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For the passionate penny pinchers out there, a chest freezer is probably one of the best investments they could get for their money. It gives you the opportunity to buy and store foods in bulk, thereby resulting into bigger savings in the long run.

However, they are also so notoriously hard to organize.

Compared to traditional refrigerators where everything is compartmentalized into handy shelves, chest freezers just don’t come with an internal organizational system built into them. It is essentially a large box that freezes your food. Of course, you can simply chuck your groceries inside it without giving any thought to how they are organized- the freezer will still work the same- but this will just result into headaches along the line. Imagine going through disorganized packs of frozen food products just to get to that one particular bag of frozen vegetables that you’ve stored a couple of weeks ago.

With that said, here are some easy, inexpensive ways on how you can declutter and organize your chest freezer:

Invest in bins, bags, baskets, and boxes

A chest freezer’s lack of shelves shouldn’t be a hindrance to organization. You can easily store your food items in dollar store bins, reusable grocery bags, plastic baskets and boxes, and other containers that you can think of. It’s easy to store similar food products together and categorize them when you have something to store them into. So, here’s a few pointers:

Airtight plastic food containers

Recommendation: The Rubbermaid Brilliance food containers are BPA free, leak proof, and the lids have clasps to secure them properly.

a) Avoid using circular containers. You’ll waste a lot of space because they leave a gap in between themselves when you store them side by side. Rectangular and square baskets/bins will always be your best bet since they use space more efficiently.

Do also consider containers with lids that lock on, to prevent them from accidentally opening inside the freezer.

b) Remember- your containers should actually fit inside your chest freezer! Take note of the dimensions of your freezer so that you can easily pick out containers that’ll fit. If your freezer has hanging baskets, make sure that your containers has enough vertical clearance to fit inside.

c) Try to find containers that have handles on the sides so that you can easily lift and/or pull them out of the freezer if needed.

d) Get containers in different colors or transparent lids, because it helps with the categorization, i.e. you can store one type of food items (like meat, for example) in a red-colored basket, and another type (e.g. frozen vegetables) in a blue one.

e) Stackable baskets are great for chest freezers. This type of container gets you the most space for your buck. Not only do they use space more efficiently, they can be put on top of one another allowing you to lift the baskets easily whenever you need to get anything from the bottom layer. Don’t have stackable baskets? Then milk crates are a great substitute, especially for larger items like meats and vegetables.

Keep an inventory of your food

Here’s a handy tip: keep a small whiteboard near your freezer and list down every item that you have as well as the amount. Every time you take something out of the freezer (or put something in), then update the amount on the whiteboard. There are also apps that can be downloaded for this purpose, but a whiteboard is a simpler solution that doesn’t require you to whip out your phone whenever you use your freezer.

If you want to take it one step further, then create an inventory map. An inventory map not only shows you what’s inside your freezer at any given time, it also shows you where they are. If you have your bins and baskets stacked inside in layers, then an inventory map would be a very helpful thing. Are the frozen pizzas on the bottom layer? Top right basket? Middle left layer? An inventory map could easily answer all of these.

Freeze food items flat

Frozen dishes and other pre-cooked food are usually stored in rectangular plastic containers. But you might save on space if you opt to store them flat in ziploc bags instead. This is a great option for meal preppers. Because sometimes, even the boxes themselves take up a lot of unnecessary space, especially if they’re not filled to the brim. Once the food is frozen flat, you can then store them stacked upright.

Organizing the chest freezer the easy way

Now that you have your bins and containers with you, it’s time to start working. Take out everything that you have in your freezer, group similar foodstuffs together, and inventorize them (whether you use a whiteboard or an app, it’s up to you). Vegetables and fruits can go in one container, and meats can go in another. A basket can store precooked dishes, while another basket can store other kinds of frozen ingredients.

While there are a lot of things you can store in bins and boxes, there are also a lot of foodstuffs that are best left to their original packaging. Frozen pizzas, for example, already come in a box, and can be stored standing on its size. Frozen veggies and fruits can be stored in their original bags, and the same goes for things like tortillas and bagels.

Now that you have your freezer containers sorted and filled with food items, it’s time to put them back inside the freezer. Put items that you don’t use and eat often at the very bottom layer. Then your most-commonly eaten and used foodstuffs go onto the top layer (and hanging baskets, if your freezer has any). This way you won’t have to pull up container after container of food every time you take something out of the freezer.

Don’t stress it when you can’t put every single food item that you have in bins or containers. Sometimes, it just makes more sense to have something crammed away in one corner (like the aforementioned pizza boxes), than to have everything neatly filed away in a basket.

Organizing your chest freezer doesn’t have to be a chore. Hopefully, these simple and straightforward tips can help you get everything sorted out in no time.

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