Is Your Freezer a Frozen Wasteland?

by Katy on July 23, 2009 · 17 comments


If you are anything like me, you are good to utilize the freezer compartment of your refrigerator.

Good about putting food into it, less good about taking food out.

We buy individually frozen chicken breasts from Costco which take up a lot of room and try and keep a few extra loaves of bread in there as well. Add to that the remains of a couple dozen half eaten meals, as well as a number of frosty mysteries. It’s not a pretty sight.

Martha Stewart would not be impressed.

My friend Barbara recently me sent this NY Times article by Mark Bittman that outlines precisely how to store foods in the freezer. Bittman makes some very good points, including this:

“The idea of freezing is to prolong the life of food that you’re going to eat, not to postpone discarding it.”

Few of us could claim to never have committed this offense. Jonathan Bloom of calls the storage of food never to be eaten “delayed waste,” and I’m certainly guilty of it myself. Hopefully less so than in the past, but still far from perfect.

The article also outlines the best ways to freeze specific foods, which is very helpful.

Is your freezer a frozen wasteland? Please share your ideas, tips or confessions in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristen@The Frugal Girl July 24, 2009 at 6:26 am

My term for it is “pit stop on the way to the trash”. lol

I’ve gotten a lot better about this, but I’m not as good at using food from my freezer as I’d like to be.


Lisa July 24, 2009 at 7:16 am

I am pretty good about using the food in the freezer only rarely does something have to be tossed. Then again, I have a 16 year old boy who will eat twice as much as me at dinner and complain about being hungry before he leaves the table.



fairydust July 24, 2009 at 7:39 am

I confess I have tossed a few things recently to make room for other things that I know we’ll actually use. What did I toss? About 6 “senior meals” from a very old Angel Food Ministries box (they were awful! we would never eat them), and a very old box of ready-to-use Pillsbury pie crust. I love the stuff and it might very well have still been useable, but we do NOT need to eat pie, neither does our son, and I don’t have ingredients on hand to make one anyway. So out it went.

In went cheese that was deeply on sale, which we will eat, and a couple loaves of (also deeply on-sale) whole grain bread. Much better use of freezer space.


calimama July 24, 2009 at 8:34 am

Being OCD about organization has helped me keep some control over the freezer stock. The concept of “flash freezing” has really helped to. Except those occasions I forget I’m flash freezing and end up “freezer burning” instead.

I do currently have some cornbread in there that I know tastes terrible but I feel so guilty about just throwing it away. Darn the Food Waste movement for making me second guess the livelihood of cornbread!


Karen July 24, 2009 at 10:48 am

Bittman’s article and everyone here have inspired me to come up with a much better system for not just freezing but keeping track of what’s actually in the freezer. Our freezer has these pull-out baskets which limit the shape of what you can put in there, for one thing, which is a pain. But mostly I’m tired of those mystery packets which no one labeled! Is it a chicken breast or one serving of some long-lost dessert? Did it last see light of day in 2002?


CT July 24, 2009 at 11:16 am

I label absolutely everything, because if I don’t know what it is, it’s certainly not ever getting out of there. And when the freezer starts getting too full, I start using up everything in there.

I freeze EVERYTHING! A few bites of leftover hamburger from a meal out? Gets popped right in the freezer. I can guarantee you that in a few weeks I’ll be poking around looking for something to eat, and I will be thrilled to find that in there. If you’re the kind of person who considers leftovers an abomination, this won’t work, obviously. I think the key is coming to terms with what kind of eater you are. Leftover lovers and snackers like me should freeze everything in sight; leftover loathers should acknowledge they hate the sight of pre-cooked foods and learn to cook smaller portions. Freezing never made anything better.


Elizabeth B July 24, 2009 at 11:57 am

Hee. I’ve frozen a lot of fresh produce already this summer; I keep a list on the door of what’s in there and when it went in, so I don’t end up with Unidentified Frozen Objects several months down the road.

@calimama, could you turn the terrible cornbread into cornbread stuffing?


Xtina July 24, 2009 at 3:48 pm

I am relatively good about eating what’s in the freezer. I frequently buy large quantities of meat when there is a good sale. Then, I divide into 2 or 3 person portions and freeze. The key for me is making sure I include details on the label such as the freeze date, the cut of the meat, and estimated weight. Also, when I do remember those 6 month old pork chops in the back freezer I cook them in a crock pot. There’s no weird freezer burn taste and crock pot cooking is super easy.


