Whether you need to defrost or declutter, Gourmade has the know-how to keep your freezer drawers in tip-top shape.

by Sarah ▪ 12 Apr, 2021

Give yourself a blank canvas …

As we wake more and more often to rays of cheering sunshine, it’s natural to have the urge to spring clean. Often, the freezer is forgotten, but investing some time and care in its upkeep can pay real dividends.

Firstly, it will help you maximise the space you have. Are you short of space because you’ve crammed in so many about-to-pass-the-use-by-date items and forgotten about them? Or simply because you’ve got a layer of frost you could ski on? Maybe you’ve got space you can’t use because there are items in all sorts of awkward shapes and sizes. Either way, our tips can help you use your freezer as efficiently as possible.
Secondly, a good clear-out is an excuse to keep better tabs on what’s lurking at the back of your drawers. So let’s get started! Empty everything out and be ruthless – if something has been there longer than a year it definitely needs to go – and some items should only be kept frozen for considerably shorter times. Also, be honest with yourself: if you don’t recognise something you’ve bagged up, or don’t really fancy it, will it ever make it to the plate?
It never feels great to discard food, and this is another reason to use your spring clean as an opportunity to instigate good ongoing freezer hygiene.

… and wipe the slate clean!

Next, give your freezer a thorough clean. This may need to start with defrosting – in which case, the best option is to turn the freezer off, line your floor with old towels, and leave it for several hours or even overnight, depending on the size of the freezer and density of the frost. You can help it along by breaking off big chunks, but be careful not to damage the walls or door of the freezer if you do. Alternatively, try a freezer de-icer which may negate the need to defrost the contents of the freezer.
When cleaning the freezer, you don’t want to use harsh chemicals, since you’ll be storing food inside. Try warm water with baking soda or vinegar for a homemade cleaner. Otherwise, a dedicated product such as HG’s fridge cleaner would be a good choice (it works equally well on a defrosted freezer).
To prevent crumbs and spillages from making cleaning a tough job in future, you could also invest in some easy-clean liners such as these, which have the added bonus of helping to prevent the build-up of ice, too!

Love your lists and labels

Now it’s time for an inventory! It may sound a bit over the top, but trust us – you won’t regret it. There are plenty of apps available, but we think the best way is good old-fashioned pen and paper (or a printed version).

Simply list the items in your freezer under categories such as ‘meal portions’, ‘sauces’, ‘vegetables’, ‘meat’, ‘fish’, ‘fruit’ and ‘desserts’. Now, next to each item, draw a circle to denote each individual portion you have. When you use an item, put a cross through the circle. This way, you can use your inventory to help your meal shop planning too. For extra credit, add a use-by date above each circle (you could even highlight the ones that need using within a month) and when you go to take a portion of frozen Bolognese or some sausages, you’ll be able to select the ones with the nearest use-by date.
Which brings us to labels! To avoid drawers full of unidentified meal portions (is that bag of brown soup, gravy or stew?) label whatever you put in the freezer. For next level organisation, also write down the date it was frozen and – if you want to match it to your inventory – when it should be eaten by.
You can use a Sharpie for pre-packaged items or freezer bags, or go professional with stick-on labels. Let’s face it – who doesn’t love the opportunity to play with a label maker?

Portion it up

Although it takes a little time and can seem a faff when you’re in a hurry or have been on your feet cooking and cleaning for hours, make sure you separate both raw foods (meat, veg etc) and leftovers into meal-sized portions before you freeze them. This avoids food wastage later on and is a lot simpler and less stressful than bashing a block of frozen chicken fillets with a rolling pin to try and separate the amount you need. Then add the number of servings to your labels!

Big bags of frozen fruit and veg are also worth splitting up. Left for a while, they can become vast icy lumps that are impossible to portion and awkward to store because of their unwieldy size and shapes.

Flat-pack your food

Now we come to the real life hacks borne of freezer expertise. There are many reasons IKEA has done so well, but its flat-pack formula is definitely fundamental to its success. How does that apply to your freezer? One of the issues with stocking a freezer is that it can feel like a less fun game of Tetris.

So once you’ve bagged up your portions, use your hands or a rolling pin to flatten the contents, creating stackable bags. Remember to remove any excess air (either by hand or with a vacuum pack machine. This goes for fruit and veg too – and if you’re freezing your own, it’s worth using a baking sheet or similar to avoid clumping and allow for flat-packing later on.

Packing and stacking

Another novel technique is to stack those flat-packed freezer bags vertically, rather than horizontally. It’s counter-intuitive, but once you think about it, you wonder why anyone ever does it any other way.

You can make sure labels are always on the visible side, and all your options at a glance. Not only that, you save space and avoid meals getting lost in the forgotten zones at the backs of shelves or the bottoms of drawers.
Freezer bags aren’t the only option, of course. And, while you can wash and reuse them (please do!), you may feel that investing in Tupperware is a more sustainable (and practical) choice. If you do, make sure you shop around for stackable boxes, baskets or trays. These are great for storing items that come in big, space-wasting boxes, which you can consign to the recycling bin.

Ice cube tray tricks

First of all, make sure you choose ice cube trays with lids to prevent spillages. Then the fun can really begin, because ice cube trays are not just for ice! You can use them to store portions of pre-chopped herbs (don’t forget your trusty labels!), sauces, baby food, stock or even leftover wine (if there is any!) to add to a sauce. Other things to try include caramelised onions, egg whites (not the yolks!) and pancake batter. The choices are endless – as are the savings on food wastage and time!

Another option is using magnetic spice holders for these items – then you can simply stick them to the inside of your freezer door for extra space saving!

Be prepped for anything

Your freezer is your friend when it comes to managing the unexpected – from emergencies to special occasions (and just those evenings when you can’t be bothered). Make sure to dedicate a shelf or drawer to no-fuss frozen meals and desserts that you can serve if you have unforeseen guests, and side dishes that can add bulk or interest to any meal. Check out our blog for ideas on how Gourmade side dishes can add the wow factor to a family meal.

With Gourmade you can be sure your freezer will rise to any occasion. Has your friend gone veggie and you didn’t know? It won’t matter with Gourmade’s delicious Butternut Squash Lasagne at hand. Need to whip up a congratulatory dinner for your partner at short notice? Just pull out a Beef Bourguignon and Potato Dauphinoise. Want the treat of a takeaway but trying to watch the pennies and the portion sizes? Try one of Gourmade’s curries – the Chicken Tikka Masala never goes amiss.
And, of course, no freezer worth its salt would be complete without some stand-up desserts. Our favourites include Chocolate Sponge Puddings, Pear Bakewell Tarts and Lemon Tarts – all go well with a scoop of creamy ice cream. Our blog gives suggestions for matching indulgent Gourmade treats to any circumstance.
Gourmade offers various fabulous hampers, and if you choose the Fill my Freezer option you’ll always save 10% – so there’s no excuse not to stock your freshly decluttered freezer! Let us know your tips for freezer organisation, and post pics of your newly zen freezer on our Insta account. Enjoy!