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11 Mistakes To Avoid For A More Functional Freezer

freezer mistakes

Freezing food is one of the best ways to keep it fresh over a longer period of time, but I probably don’t use my freezer as effectively as I could! My freezer is often a chaotic mess of various bags, boxes, and containers, so I’m usually not entirely sure what’s even in there.

But I also know that I’m not alone in having a chaotic freezer, so that’s why we’ll be talking about proper freezer use today!

Related: 12 Useful Things You Didn’t Know Your Freezer Could Do

I find that tips tend to “stick” better in my brain if I know why it’s better to do something a certain way, so I’ve formatted this list as a list of frequent “freezer mistakes.” But as sure as we’re all guilty of these mistakes, we’ll all be freezer masters by the end of this post. :-)

So without any further ado, here are 11 common freezer mistakes you may be making and how to fix them!

11 Freezer Mistakes And How To Avoid Them

freezer mistakes

1. Your Freezer Is Disorganized

One of the biggest keys to using your freezer effectively is keeping it organized. If you just pile stuff into your freezer with no rhyme or reason, it’s easy to lose track of things. Some things will likely get pushed to the back of the freezer and forgotten about!

Instead, keep things visible and accessible by utilizing freezer bins or shelves.

freezer mistakes

2. It’s Too Warm

When using your freezer for long-term food storage, it’s important to be confident that your food is staying consistently frozen and not being subjected to temperature fluctuations. For that reason, it’s a good idea to use a fridge/freezer thermometer—ideally, your freezer should stay around 0°F.

If you set your freezer to a colder setting and end up with rock-hard ice cream, there are a couple of things you can do to help. You can store it in the door of the freezer (the warmest part of your freezer,) or put the container in a ziplock bag to help keep it softer!

freezer mistakes

3. Your Food Isn’t Sealed Properly

To prevent your foods from developing “freezer burn,” it’s important to keep air out! Press ziplock bags, aluminum foil, or plastic wrap as close as possible to the food.

If you’re using a sturdy container, fill it almost to the top. But be sure to leave enough room for the food to expand a bit as it freezes! And when you’re putting packaged foods back into the freezer, toss the remaining food in a ziplock bag beforehand.

freezer mistakes

4. You Freeze Stuff Together

Freezing individual food items together (like berries, burger patties, cookie dough, etc.) in a bag or container can leave you with one big block of frozen food. Not super helpful if you want to take out one or two at a time!

Instead, freeze individual items in a single layer on a baking sheet, then transfer them to a ziplock freezer bag. If you freeze things separately first, they won’t stick together. It makes it so much easier to remove a little bit at a time!

freezer mistakes

5. You Freeze Foods That Are Going Bad

While freezing does preserve food, it can’t restore its freshness. A muffin that was frozen when it was nearly stale will never taste as good as a muffin that was frozen the day it was baked! So try to be realistic about what you’re going to eat in the next few days, and freeze the rest.

freezer mistakes

6. You Defrost At Room Temperature

If you thaw meat, poultry, and seafood on the countertop, you run the risk of it growing bacteria before it’s all the way defrosted. Instead, plan ahead and put your meat products in the fridge the day before you want to use them. They’ll defrost slowly and safely in your fridge!

freezer mistakes

7. You Open The Freezer During Power Outages

When the power goes out, make sure to keep your freezer closed! Freezers are well-insulated and can retain a cold temperature for a few hours, but only if the door is kept shut.

Once the power comes back on, check the food. Anything that’s still frozen should be fine, but anything that has started to thaw should be eaten promptly, or tossed out. You can’t be too safe!

freezer mistakes

8. You Block The Vents

Blocking the air flow in or out of your freezer can cause temperature fluctuations, and that’s not good! Make sure to leave a few inches of space around the air vent on all sides to make sure air is flowing freely.

freezer mistakes

9. Your Freezer Is Too Empty (Or Too Full)

An empty freezer is less efficient than a fuller freezer! When you open the freezer door, having plenty of frozen food in there will prevent the temperature from rising so dramatically.

