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Preparing for a Bountiful Season

April 18th, 2011

This time of year the pickings get slim in our freezer and basement pantry. The longer I garden and preserve food the better I get and not ending up with too much food come spring. The only things that remain in the freezer from last summer are: 4 gal. bags of wild black raspberries, 1.5 gal. bags of strawberries, 9 pints of corn, 2 cups of peas and 1 gal. bag of roasted tomatoes. Since the freezer is as empty as it will get, I defrosted it yesterday. I always defrost it during April or May.

I pulled everything out, put it in coolers and the fridge freezer, then I turned off the freezer, opened the door, lined the bottom with a bunch of towels and turned on a fan. In an hour or two it was completely defrosted (one reason to do this yearly is because the frost doesn’t build up and take as long to thaw). I wiped out any excess water and turned in on. When it was cold once again, I put everything back in.

I have a specific method for organizing my freezer. The worst thing ever is finding things that have gone bad because they get pushed to the back of the freezer and you forget they’re in there. When you have a big deep freeze it’s important to keep it organized and keep a list of what’s in there. That way you’re never suprised either by finding something you forgot was in there, or by reaching for something that isn’t there.

I organize the freezer shelves into types of food:
top shelf – berries, fruits, and veggies
middle shelf – whole chickens, ham, prepared food, and bread
bottom shelf – chicken, meaty bones, organ meats, and lard
bottom compartment – venison: steaks, roasts, and ground
door – nuts, grains, things frozen in jars: stock, corn, etc

I like to keep track of what’s in the freezer so I know exactly how much of each thing I have inside without having to open the door. I do this by keeping a list of what’s inside on the front door written in dry erase marker. When I remove something, I update the total for that item. This is a quick and easy way to keep track of what’s in your freezer. I organize my list by type of item, but you could also write on the area of the door that corresponds to the shelf inside.

We do have a lot of venison in the freezer since hunting season was in late November and Mr Chiots got three deer. I also just ordered 150 lbs of meaty bones, chicken feet, beef liver & heart for Lucy, which will take up a lot of the available space. By the time I start freezing summer berries and other vegetables we’ll have just enough space for them. Keeping your freezer full helps make it more efficient since your not cooling huge unused areas, and the cold food helps keep the freezer cold. If your freezer is more than half empty simply fill with plastic milk jugs filled 3/4 of the way with water. They’ll freeze and can be used to keep coolers cold in the summer, and they’ll help keep your freezer from using so much electricity!

Do you have a deep freezer? How do you keep track of what’s inside?

68 Comments to “Preparing for a Bountiful Season”
  1. Mich on April 18, 2011 at 5:04 am

    Oh crikey….I feel guilty looking at your freezer knowing that mine is a tombola/lucky dip chaos (hanging head in shame)
    Its also a freezer that is in dire need of defrosting!….

    I keep getting side tracked the need to ride the horse, feed the chooks, do some dog training…anything other than tackle the ice monster. :)

    Reply to Mich's comment

  2. Quinn on April 18, 2011 at 6:06 am

    LOVE the dry erase idea! Very clever.

    Reply to Quinn's comment

  3. Jennifer Fisk on April 18, 2011 at 6:22 am

    I have two small chest freezers which are by their nature somewhat difficult to keep organized but in general one is for veggies, sauce, bread, etc and the other was used for chickens, turkeys, beef, and frozen dog food. Once I use a couple of chickens for Easter dinner, I think I’ll consolidate everything into one and defrost. With my poor organizational skills, it is “guess who’s coming for dinner” on a regular basis.

    Reply to Jennifer Fisk's comment

    • Tere on January 13, 2014 at 10:35 am

      I have two small chest freezers: one brown, one green. I have to figure out how to do this. Right now, it is hubby doing the inventory about every 2 months. We lose the inventory, sigh. Plus we have the fridge freezer. This is a GREAT idea to spark other ideas! Thanks!

      Reply to Tere's comment

  4. Katherine on April 18, 2011 at 6:55 am

    I hate the idea of defrosting the freezer, but its never as bad as I think it will be. It seems like I need to do it more than once a year though. I have 2 sheets of paper on the front of the freezer with my inventory. It helps a lot with “what’s for dinner”.

