Monday, October 4, 2010

How to clean and organize your freezer.

I spent an hour yesterday getting my freezer cleaned and organized. I bought 4 pounds of green tomatoes and tomatillos  to make a huge batch of my famous green sauce base to freeze it and my freezer was such a mess that I figured it needed to be cleaned before I put anything else in it. 
Plus, the bigger issue is that the holidays are coming and really will be here before you know it.

It's time to start getting prepared and this week we need to tackle the freezer so that you'll have room for baked items you might make and extra food for company or parties. If you have a freezer of any size, you and I  know that if you don't clean it out regularly,  it becomes the Burmuda Triangle of frozen foods. You can occasionally find things in there that you don't even remember buying. Even if you do clean it out regularly, there are empty boxes, things that've been shoved in, any old place there was a spot, and items that shouldn't be saved because they've been lost in there too long. 

I use the same technique that I use with my pantry. 
  • Grab a folding table or have a flat spot that you can sort everything out on. 
  • Remove everything from the freezer, this is scarier for some of us than for others, and make pile based on the type of food it is. Veggies and fruits, uncooked meats, cooked items, etc.
 If your freezer is frost free, lay out the items on the table in the piles and wipe out the inside of the freezer with cloth and a solution of 3 TBS baking soda to 1 quart of warm water. Now, skip down to the section below the stars ************. If you have a freezer that needs to be defrosted here's how to do it.

If you have a freezer that needs to be defrosted, you will need to put your frozen items into coolers or wrap them up in a very thick comforter to keep them cold and frozen while you take care of the frost.
  • To defrost your freezer that is inside the house, under the door opening you should protect the floor by laying out a flat trash bag and placing towels on top of that.  Turn the freezer OFF. Chip off any frost chunks that you can with a wooden spoon, wood can't dent or puncture the freezer tubes as easily as a metal utensil can. Put a thick layer of newspaper in the bottom of the freezer to catch the chunks. Bring 2 large pans of water to boil. Place a one of the pans on one of the bottom shelves and close the door. Let the hot water soften and melt the frost. After 10 to 15 minutes remove the pan, chip the thawing frost off onto the newspaper in the bottom and wrap up the chunks in a couple of sheets of the newspaper to remove them from freezer. Place the second pan of boiling water into the freezer and close door. Reheat the pan you remove. Repeat until the frost is gone. Wipe out the excess water with towels and then wipe out the inside with 3 tablespoons baking soda in 1 quart of water to gently clean before replacing food. 
  • If your freezer is in your garage (lucky you) because then you can use the fastest way to defrost a freezer- A garden hose. 

Water on the floor and electric appliances do not mix!!!!!!
  • Check to make sure the freezer is UNPLUGGED (humor me and check one more time that it is unplugged) then take a garden hose and spray the frost in the freezer, beginning at the top of the freezer. The frost will melt off in the water spray very quickly. Once all the frost is out, dry the inside with some large towels.  Mop the water out of the garage and you've not only cleaned out the freezer but cleaned off the garage floor as well. NICE!
Now, it's time to reload the freezer.   
TIP: Plastic baskets are your friend in a freezer. They help keep bags and smaller items contained and allows you to stack and pack items higher so that you don't waste space and things aren't sliding out on you when you open the door.  
  • I mark each item that goes back into the freezer with a Sharpy. Since I only clean out my freezer every 6 to 8 months, I only use 2 colors. Blue and red. This week I'll be using red. Anything that I put back in the freezer I'll put a red check mark on.  This lets me know that that item went back in this October. As I'm sorting and consolidating items to put back in, when I find an item that has a blue mark on it, I know that it's been in the freezer for at least 6 months. (I cleaned the freezer out in late May and used blue.)  I really look at these items to see if they should be put back in or not. If they go back in, they'll have a red and a blue mark on them. If I find them still in there next time I muck out, they're out-a-here! I also make sure that these items are put at the very front and try to use them us ASAP so that they don't go to waste. 
  • As you put the food back in, check the dates on each item and look at each item. If it's been in the freezer for a year, odds are it's going to have an off taste and really needs to be thrown away. If you find meat that looks a bit freezer burned, thaw it, cut off the freezer burned area and make a soup or a stew out of it for dinner that night. It needs to be used up quickly. 
Here are some repacking hints:
  • If you have stuff that comes in a large box but there are only a few left, cut the photo and preparation instructions off the box and stick the items ad the cut outs into a ziplock bag together. More and more I've started doing this right when I get home from the store. It's saves so much room in the freezer plus when you can see the items, you know exactly how many you have left. I hate it when I go to the freezer to get something and there is one in the huge box and I need 3 or worse yet, THE BOX IS EMPTY!!! Who leaves the empty box there when they take the last one out? Not anyone from my gene pool, I'll tell you that!
  • Group food items together. Have an area for fruits and vegetables, an area for convenience foods/snacks, an area for baked goods and an area for raw meats. TIP: Raw meats should ALWAYS be in the bottom of the freezer below all other items for 2 reasons;  If the meat leaks any juice out of the packaging while it's freezing, the juices won't contaminate any other items in the freezer and heaven forbid you lose power or the freezer fails, the juices from the thawing meat won't leak onto other items.  I also keep any liquids that I freeze in Ziplock bags at the bottom of the freezer for these same reasons. I tend to make double batches of a recipe when I cook. We eat one batch and the second batch I freeze for a quick and easy meal later.  I keep all of these Pre-Made Dinners together as well.
  • Make sure to leave an empty section for your holiday baking and extra items you'll need for parties or guests. After all, this is why we're doing this task!!!! 
Have a great week and get those freezers cleaned out. 


Jan said...

EXCELLENT post - but thank goodness all 3 of my freezers are frost free (you cracked me up with "UNPLUG THE FREEZER"). Timely, too - we live out of our freezers since we bought a side of beef and an entire hog, and I've been freezing/preserving everything I can get my hands on from the farmers market (I am SO buying a CSA co-op share next year).

I think I'll clean out my freezers...

Sprite's Keeper said...

I LOVE these tips!! I wish I needed to clean out my freezer, but we only have the one combo unit and unfortunately, not enough to constitute a packed freezer. I do have my veggies and fruit in one section, meat on the bottom shelf in their separate baggies, and any boxed items or loose items on the top shelf, so I am organized, but I would love a separate freezer so I could go months without having to buy food.

Veronica Lee said...

Love the tips and thank you so much for sharing.

Have a nice day!

blueviolet said...

I do group like things together, but your basket idea is GREAT!