Marcey July 24, 2009 at 6:33 pm

You all inspired me to drag a bag of brussel sprouts out of the back of the freezer and offload it. I love brussel sprouts; hubby hates them and can’t stand the smell of them cooking, so there they sat, freezer burned, unloved, but “too good” to throw out. I suspect there’s also a pound of bacon in there somewhere although we’ve been vegetarian for several years (!)


WilliamB July 24, 2009 at 7:18 pm

My tips: Label, List!

You should be able to tell what’s in your freezer by looking at the packaging. That could be the bag you bought it in, the label from the butcher’s, or one of your own. I use the rewritable labels from The Container Store, but masking tape and a sharpie works too. Ideally you add the date as well.

Tape/magnet a piece of paper to your freezer (or wherever is convenient for you). When you put something in, write that down. When you take it out, scratch out that entry. Sounds like a lot of work, but I found it easy to establish the habit. I’m not perfect, though, once or twice a year I need to do a physical inventory. There’s an upside to that: just like stores have sales to reduce stock before an inventory, I eat down the freezer. Keeps me from having too-old items and makes it much easier to defrost the standing freezer.

As an experiment, a few months ago I decided to go listless. Bad idea! I spend a lot more time in front of an open freezer. It’s visibly frosting up faster (energy waste!) and it’s harder for me to just grab something and go. I’m not going listless again.


camelama July 24, 2009 at 7:23 pm

I just had to cut a wide swath through the freezer yesterday, as I pulled out some frozen kernel corn to heat up for dinner – only to find the “frozen on:” date to be almost NINE YEARS ago! Aieeee! Scary. With most other items not having any dates at all on them, I decided it was safer to start over completely. I was happy to know that it all could go into my city yard waste bin for compost later. Now I have a Sharpie pen taped to the refrigerator ready to label anything that goes in.


Karen July 24, 2009 at 8:56 pm

My freezer discovery was last Thanksgiving. I “knew” there was a turkey in the bottom of our chest freezer and had been there for some time (buy one, get one sale). I found it and saw the date was 5 years ago. I called the Butterball Turkey Hotline and asked them if it was still good. She asked if it was in a chest freezer at or below zero degrees. The thermometer in the freezer said -20. She said it would be just as good as when I bought it and to enjoy. She was right!


Pat July 25, 2009 at 4:28 am

WilliamB and I must be cut from the same cloth! I also label everything that goes in the freezer (name, date) and I have a list too. When things go in, I add them. Out of the freezer, they get scratched off. Twice a year (spring, early winter) I do an actual inventory. In the winter I clean my freezer which gives me a great opportunity to eat up anything that is getting too old. I also plan most of my weekly menu around what I have in the freezer and try to ‘rotate my stock’ as my husband puts it. This system actually takes very little time and we seem to be eating better since I have such a good handle on what is actually available in the house.


Kris July 27, 2009 at 3:58 am

The freezer: Where leftovers go to die. LOL! All my good intentions before never quite worked out and I would dispose of the unrecognizable food a year later. Now, I find myself using my freezer more and more for ingredients that required preparation rather than finished meals or leftovers – meaning I freeze homemade veggie broth for soups, homemade pasta sauce, etc. I do also keep some frozen vegetables and will freeze bread I bought on sale, and maybe keep a few frozen waffles – but I try to cook now in amounts I will eat within the week.


BarbS July 28, 2009 at 7:42 am

I’m glad you enjoyed the article. The quote you pulled [“the idea is to prolong the life…not to postpone discarding it”] is so true. And so easy to forget.

I also like the part where he says: “foods…don’t improve in your freezer, they degrade more slowly.” Um, oh yeah, good point. Nothing’s going to *improve* in the freezer! So I might as well use it rather than just letting it sit there 🙂

Great post, as usual.


mike July 28, 2009 at 10:16 am

That happens to me a lot. I like to throw out things if it will not be used. But I only buy what I will eat to begin with. A good tip.


Julius July 29, 2009 at 10:05 am

Oh dear, my mother is pretty bad at this. I’ve found the odd mystery package in my parents’ freezer when I’m at home. I’m doing pretty well at this myself, actually – I’ve been in my current flat for about a year and a half, and the oldest thing currently in the freezer is about seven months old. Well, there was the whole chicken my flatmate bought and left sitting in there for a year (with me nagging him about it every now and then) – until I took pity and cooked it. Most things don’t stay longer than a month or two.


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