How I Organize My Chest Freezers

We go through our chest freezers about once a year. We just did again. They get unplugged, emptied, defrosted, cleaned out, and contents inventoried.

I just wanted to give you a tip that has worked well for us. The way we organize our chest freezers. The key to successful organizing for us is this:

Colored Reusable Grocery Tote Bags

Pink = Pork

Brown = Beef

Yellow = Poultry

Green = Vegetables

Blue = Fish & Seafood

That’s it! Simple!

We also have totes for dairy. One is filled with butter and the other, cheeses. The point is, you get the idea. Different colors for different groups.

It works so well because you might have a good number of totes in there, stacked. A quick color identification will let you know what’s inside.

But wait, there’s more…

If I have totes with all the same type in it, such as ground beef, or steaks, or dark meat poultry vs white meat poultry… I make up a little label with a small piece of paper and Sharpie pen. It gets folded over one of the tote handles and stapled. Easy peasy.

We happen to have two chest freezers. A 9 cubic foot and a 7. We keep all meats in the 9 and everything else in the 7. Works out great.

Grocery tote bags. The trick is finding the colors. Of course it only matters if you’re going to use a color code method. Regardless, ANY tote works well because it keeps things together. You can just pull out the whole bag, get what you want, and put it back.

The following multi color totes come in 10-packs. Some years ago I splurged and spent the money for the various colors. I initially had lots of extras. But you know what? I’m sure glad because we use them for other things! Like going out to the garden and harvesting a bunch of peppers (for example). Useful.

TOTES 10-packs of your color of choice

( view on amzn )


I just found this: Red, Green, Yellow, Teal, Gray (1 each)
( view on amzn )

Chest Freezer Inventory

We also take an inventory as we remove all totes. You might do it any way that you prefer. Whatever makes sense to you.

Mrs.J writes it down while I count and call it out. Afterwards I transfer that information over to the spreadsheet I keep for the freezers. I print it out, and she keeps it updated as contents are removed and/or resupplied in a given category (tote), etc.

It’s a great way to visualize what you have in there. Otherwise, food gets lost! Seriously. Even this recent inventory uncovered a few surprises. We generally take what we’ve found that’s the oldest and try to consume it first.

Temperature Alarm For Fridge / Freezer

I cannot leave without suggesting that you get a temperature alarm for your chest freezer. You sure do want to know if something goes wrong before you lose all that food!

I have a sensor for each freezer that sends a signal to a display readout which I keep upstairs next to the fridge (chest freezers downstairs). Of course they don’t make that model any longer. But here’s another which appears to be a popular choice:

AcuRite with 2 wireless sensors

Oh, one more thing… use Lithium batteries in those sensors because they’re great for cold weather.

Lithium AA


  1. I like the totes idea! Much easier to grab than the cut down vinegar boxes I currently use. I place duct tape on the front facing side. I have a difficult time grasping things so the handles would be much better for my chest freezers. I hate to admit how many freezers we have, and different meats are kept in different freezers. I also use the square plastic crates that have little openings…easier for me to handle. I am going to try this grab bag thing and see how it works out…..after I get my plants started and taxes done. Nice idea Ken!

  2. Thanks Ken, great idea. I have my in-laws old chest freezer. I’m vertically challenged at 5’0 and cannot reach the bottom, so this will help me out. Plus, I can see what’s in there!

    Happy Easter everyone! May we all be thankful for our blessings which are many despite our circumstances. You guys are all blessings to me, I’ve learned so much from you. Thank you.

  3. Will picking up these bags when we receive the chest freezer. We are on the list at a local appliance store. Their deliver time line is better then the big box stores.

    1. Take from the right. New stuff feeds in from the left.

      Or, take from the top. New stuff feeds in from the bottom.

      Or, take from the front. New stuff feeds in from the back.

      It all depends on the “stuff” and how its organized.

      We follow these guidelines for our food inventory / shelves / whatever… FIFO. First in First Out.

      TMI? Too much information? ;)

  4. Some good ideas on the totes.
    I still like thr good old way of opening the upright freezer stand there for 10 minutes deciding what to get….
    Usually don’t fond it and do the same with the other freezer.