    Reply to Katherine's comment

  5. kristin @ going country on April 18, 2011 at 7:09 am

    We have two. They’re chest freezers, which means it’s pretty much impossible to keep anything in any way other than thrown in boxes. I do my best to label the boxes and keep like things together, but it’s mostly hopeless. The list of contents is in my head. I’m occasionally surprised by a stash of something I didn’t know was hiding at the bottom, but it works well enough.

    Reply to kristin @ going country's comment

    • Tanja on September 12, 2014 at 2:32 pm

      Kristin, have you ever considered using paper bags? Putting the vegetables in one, another bag for your beef, and so on, it will not look quite as pretty, but it would help with the digging around in the freezer. Instead of looking in the whole freezer for something, you just have to look in the bag.

      Reply to Tanja's comment

      • Colleen on August 29, 2015 at 7:27 pm

        i have “organized” my chest freezer with plastic milk crates. They are marked, beef, chicken, pork, fish and vegetables. We buy our meat in bulk and package everything for four, ground beef by the lb gets flattened and sealed (easy to stack standing and quick defrosting) When making spaghetti sauce or chili I pkg this the same way as ground beef (flat and in the beef crate)

        to Colleen's comment

  6. Songbirdtiff on April 18, 2011 at 8:08 am

    Wow. This is inspiring. I’d like to have a deep freeze sometime soon so that I can buy beef from a farmer instead of the over processed stuff from the store.

    Reply to Songbirdtiff's comment

  7. Daedre Craig on April 18, 2011 at 9:32 am

    I would love to have a large freezer, but I’m stuck cramming everything into my regular fridge/freezer.

    I currently have shredded zucchini, black raspberries, crushed heirloom tomatoes, and pumpkin puree in my freezer from last year’s garden.

    Reply to Daedre Craig's comment

  8. Kimberly on April 18, 2011 at 9:43 am

    We’re working on this right now. The house we bought came with a freezer. It was full. Of things marked- “Sausage 2000”, “Berriies 2001”. That’s the year it was put in.

    Four boxes of things hauled out later, it’s defrosting. Hopefully it will be done today so I can pry out the shelves and wash it all.

    And no, we’re not eating 11 year old sausage.

    Love the write right on the door thing. Gonna do that!

    Reply to Kimberly's comment

    • Susy on April 18, 2011 at 5:36 pm

      Very scary – 11 year old sausage!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  9. Dave on April 18, 2011 at 9:56 am

    The writing on the freezer door is a great idea! I’m never organized enough to do that though!

    Reply to Dave's comment

  10. Donna B. on April 18, 2011 at 10:31 am

    Do you understand how fantastic this post is?! I would have never thought to write on the fridge with dry erase marker… Even doing this for my primary fridge [Oh, how I would love a deep freeze to keep in the basement…] would help me remember what’s in it! I might have to do some cleanup on the door and utilize this method!
    Thank you, as always, for your inspirations and ideas! This is one of the best yet! ♥

    Reply to Donna B.'s comment

    • Susy on April 18, 2011 at 5:38 pm

      Thanks Donna – always love it when I can share things that will help!

      Reply to Susy's comment

      • Darla on May 27, 2012 at 8:11 pm

        I am with Donna and the rest that say a hearty “Thank you!” Why can’t I, a mere mortal, think of these creative things like writing on the actual freezer door? (smile) I kept trying to figure this whole freezer inventory thing and it always came back to an inventory on Excel on the computer…yet another thing to do on the computer. You are brilliant! Thanks! I am headed to my garage to do this very thing this very instant! Yippee!

        to Darla's comment

  11. Lynda on April 18, 2011 at 11:08 am

    I had just cleaned out my chest freezer and started defrosting this a.m. We have a side of beef coming next week and I’m butchering a few stew hens. I poured myself a cup of coffee and sat down to read a few of the blogs I follow…and there ya’ go…your timely post. THANK YOU! I will be now be using the top of my freezer to keep inventory…what a great idea!

