the past month?  Year? I hate to say it, but I have thrown away quite a lot (leftovers that didn't get eaten, vegetables that went bad... etc).  Just this week, I sent my daughter to the freezer to get some pork chops.  She came back in with frostbitten hands (well, almost), and no pork chops. I knew we had pork chops somewhere buried in the freezer.....  Well, I found them, buried, and much to my dismay, they were old & freezer burned.  I try to be so frugal- and when I calculate how much money that I waste from discarded food, it made me think-  What can I do to make sure this doesn't continue?  I came up with a couple of ideas that I hope will help me:
1.  Clean the Freezer
2.  Inventory the Freezer
3.  Continue to use a shopping list
4.  Plan and stick to a menu
5.  Have a "leftover night" once a week

So, lets get started. 

1.  Cleaning the Freezer:
I should have taken a before picture (honestly, I was too embarrassed).  Over the past several months, our garage freezer (we have three freezers: Garage, Kitchen side by side, and downstairs side by side) has had to be locked because it was so full that it wouldn't close tight. The overwhelming task to clean the freezer was managable with the following steps.
  •  Wear gloves.
  • Get 7-8 bins or laundry baskets to put the food into: 1 bin for chicken, 1 bin for pork, 1 bin for beef, etc.
  • Start at the top shelf and separate each item into the bins, continue for the rest of the shelves, and the door.  Now, all like items should be together in the bins.
  • Using hot soapy water and a scrubbing sponge, start with the door, top to bottom.  As soon as each shelf is clean, quickly wipe it dry with a dry towel. Any moisture left will quickly turn to ice.
  • Continue with each shelf, and the walls of the freezer.  
  • Lastly, do the bottom.  This is a bit tricky since it is so cold.  I put my hot soapy water down, scrubbed, and quickly dried again.  If it turns to ice before the scrubbing is finished, use a spatula to remove all ice.  Once again, make sure everything is completely dry.
  • Assess your food- What do you have the most of?  What space would it fit in the freezer best? I had the most chicken and beef- so those went into my two big drawers.
  • Put like items together: I put the pepperoni and pizza sauce in its own bin, since the kids make pizza every Friday night. 
  • As you put your food back, write down what you have.  This will go onto your freezer inventory that remains on the outside of the freezer.  
  • I labeled each shelf.  When my kids help with things, everything goes a lot smoother when they know where to put (and to find) things.  To get a copy of the labels, click here.
Now, as I plan my menu shopping list, I can quickly look at my freezer inventory and use first what I have.  If you have a deep freeze as well as a side by side with your fridge, you may want to consider this.  Why not use your kitchen freezer only for the items you will be using for the next 2 weeks-1 month?  Every two weeks when you do your menu, bring in the items from the freezer you will use next.  Then, everything gets rotated, you know exactly what you have, and where, and things are a bit more organized. 

Watch for the next post: Freezer Inventory 

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  1. I've been following your blog for awhile but never posted. Thnaks for this post--I've been thinking I need to clean out my basement freezer & this has given me the push I needed to do it!

  2. Katie- it's Amy. The freezer looks great. I got a question though - why do you freeze blocks of cheese? Don't they just crumble when you defrost. Great post, BTW. I've been doing the same thing to mine. And yes, I have found freezer burned steak. My thoughts were not kind about the money I'd wasted.

  3. You are right, the blocks crumble. But when they go on sale for $3.99 for 2 pounds, I am all over that! After it thaws, we crumble and use just like shredded. It is great for casseroles, etc. If I really thought about it, I would grate it all before freezing, but often times it is all I can do to get it from the store to the freezer (or fridge) before the next thing.... :)