Chest freezer hacks
May 13, 2020 10:37 AM   Subscribe

I despise my chest freezer and upright freezers are out of stock forever everywhere. I have a bad shoulder and neck that make digging around in there torture, I’m short so I can’t reach the bottom, and all the packages of frozen meat slipsliding around when I’m trying to find something make me want to scream. Any suggestions?
posted by HotToddy to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Is your freezer full? If not, could you just put some empty boxes (like banker box size) at the bottom so that it's not as deep and you can reach the items you need?
posted by jabes at 10:40 AM on May 13 [10 favorites]

Do you have organizing baskets in there? Get some, and put all the meat in one basket, all the vegetables in another, or any other categorization that makes sense.
posted by chromium at 10:42 AM on May 13 [11 favorites]

Those blue Ikea bags also make good organizers (IME), and the long straps make it easier to pull them out -- if your freezer is really really big, label the straps (and, ideally, color-code the labels) so you can more easily see which bag you want to grab.

...and if you need to fill up the deepest parts with something, bottles of frozen water take up space AND provide a thermal buffer.
posted by aramaic at 10:45 AM on May 13 [11 favorites]

I had good luck with cheap large sized cloth shopping bags that were different colours. Pink was for meat, green was for veggies and blue was for fruit, with some smaller bags for other sorts of things like heat-and-eat meals. The biggest difficulty was hauling out a full shopping bag to get at the one underneath. There was usually a bottom layer under the bags of things that weren't going to be eaten for six months or so or more, like bulk buys of suet. I used bags that were not great for shopping because they were too flimsy to carry all the way home without the handles breaking, which worked well because I could pay attention when I lifted them out of the freezer and not have them break, but they didn't mass much and take up valuable freezer space. The bags I used were wider rather than deep and were stacked in two layers on top of the long term storage which was loose.

The biggest draw back in my household was that I could not longer hide things effectively so the meat bag was always getting emptied much faster than I had hoped.

If your freezer is not full it should be. Bags of ice in the bottom will save money on the cost of running it and keep it cold much longer during a power outage and of course presents no problem to dispose of when you need the space for food. Bags of ice are much better than empty boxes if you only want to use the top layer.
posted by Jane the Brown at 11:34 AM on May 13 [10 favorites]

Plastic bins designed for the freezer. Many plastics become very brittle when exposed to cold for long periods. Then you have shattered plastic AND hard to reach food.

Lining the floor of the freezer with gallons of water feels like a good idea but double check the plastic quality AND if the expanding water will crack the jugs.

Plastic grabber arm tool for shifting things from one area to another without freezing your fingers to the bone, and for reaching down to the bottom.
posted by bilabial at 11:38 AM on May 13 [3 favorites]

And you can buy block ice to put in the bottom of the freezer, which is a much better bet than cubes for keeping the appliance colder longer in the event of an outage.
posted by bilabial at 11:41 AM on May 13 [2 favorites]

This poster was looking for a specific item for their chest freezer, but within the answers there are a lot of ideas for storage items for a chest freezer. You might find some ideas that work for you.

Also, another 'outside the box freezer' suggestion - get a stepstool - this will give you some extra height for diving deep into the freezer.
posted by hydra77 at 11:43 AM on May 13 [2 favorites]

I put my half sized fridge on a small table, so I didn't have to bend to use it. Maybe some old, heavy duty coffee table, would be the right size, and if not the right height, then adjust the legs, with a hand saw. Then you get some storage space underneath. This little table has two little drawers, and it is heavy duty oak with a shelf under for my large pots.
posted by Oyéah at 11:59 AM on May 13

We have some sheets of paper on top of the freezer to track inventory, to save wild-goose chases for items that aren't actually there. *sound of grinding teeth*

We keep some jugs of water at the bottom for when the power goes out (which is a problem here in New England bout 45 weeks of the year, from blizzards and hurricanes and just the damn wind). This also makes a higher floor in the thing, so reaching in is easier. Same for rhubarb or tomatoes saved from the previous summer: those are all in a sedimentary layer just above floor level.

Good habits about location help, too. The most commonly-used stuff stays on top, and the weird stuff sifts down, of its own volition. But we try to nudge meat to the middle left and rice & left-overs to the far right; frozen veggies and pounds of butter go to the very far left, under the basket.

Colored bags or colored boxes would help to sort of like items. We bag up similar things in a gallon zip-top bag or maybe a Target bag.

(I was the youngest & smallest member of my family as a kid, and I remember chinning up the side of our Cadillac-size chest freezer and dangling by the waist when sent downstairs to collect a loaf of bread or pound of ground beef. I feared a fall every single time!)
posted by wenestvedt at 12:04 PM on May 13 [2 favorites]

I use the soft/foldable type of reusable shopping bag, and I sharpied the category onto the handles and the top edge of the bag. You can stack them on top of each other, but feed the handles up alongside the bag above it so you can fairly easily see all your labels.

At the very bottom of mine, I used (I guess, since I don't see mine) the predecessors to Ikea's HÅLLBAR recycling inserts, which are sturdy and have handles that nest down along the edge of the bin. These tend to hold things I'm not going to go in there for very often - water, a stash of lemons and oranges, extra flour, preserves - so the bins can create a little more structure than a third/fourth layer of jumbled bags.

It's not perfect, but it's the best I've managed. I'll never buy another chest freezer, I'm just not good at this.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:24 PM on May 13 [2 favorites]

For now, maybe a short version of those reaching/grabbing tools? Amazon has a ton to choose from. Of course, better for frozen peas than frozen turkeys.
posted by bonobothegreat at 12:58 PM on May 13

You’ll probably want to check with the manufacturer but you could always balance it on the short end and have an upright.

This isn't possible. The compressor is hung on springs and would rapidly be damaged if ran on it's side. The lid is spring loaded and wouldn't stay shut. And in almost all cases the coolant flow would be effected in a way that would prevent the freezer from working.

You also can't lay it on it's front and have the door swing upwards.

Milk crates make good freezer storage crates. They are vented so don't impede air flow and are made with a plastic that can handle freezing.

If you add water 4l / 1 gallon jugs are fairly compact. Be sure not to load too much unfrozen water into your freezer at a single time. Put a jug or two in and then wait till it is frozen before adding additional jugs. Stuff freezes better when it isn't sitting on the bottom of the freezer.
posted by Mitheral at 1:00 PM on May 13 [4 favorites]

I've found that using silicone freezer bags has helped me get my freezer more organized. Somehow the sizes and the way they maintain their shape makes it easier for me to keep stuff stacked and to sort through it.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 1:26 PM on May 13

We've used 2 liters filled with water at the bottom and cardboard on top.
posted by aetg at 2:06 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]

Another vote for cloth bags with handles. Just don't over fill them.
posted by fshgrl at 3:47 PM on May 13

An alternative to sorting by meat, veg, etc - have a bag per month and when you get a haul, deal it out among the bags for the rare season for that food, or for the upcoming months to its eat-by date. Or a deal on butter goes to November and December and birthday months, etc.
posted by clew at 5:34 PM on May 13 [2 favorites]

Cloth bags are BRILLIANT. I can lift them up with my good arm so I hardly even have to bed over. Lots of other great advice too, thank you all so much!
posted by HotToddy at 7:55 PM on May 13 [2 favorites]

I cut up a large cardboard box and then cut notches in it to make a divider to split the space into 6 ( like this -----|-----|----). It might even have been the box the freezer came in.

this helps keep your sorting system in place if when you end up using stuff unevenly.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 6:48 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]

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