    Reply to Lynda's comment

  12. SixBalloons on April 18, 2011 at 11:38 am

    Great ideas. I actually didn’t realize that cooling empty space took more energy but that totally makes sense. Thanks for the tips – the dry erase marker looks great too. Is it ever hard to clean out of the texture grooves of the fridge door?

    Reply to SixBalloons's comment

    • Susy on April 18, 2011 at 9:11 pm

      I never have trouble cleaning it out. Simply use alcohol and a towel, I’m guessing one of those magic erasers would work nicely as well!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  13. Michele K. on April 18, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    Fantastic idea! Wish I had know your method before I cleaned my freezer out last week! Oh well, there’s always next time.

    Reply to Michele K.'s comment

  14. Allison on April 18, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    Just curious – why are you keeping nuts and grains in the freezer? Do they last longer that way?

    Reply to Allison's comment

    • Susy on April 18, 2011 at 9:46 pm

      Yes, it keeps them from going rancid. I always buy in bulk so it helps keep them fresher longer, especially when it comes to nuts. I don’t keep wheat berries in the freezer (since I buy in 50lb bags that would take up tons of space) just oats, quinoa and other grains. It also helps keep pests out.

      Reply to Susy's comment

      • Patricia on January 6, 2012 at 9:15 am

        You are so right about the nuts and other grains-I too keep the same in my freezer as it extends the life of the product. Such a great post and so helpful. Thank you!

        to Patricia's comment

    • Carla Lopez on May 2, 2011 at 8:11 pm

      If you don’t store them in the freezer, or eat them right away, they sprout pests you will not want to eat. Here is a great article about it.

      Reply to Carla Lopez's comment

  15. shana on April 18, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    Wow! I love the white board marker idea! I will be doing this. I’m so sick of forgetting what’s in there and then having to throw things out!

    Reply to shana's comment

  16. MAYBELLINE on April 18, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    You are over the top organized.
    If a Mr. Chiot Jr. ever comes into your life I would like to observe how this changes.

    Currently, my freezer is stocked with frozen leftovers that I preserve for my elderly mother for easy meals. Oh sure, last summer’s tomatoes and peppers are taking up space; but their days are numbered.

    Reply to MAYBELLINE's comment

  17. Laura @ driftwood haven on April 18, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    Could you do a post on how you feed your dog? I recently made the switch from dry kibble and to boiled chicken and sweet potatoes and still have a ton of questions. Where do you get your organ meats? What kind of balance should a dog have of vegetables, grains and meats? Ya know, stuff like that.

    Reply to Laura @ driftwood haven's comment

    • Susy on April 18, 2011 at 9:49 pm

      Sure I’ll try to do a post about that. She gets a lot of raw, I buy what I can from the local farm (they have a freezer sale this time each year). I find that feeding raw meaty bones from organic pastured meat to be cheaper than the expensive kibble we used to feed Lucy.

      There is a ratio of organ meats/meat and veggies to meat. I’ll try to write a post about that for your soon. In the mean time I’d highly recommend reading The Whole Pet Diet: Eight Weeks to Great Health for Dogs and Cats.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  18. Chicago Mike on April 18, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    I know its already been said, but I have to repeat, the dry erase on the freezer itself? Genius!

    Reply to Chicago Mike's comment

  19. Candie on April 18, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    I LOVE the marker idea! That would be so much better then paper. My papers always end up looking a mess so I stop using them after a while.


    Reply to Candie's comment

  20. Sharon on April 18, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    I LOVE the dry marker idea!!! We tried this on paper, but with things in three different freezers (one deep freezer like yours and two side-by-sides) and two people cooking we just couldn’t keep track. This would be absolutely perfect!

    Reply to Sharon's comment

  21. Katrina on April 18, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    I use dry erase markers everyday at school, but never thought to use them to write directly on the freezer door! You a great system!

    Reply to Katrina's comment

  22. katie on April 18, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    This is inspiring! And the use of the dry erase marker is so smart. I’m trying to be better about not freezing more than we’re actually going to use in a year. Turns out we don’t eat nearly as much pie as I always seem to think we will in the height of the summer.