But on the other hand, you shouldn’t necessarily pack your freezer full—that will prevent air from circulating properly. So shoot for a freezer that’s pretty full, but not TOO full. ;-)

freezer mistakes

10. You Don’t Label Things

Once food is properly frozen, it can get a bit tricker to tell exactly what’s in there. You don’t want to accidentally serve pasta with salsa instead of marinara sauce!

Make sure to label everything you put in your freezer with both the name of the food and the date you frozen it. Use a sharpie to label ziplock bags, and use a piece of masking tape to make labels for freezer containers!

While the date you froze the item is most important, it can also be helpful to write a “use by” date on them. Check out this chart of freezer storage times from FoodSafety.gov to learn more about the shelf life of frozen foods.

freezer mistakes

11. You Keep All The Packaging

Packaging for frozen foods can take up a lot of space in your freezer. You can free up quite a bit of space just by taking frozen foods out of their boxes! (Especially with foods like frozen waffles—you don’t need the instructions for toaster waffles!)

Take individually wrapped foods out of boxes and store them in flexible ziplock bags instead. Use a freezer bin like the one mentioned above to help keep things tidy!

What’s your biggest hurdle or pet peeve when it comes to your freezer?

Jill Nystul Photo

Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.
I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

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  • Frost free freezers are a no for me. I had one early on. Even tho they have to be defrosted, you don’t have freezer burn problems.

    My fridge freezer is frost free. We don’t use a lot of ice, so have to remember to take some out every day. The fridge immediately starts to thaw the ice cubes. You can end up with a big chunk of frozen together ice cubes. I thought there was something wrong with the ice maker, but that’s what the dealer told me.

    • The freezer over our fridge is frost-free, and it “eats” the ice cubes, when it thaws and refreezes, which is what makes it frost-free. Our main freezer is an ancient Montgomery Wards upright – 22 cubic feet! – and we defrost it twice a year.

  • This is great help! Thanks for the post. I am going to clean my freezer AND get some of those cool little baskets. All will be well, I hope. Sometimes your posts are so timely!!! I’ve also learned that freezer-label tape is a lifesend, and I always have plenty of it.

  • This isn’t really a tip about freezing, but we lose power often here in Florida. I kept a small plastic mayo jar, filled it with water and froze it. Now when we go away, I put a quarter on top of the frozen water. When we return, I check the jar. If the power has gone out, the quarter will have sunk. If it’s just slightly embedded the food will be okay but if it’s completely submerged, I know things need to be tossed.

  • You suggested using a sharpie to mark freezer packages with the product and date, if you use a dry erase pen you can write right on the package/container and it will wash off later.

  • Hi Jillee,
    I buy meats eg, diced or minced etc. in 5 or 10lb packs from our butcher then divide them into enough meat for the two of us in small ziplock bags then flatten each one out so it fits the whole of the bag, this way they stack better and defrost much quicker.
    I always stock rotate.
    I buy full chicken, leave one whole then cut the others up (cut for sauté or in quarters depending on what I’m short of.
    I have a drawer for beef, one for lamb, etc so know where to go.
    I have a chest freezer too and that has joints, vegetables etc. I make everything from scratch so don’t have packets of food.

  • The best way to keep foos from getting freezer burn is to vacuum seal it. I’ve yet to find any sort of “freezer” bag that will even begin to keep the burn at bay. And here’s how you vac seal soft foods or liquids without mashing or spilling them. We like to freeze strawberries, and the best way I’ve found is to put whatever you want to vac seal into the bag and then stand the bag(s) upright on a cleared shelf in the freezer overnight. By the next a.m. it’s frozen solid and ready to be vac sealed without damaging or spilling the contents. And just how do I fill the bags in the first place without making a mess, you might ask? Well, I simply took an empty 1/2 gallon juice bottle (I like Sunny D), cut the top off of it where it begins to taper towards the neck, and then you have the bottom of the bottle to put the vac seal bag into to keep it standing up while you fill it.

