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I’m all about space efficiency.

Our last house was so filled to bursting by the time we moved out that we had to be efficient. Shelves everywhere. Storage units/boxes everywhere. Sometimes I think the cats were lucky they weren’t attached to harnesses and hung from the ceiling to save floor space. We nearly cried when we moved here: cupboards can be opened without all their contents spilling out, there are shelves that are empty save for an ornament or two, and each room has space for me to dance the tarantella with the cats (the closest I get to spinning them around) – but there are still a few spots where space is not so cheap & plentiful. The kitchen in general is pretty packed – it’s the smallest room of the house (save for the understairs cupboard) and since we cook, bake & preserve, we use it a lot for a lot of different purposes. However, it’s the fridge and freezer where we feel the squeeze the most – two small under-cupboard appliances – which are always crammed full.

A few weeks ago, some of our favourite ice cream was on buy one get one free but we couldn’t get any because we didn’t have any freezer space. It was then when we realised we weren’t making particularly good use of our precious freezer real estate. One of the drawers – nearly a third of the total space – was filled with a huge lamb joint we’d got super-super cheap, some cheap burger buns bought on BOGOF and a bag of ice which someone brought to our party at New Year, which we’d barely touched. The first two items were themselves bargains but had both sat in there for weeks; the ice was just taking up space — and all three things were costing us money to store and stopping us benefiting from other bargains.

We now have a new usage policy regarding the freezer: we’re not regarding it as a deep freeze for long term storage any more. We’re using it as a way to extend the life of something fresh by a few days – a fortnight at most – but not for storing things for longer than that (with the exception being my small pots of chillis and spring onions – bought in bulk, sliced up and frozen they don’t take up much room but save us buying fresh all the time). Aside from bagels (which freeze well and are a great emergency-lunch bread), we’re not freezing bread and no more buying things – whether bargains or not – especially for the freezer unless we have a specific exit plan for them, ie, we’ll eat them within a fortnight. We’re also not storing any more than a tray of ice except in exceptional circumstances (namely, a big party).

It’s early days in the new policy so I’m not sure how it’ll pan out – we’re brilliant at forgetting about things in there – but it’s worth a shot. I think the most important thing is to be aware that it can be a black hole for food, and the longer food stays in a freezer the more likely it is to end up as food waste, because of freezer burn, it acquiring that cardboard-y taste or changes of taste.

How do you use your freezer efficiently? Do you have any tips for maximising the limited space? Is there anything you just won’t freeze – or anything you obsessively do keep in there?

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4 Comments on Using expensive freezer real estate efficiently

  1. I have two freezers – one is part of my fridge freezer set up and is for stuff that we use regularly and often. The other is a small chest freezer acquired on freecycle (probably not very eco-friendly because it is old) and is used for longer term storage. I have a freezer book that is supposed to be an inventory of what is in there so we don’t forget – but I forget to update it, so that could be improved upon.

  2. louisa says:

    We’ve thought about using a separate freezer for deep freeze but I’ve always been a bit put off by the cost of running it. Working out the figures, I think it would be less than £1 a week to run at current electricity prices – which isn’t bad if it allows us to make substantial food savings elsewhere. (We already have an old upright freezer, from our old house, which was A-efficient when I bought it in 2001. An A-grade chest freezer would be considerably more efficient – 60p a week or so – but potentially a capital cost.)

    I think I’ll work on improving our freezer using skills first though – get us into good habits before giving us more space to play with. A freezer book is a great idea – thanks Jane. :)

  3. Sam says:

    This is useful – I have the same lack-of-freezer-space problem, and I was thinking of sticking a memo to the front, to remind myself what was in there.

    I really like the freezer book idea, and the temporary storage only. I can see that working well. And you’re right about not freezing bread goods – I buy them when they’re reduced and freeze them, but they takes up so much space. I’d rather make them myself, and recently I’ve noticed myself putting those bargains back on the supermarket shelves.
    Now to remember to make the bread ;-)

  4. louisa says:

    Sam: Bread making is super easy – slow rise bread recipe! :)

    Another idea instead of a memo sheet/book is to turn the front/top of the freezer into a chalkboard/dry erase board, and record the details on there.

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