    One question, though – if Mr. Chiot got three deer last year, how is there space for anything else in your freezer? My husband got an elk last year and we ended up having to buy a second freezer because the meat completely filled one freezer.

    Reply to katie's comment

    • Mr. Chiots on April 18, 2011 at 8:45 pm

      A medium-sized doe and two yearlings don’t take up to much room.

      Reply to Mr. Chiots's comment

  23. Andrea on April 18, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    Do you find that using the markers on your door leaves residue or ‘ghost’ outlines of your words? Thinking of copying your method but don’t want our door to get all gross!!

    Reply to Andrea's comment

    • Susy on April 18, 2011 at 5:35 pm

      I have been writing on the door for several years with no issues. I clean it all off once a year with alcohol and microfiber cloth. I think one of those magic erasers would take off any residue.

      Reply to Susy's comment

      • jady on March 2, 2012 at 4:59 pm

        hand sanitizer is a great way to remove dry erase marker :)

        to jady's comment

  24. Kaytee on April 18, 2011 at 9:16 pm

    You are super organized! I like stand-up freezers for that reason (shelves being easier to organize), but we were given a chest freezer for free, so we take what we can get. The big freezer contains mostly meat (several deer and chicken breast that we buy in bulk from a butcher, and a turkey I got on sale at Thanksgiving). We have it organized by: poultry in this corner, ground meat in this one, steaks/roasts in this one. The kitchen freezer is the tricky one. I stuff it so full of veggies that at the beginning of winter, I have no clue what’s really in the back of it! But I try to keep like veggies/fruits together in stacks or on the door.

    Reply to Kaytee's comment

  25. Christine on April 18, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    The marker idea is freakin GENIUS!! Wow. You may have just changed my life. Seriously!

    Reply to Christine's comment

  26. Wendy on April 18, 2011 at 11:49 pm

    I’ve been tracking my freezer contents with a pencil and paper on the front of the door, but I’ll be switching to your dry erase idea ASAP–love it! Maybe I won’t allow myself to start using the dry erase pen until I’ve actually defrosted the freezer, which I’ve been avoiding!

    Reply to Wendy's comment

  27. Deborah on April 18, 2011 at 11:58 pm

    Okay, I have a question…. If I want to store home made soups in mason jars… how full does it need to be? Is there a certain trick to it? I wouldnt want to jars to burst… obvioulsly they need to cool before going into the freezer? Does the jar keep things from getting freezer burn? I would like to use less plastic and I have sooo many mason jars!



    Reply to Deborah's comment

    • Susy on April 19, 2011 at 7:31 am

      I freeze in caning jars all the time. I usually use wide mouth pint as I have the best luck with them. I do use wide mouth quart sometimes, but I have had 2 burst in the freezer. I depends on the type of food you’re freezing. I generally use mine for stock and I make sure to fill only to the fill line (with quart only fill about 3/4 of the way). Lid, put in the fridge overnight so it’s very cold and freeze. I usually concentrate my stock so that one pint is actually one quart (I simply add a pint of water). This way I save freezer space. Never use small mouth canning jars in the freezer. Here’s a post I did about it: /2010/03/06/using-canning-jars-in-the-freezer/

      I do find that glass works much better for keeping things in the freezer, I also hate to use plastic. I have purchased some large glass pyrex that I use all the time in the freezer. They work equally well at keeping things from getting freezer burned.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  28. Cindy on April 19, 2011 at 1:36 am

    My fridge has served as a dry erase board for years- I can never find pencil and paper when I need it and the fridge is always and thanks to magnets the markers are always right there too. Cannot say I have managed to keep up with recording what is in the freezers (a chest and an upright) but I do have baskets in the upright for different categories of stuff and sorta the same in the chest. The chest usually turns into a disaster by at least 6 months and has to be reorganized. But mostly bulkier thinks go there or things I have a lot of and I move smaller amounts to the upright as they are used up so that the upright is the daily goto one.