  • I use ziplock freezer bags. But before I put them in the freezer I submerge the partially opened bag in a sink or bowl of water up to the edge of the zipper top then zip it closed. This gets all the air out of the bag and keeps the frozen food fresh longer. Reuse the water in the sink by adding vinegar and washing your produce.

  • I love all these different ideas. I made the mistake a few times by freezing different foods in large freezer bags making it flat for easy storage. The problem I had was when it came time to thaw the contents, I didn’t have a large enough vessel to contain the bag while it thawed in the refrigerator. I now use two or more smaller bags and add to a larger bag.

  • I began using bins in my freezer a few months ago and I can’t believe it took me so many years to figure this one out! It’s so much easier to designate bins for different foods and so easy to take out a bin to find what I’m looking for rather than suddenly starring in my own comedy show as shelf contents tumble down on my feet! Bins allow for vertical storage that is more visible than horizontal storage. My side-by-side came with the house and is not my favorite because sheet pans do not fit, making it more challenging to freeze things flat, like a double zip-lock bag of soup or sauce. I work around this by finding a spot that is flat enough to accommodate the item horizontally and after it’s frozen, it is moved vertically to a bin.

    The bonus to freezing soup, sauce, batches of cooked brown rice, etc. flat in bags rather than containers is faster thawing. Single sized zip lock bags of rice do not require thawing and can simply be crumbled into a microwave safe container and heated quickly. This is especially great for brown rice which can take a while to cook, even in an instant pot, and is handy for accompanying stir fries.

    If it seems important to keep directions on packaged items I cut them out and insert them either into the zip lock or band them to the outside of the item.

    • I usually just write the temp and time for cooking on the outside of the pkg. with a black sharpie, so I can do away with the cardboard packaging to make more space.

    • I agree.. you have to open the door all the way to retrieve anything in the fridge or freezer hence allowing a lot of cold air to escape…Just saying…

    • I agree with Roger. As is, you’d have to place yourself in a corner to add/retrieve food. It is much easier to approach from an open side. We switched our fridge doors for this reason: accessibility.

  • Great tips. Since we recently downsized our house I no longer have the full upright freezer I had in the previous home. This fridge has a typical freezer at the top (way small). I still have my chest freezer (a small one) so I know I have to be smart about how I use the space. Thanks Jillee.

    One thing I might just put it: I frequently see suggestions for labelling containers with masking tape and a marker but did you know that if you write on a plastic container (most I have tried) with a permanent marker it will wash right off with some soap and water? One less step to be concerned with. It also works on glass containers as well … I use mason jars in my pantry and I label them with a marker – it stays on until I wash it off.

  • I have a list on my phone of my freezer’s contents. Every time I put something in the freezer or take something from it, I update that list. It’s a structured list (I use the Memento Database app): name of the item, number of items, quantity for one item (it can be weight, or number, or number or servings), date, drawer number (it’s an upright freezer). Easy to maintain, and I never “lose” anything.

    • I also use a list of things in our freezer, but use a dry erase board instead. This allows anyone in the family to see what’s there without constantly opening the door. When something is removed, the person simply erases that item. This system also makes grocery shopping alot easier and we just add new items to the list after shopping.

  • The best thing for us has been freezing food in a food sealer. No freezer burn! Some things should be frozen first, at least partly, like bread and bakery items so they aren’t flattened or broken. Same with hamburger so juices aren’t pulled out. We then thaw foods in the refrigerator in a pan of water.

  • I have a large chest type freezer and have had problems losing things in it. When I cleaned it out last month, I had the thought to use my extra fabric grocery bags with handles to keep things together and organized. It makes for easy lifting to get to things underneath and they shouldn’t rip like plastic bags. I also made a “map” using a sticky note to remind me where different items are located in the freezer and stuck it on the wall above. So far it has really helped with finding and getting to our frozen stuff.