    I can not stress enough the Freezer Alarms.
    Told the story before but, neighbor had a full beef and some other meats in an upright freezer in his detached garage
    Yep. You guessed it. The freezer died. He did not find it for we figure about two weeks.
    OMG you talk about nasty…
    Figure he lost at least $2000 in just food.

    Moral of the story???
    Get an alarm.

    1. I hear ya brother. Several years ago I lost an entire freezer full of wild boar, whitetail deer and elk meat in the summer. Even had to trash the freezer. Man, that was nasty. Ken and you are right. Get a freezer alarm.

  5. Color coded totes, great idea. Prevoius freezer was a chest, used plastic tote crates, kind of like weight lifting, never thought of colors.

    Switched to a larger upright freezer, slide in plastic containers, marked on the ends by meat type.

    We also do the strip the freezer inventory count with a spreadsheet markup and I can ocassionally forget to mark up the inventory list when either adding or using items.

    We also freeze bread, english muffins, bagels, homemade banana and pumpkin bread.

    I hang a coil thermometer inside to verify the front door readout, also has a built in temp alarm (which sounds like a malnourished chickadee…)

  6. Great minds think a like! Well my wife did the same thing to organize the freezer…not me I’m just a grunt.😐

  7. I have much more–canned butter, home-made sweet and sour sauce, left-overs, flour, peanut butter, tater tots, fries….lots!! Most are in jars that fit nicely in cardboard boxes from canning jars and stack nicely.

    1. Jay Jay,

      I’ve read different things about canning butter. Haven’t tried it yet but love the idea of having it next to the home canned meats. I haven’t heard directly from anyone how they did it, their results, and any caveats. Care to share?


      1. DoubleTap

        I’ve canned lots of butter.

        The one thing I did not like was the left over milk and solids. So, I made a stainless steel pot, with a shut off valve about 2″ from bottom. This means I can GHEE, not butter. Ghee last longer anyway, and the milk solids, I ca not get to mix back in, before the butter solidifies. I save the bottom of the pot in a bowl, let it get solid, then skim the milk off the top, as use what butter and stuff is left right away.

        I have used Ghee, from storage, that was 6yrs old, no problems at all.

        1. DoubleTap

          DO NOT BUY CHEAP BUTTER. It’s full of filler milk, and yellow dye

          Melt it very low heat, use candy thermometer and keep it below 120 F, burns easily, and that ruins the whole batch.
          Stir constantly
          Make sure the jar rim is absolutely clean, or it won’t seal
          fill jars to the max, leave NO headspace. Do not over tighten lid. Turn upside down and place on a towel.
          If jar doesn’t seal, re-warm in hot water, with the lid on, clean jar rim, use a new lid, and try again

      2. Ghee is good, and made properly it will last a long time. I used a slow cooker for that, so it wouldn’t burn.

        Butter, the texture is a little different and the flavor a little different. Dad won’t use it so I haven’t opened any in a while. Still good after three years, though. I pressure canned with a batch of meat, so it got the full 90 minutes.

      3. Double Tap, I commented on this topic quite awhile back but couldn’t tell you what it was under. I canned butter several years back in,pint jars following the video on preparednesspro site. After melting one pound butter for each pint jar, I poured it into the cleaned, sterile jars. And placed three or four marbles in each jars. Then gently shook the jars as the butter cooled to keep things mixed. Got good results and product still looks good. The marbles don’t break the jar because they don’t move hard enough.

        I also keep pounds of butter in freezer. But I wanted to have some shelf stable butter and see how that worked. If electric went out permanently, I would can what is in my freezer.

      4. Can’t advise you on canning butter, but I suggest you make GHEE out of a pound of unsalted butter. It will store indefinitely and can be used like butter or as high temp cooking oil. you tub can show you how to make it. Its easy. If I can do it, anyone can.

  8. Thanks, Ken. I just cleaned out my upright freezer today. It had been way too long since I had, so there was a lot of ice built up. By the time I was done, I was so tired that I just threw everything in back in, ready to organize it shelf by shelf later this week. (Okay, there was a little organization. All pork together, beef together, vegies together, etc.) I really need a list of what is in there, though, so I’ll do one shelf at a time this week. The colored tote bags sound like a great idea, especially for a chest freezer. Easier to handle than the milk crates, probably.