    Reply to Cindy's comment

  29. Xan on April 19, 2011 at 7:37 am

    The dry-erase thing is brilliant! I had a computer print out of the contents on mine, but by now it’s a scribbled mess. And Cindy, I do the basket thing too; since my freezer is small ( just 8 cf) this is a sufficient organizing system.

    Reply to Xan's comment

  30. Jenny on April 19, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    I also would like more info on the dog feeding plan.

    The dry erase idea is fabulous, but I think I am actually going to buy a board and put it inside (my big freezer is across the drive in the garage) so I can keep track of both that freezer and the fridge freezer in the same place.

    Rhubarb is my downfall—I never use up all I have frozen and EVERYONE has it here so it’s hard to give away. But I hate to not pick it!

    Reply to Jenny's comment

  31. Tammra Tanner on April 19, 2011 at 9:28 pm

    So, I am a wanna be. I wanna be organized, I wanna can more than I do, ( and actually eat what I preserve) I wanna deep freeze.
    As you may have heard, BRILLIANT! on the dry erase. Wish I had a basement but California doesn’t often offer them. Of course I wish there was a farm next to us too. So for now, my tiny garden and mother’s trees will have to do. Wonder if she’ll notice a cow near the pool?

    Reply to Tammra Tanner's comment

  32. Nasturtium Pesto « Hitchhiking to Heaven on April 19, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    […] Finally, Kate and Marisa both shouted out this terrific post at Chiot’s Run about how to organize your storage freezer. […]

    Reply to Nasturtium Pesto « Hitchhiking to Heaven's comment

  33. Seren Dippity on April 19, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    I have let my freezer get to the point where it is unbelievably disorganized…. bad even for me and I’ve never been good at keeping it orderly, just barely functional. My kids created an acronym… “Mom? What’s this UFO?” meaning what is this “unidentified frozen object” … usually leftovers that didn’t get labeled well. Now that I have started preserving more of my home grown foods, setting up a system has been on my to do list.

    Reply to Seren Dippity's comment

  34. Elizabeth on April 20, 2011 at 12:28 am

    I do my basement freezer similar to yours, but we do not eat meat or have meat eating pets so lots more room for things. I keep a clipboard on the inside of the basement door which keeps track of what is down there. I don’t do steps so depend on the family members to take things down and bring items up for me. There is also listings for what is in my basement pantry of home-canned goods, canning jars, lids, etc. Everything is dated and they have been trained to rotate and bring me up the older product first, check for problems, keep it defrosted.

    Reply to Elizabeth's comment

  35. Emma on April 20, 2011 at 10:58 am

    Wow, I love your system! I really like the idea of using dry erase markers directly on the freezer door — I need to see if ours will accommodate that. It would make tracking what’s in there soooo much easier!

    On a side note, how do you keep everything all stacked and neat in the freezer? I have a problem with my whole frozen chickens jumping at me when I open the door and going rolling across the garage floor. Meats that are packed with a flat bottom aren’t too bad, but those chickens sure get me!

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    City Roots, Country Life

    Reply to Emma's comment

    • Susy on April 20, 2011 at 11:05 am

      It does happen occasionally – but I think since I’m very good at puzzles I have a knack for stacking without any tumbling. I do have a few milk crates or boxes that fit perfectly in the freezer so there’s no wasted space and if I have a lot of small packages (like all those meaty bones) they’ll go in crates then into the freezer.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  36. Heather on April 20, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    You are one brilliantly organized inspiring woman. I love your organization tips, especially since I’m not in the professional business of organizing. I may have to do a little round up of your tips and do a post one of these days (with your permission of course)…thank you once again!

    Reply to Heather's comment

  37. Jess on April 26, 2011 at 6:36 am

    Great article! Just wanted to let you know that I linked to it for this weeks [Preserving Monday]. Thanks!

    Reply to Jess's comment

  38. STC Weekly Digs. | something to chase on May 2, 2011 at 10:28 am

    […] Why did I NOT think of this? Organize your fridge with a dry erase marker! […]

    Reply to STC Weekly Digs. | something to chase's comment

  39. on May 4, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    I enjoyed your page about home freezing. Thanks for the tips and advice.