    • I also have a chest freezer and organize things by groups – chicken all together, pork altogether, etc. My list is organized by left, center-left, center-right, and right. Heaven help the husband that moves an item from one section to another!

      Storebought meats are stored vertically with the labels facing out so I can just flip through them like albums in a record shop, to find the cut I need. I also stick storebought meats in a ziploc bag since the cling wrap tends to rip as stuff moves around. For pre-made meals or repackaged food, I store it in rectangular tupperwares with labels on the TOP so I can just peer down over the edge and see what’s what. I don’t use circular containers in my freezer, as they waste space.

  • For thawing frozen meat, while the fridge is best, if you’re in a hurry thaw in COLD water. Depending on the meat you’re choosing and the cooking method, it thaws pretty quick. Been doing this for years. For example, I freeze my ground beef in a freezer bag and flatten it. It sits well in the freezer and I can thaw a pound in an hour or so.

    • Absolutely. I have dollar store baskets all over the house! We use several in the freezer to keep packages of similar items together; Costco sells boneless chicken thighs in three-packs, and we buy two at a time. Two packages will fit side-by-side in the basket we selected.

      I also store my frozen veggies in larger baskets, set upright, as if they were record albums, so I can locate what I want quickly.

  • When I want to freeze packaged foods with specific cooking instructions I cut out the instructions and place them with the food in a freezer bag. No guess work when its time to cook.

  • Since I live in the South and sometimes have to evacuate for hurricanes, I place a small Dixie cup of water in the freezer, allow it to become frozen and then place a quarter on top. When we get back I’ll look at the cup; if the quarter is still on top or even 1/2 way down then I know we didn’t lose power, or at least not for long and the food is fine. If the quarter is now on the bottom I know we lost power for a long period and I’ll need to throw away all the food.

  • Great suggestions Jillee – thank you so much!

    I especially like the temperature one – you can kill the yucky stuff with the cold temps. And when we put items in zip lock bags, not only do we press out the air, but zip it all up except a corner, then suck the air out before the finally zip (it’s just the two of us, so not gross).

    I also always recommend a NON- Frost Free Freezer (when buying a chest freezer), we have 4, as my guy is a big game hunter and fisherman.) You will never get freezer burn and can keep food for up to 5 years.
    Sly

      • Or use a pillow. Place the bag on a flat surface or a cushion, press with a pillow and hold down while zipping shut. Solid foods only.

    • Get a NON-Frost Free freezer…you will have to defrost it once every couple years (or just scrape the frost of the sides), but you will never get freezer burn and food will keep up to 5 years! (Can get at Home Depot, Costco, etc.)

    • However you stack your food in a chest freezer make sure the labels face you or are on the TOPS of containers. You can’t see the label if it’s on the side! Also think about what you reach for frequently and stores that stuff on top. Stuff you rarely go for or won’t use often should go on the bottom. You do NOT want to have to pull out everything to get that one thing at the bottom. Example, the 10 lbs of overripe bananas I got at a great discount for baking are at the bottom of mine…the chicken breasts, butter and pork loins we eat regularly are on top.

      Also, if you buy store meats on those trays, stack them vertically so you can flip through them easier than lifting an entire stack out to find the particular cut you need. Use bins for lumpy stuff. I have a bin full of my ham ends and various bones for soup stock, for example.

    • I fond using common sense very helpful. I store the lesser used items on the bottom, small items in the small pull ou tray and rotate items as you put new foods in. So simple.

    • We have one of those. The top drawer is partly used by our ice maker. We use the rest of the space for ice cream, open snacks, little things. The bottom drawer has a divider in the center. We try to keep meat on one side and other things like vegies and home frozen leftovers on the other. We also have a separate small freezer that has 3 shelves. We try to stick to one meat per shelf: Beef on top, pork in the middle and chicken on the bottom. We stuff seafood on to whatever space is left as we usually don’t have much of that. Hope this helps!

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