  9. Great ideas! I use 5 gallon pails of different colors. Your tote idea is better because those pails are hard to lift, but it fits well in the hard to reach bottom of the freezer.

  10. Good plan! I use the “reusable bags” that you buy at the grocery store.

  11. Great idea. We have totes lurking around but in various sizes and colors and materials. This looks like a grate way to standardize.

  12. Ken that is a fabulous idea! We have 2 chest freezers with various wild game and fish in them, and I have no way of knowing what is down there at the bottom. I have just tossed stuff in and tried to remember when and where stuff is. Thanks for the idea.

  13. Love the idea, think I may give it a whirl. Right now it’s a total grab bag when you head down into the chest freezer.

  14. Great idea!
    With our chest freezer in the garage, it gets rather warm during the summer, so I was planning on wrapping the freezer in ridged insulation with a removable lid that sits over. Just make sure to keep airflow open on the bottom.

    1. Papa J;
      Just make sure you don’t have one of those Freezers that have the Secondary Coils (the ones that give off the heat to the outside) on the exterior surface just under the metal skin of the freezer.
      If you have a small compartment with a fan and a set of coils there your good to go with the covering.
      Obviously don’t restrict the airflow.

  15. Awesome idea. I have been trying to think of ideas to organize our freezer. It is kinda of a mess right now. This will help out so much!!! Thanks.

  16. We have 2 chest freezers and 1 upright. The freezer in the garage is a mess. It is not organized at all and needs defrosting. We need to defrost and organize before the garden starts producing. The color coding sounds like a really good idea. We will use it when we work on the freezer. Our other freezer is a little more organized. I have all like items in cardboard boxes. I know where everything is but no one else does.

  17. This was a great idea!!! Just organized BOTH deep chests and found I had a considerable more amount of beef than I thought….since it and the elk were both home butchered and wrapped, I thought most of it was elk. SURPRISE, and YAY! elk in orange bags, beef in blue…poultry/fish in multi. Turkeys in bottom layer (since so very large!) what a great idea veggies in hanging baskets at top on poultry freezer.

  18. 19 years ago when we got the small chest freezer because we down sized, I had the guys leave it on the pallet. When the sump broke 9 yrs later and we had 4″ of water in the basement, DH stopped crabbing about the pallet down there as we didn’t lose the freezer. Washer and dryer did okay but you could see the rust forming on the bottoms of them. So when he decided to build the “first floor” laundry in an unused corner of the garage, I got new machines. Just hope they last 20+ years like my old ones. I also use totes to separate the foods. I put square jugs of water in the bottom and the totes I use fit so much better. Makes them sit flat in the freezer. I use the clear ones so I can tell what’s what in there.

  19. Great idea. Put them on my “wish list” which also includes an actual freezer- believe I’m number 45 on a waiting list for one of those!

  20. Ken, how do you seal your meat? Do you leave it in its original grocery store packaging, or do you have another method?


    1. It depends. If butchered & processed locally (e.g. buying half a steer or pig…) it’s already vacuum sealed. When purchasing grocery store beef we will remove from packaging and seal portions with our vacuum sealer. Other meats (e.g. chicken) portions will be removed from packaging and portion wrapped tightly in saran wrap and tucked into gallon ziplocs for access. Vacuum seal is best for freshness and longevity with no freezer burn…

  21. To keep the freezer closed as much as possible we keep everything in totes in the freezer and take each one out one at a time and photograph each item and back into the tote. Each tote is marked on the outside alphabetically and contents recorded on the computer and a notebook.

  22. I got a 5 cu. ft. one for our house, we live in the city and have a carport so it can’t go out side. Something that I don’t think most people think about is the fact that most of the chest style freezers they make now are not meant to be outdoors or in a garage where there is a lot of heat. That’s what I read on several that I was looking at. They can’t keep cool. They are meant for in a house in a laundry room or other conditioned space.

    I also went to Lowes to get mine and they were “out” aka couldnt locate one. You can barter with them. They offered me a 7.5 cu. ft. for the same sale price as the 5. Now I would have done that but my location would only fit the 5. So I told the guy, I’d take the floor model for a discount off the sale price and a 3 year warranty. He said ok. I got the Idylis 5 cu.ft. out the door for under $140 with a 3 year warranty. Just sayin, stores are hard up for a sale.

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