    Reply to's comment

  40. Rosa @ Capture the Little Things on June 11, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    Reply to Rosa @ Capture the Little Things's comment

  41. terri on July 14, 2011 at 9:08 pm

    I loved this article & will start my freezer organizing on my day off from work.
    I didn’t know that you could freeze things in glass jars & they crack or explode when frozen?? I have only used plastic containers & freezer bags..but sometimes i would prefer soups & other liquids in glass..

    Reply to terri's comment

    • Susy on July 14, 2011 at 9:23 pm

      Freezing in glass jars can be done, only use wide mouth pint and only fill them to the freeze line (I freezer in quarts too, but start with pints till you get the hang of how much things expand). I did write an blog post about freezing in glass jars. The Glass Pyrex Storage Containers containers I use work beautifully in the freezer, you do have to remember to leave some head space for expansion and to make sure things are well chilled in the fridge before going into the freezer.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  42. Rivki Locker (Ordinary Blogger) on July 28, 2011 at 9:51 am

    That freezer organization idea is just BRILLIANT.

    Reply to Rivki Locker (Ordinary Blogger)'s comment

  43. Jen on February 1, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    I just wanted to say, do not be scared of having some left over. My mother taught me to put away 1 1/2 of what you need. If you know you eat 50 quarts of green bean, put up 75 quarts. The reason is if you have a really bad growing season the next year and only get 25 quarts, because you put away an extra 25 the year before, you will have the 50 you need for the year and will not go without. The food is good for the next year too so you will not waste. If you find that you have bumper crop after bumper crop and do not need to put any bean up, you can either only plant for seeds, give to a local food pantries or spend time doing a different veggie! Great website!

    Reply to Jen's comment

  44. Jodie on March 12, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    I have cleaned out my freezer and I’m ready to put all the goodies back in. Thought I’d look for some brilliant organization idea and, voilla, I found you!!! Thanks so much for the help!! Now, back to the freezer!!!

    Reply to Jodie's comment

  45. Mary on March 13, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    Love this post and the dry erase marker idea- I have a chest freezer and am wondering if it would smear if I wrote on top of the freezer and then something got put on top (terrible about using it as a catchall too!)

    Read the comments hoping for some hints on chest freezer storage as it is difficult for me to figure out how to organize. Have bought several more wire baskets but still have issues.

    Found this via Pinterest!

    bee blessed

    Reply to Mary's comment

    • Susy on March 14, 2012 at 7:14 am

      No harm in giving it a shot. I don’t find that it smears on the door when I brush up against it.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  46. Rhonda on July 19, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    What kind of dry erase marker do you use? I absolutely love writing on the side of my freezer to keep track of the contents, but my marker dried out and I switched and this one stays PERMANENTLY!! ACK!! Of course, I threw the old marker out and don’t know what kind it was. :( Any advice is appreciated! :)

    Reply to Rhonda's comment

  47. Dani on September 5, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    I love the dry erase idea!!! How clever! We are fortunate to be getting one of these freezers from our in-laws and this idea makes me more anxious to get it in our basement!!! I love an extra freezer because the freezers in side by sides are never roomy enough!

    Reply to Dani's comment

  48. Betty819 on June 10, 2014 at 5:23 pm

    Just came across your blog and it reminds me that our garage freezer needs defrosting. It is a project we dread to do. I know there are some things in there that need to be tossed..Will try to defrost it the day before garage pick-up day. Keep it frozen and put it out that morning about an hour before pick-up, so it doesn’t thaw before they come which is about 7:30am. I’m always up before then so that’s no problem. I think we need to buy some baskets and use in the freezer to make it more organized and easy to find stuff!

    Somebody mentioned they keep nuts in their freezer to keep them from going rancid..I think my dear MIL used to use metal coffee cans as she did a lot of baking and would use them up quicker than I do. I wonder if these round plastic deli containers would be ok to store them in? We don’t buy coffee in cans..

    Reply to Betty819's comment

  49. Glenys on December 4, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    +I spray my 2 freezers with Spray and Cook after cleaning them, next time it is easier to defrost.

    Reply to Glenys's comment


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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