I know I’ve said this before in these articles, but if you want to get the most out of your vacuum sealer and freezer you have to be organised.
I’ve talked already about planning meals, writing shopping lists and breaking your produce down into manageable portions that you can mix and match as the mood takes you. These are all important steps and will definitely help you to save both time and money in the kitchen. If you’d like to know more about these topics, you can read more here.
But another plus of using a vacuum sealer is that you will have a lot more freezer space to fill. Vacuum sealing removes all the excess air that ‘pads out’ so many other forms of food storage. It leaves you with neat, stackable pouches containing nothing but the food. The result? You’ll be surprised how much more you can get into your deep freeze.
However, having more bagged items can lead to problems. How do you keep track of multiple packs of minestrone soup, chicken laksa and marinated veggies in your freezer?
Sometimes, you have to spend a little money to get the most out of a new gadget and this may well be the case when it comes to getting the most out of your vacuum sealer/freezer partnership.
If you have a standing freezer, you might be ok. These tend to have plenty of shelves and so keeping batches of various foods separated, organised and accessible shouldn’t be too much of a stretch.
But if you have a chest freezer or a freezer compartment that has big pull-out baskets – like so many fridge/freezers do – knowing what is where can be a lot harder.
See here for some ideas on how to get the most out of your vacuum sealer.
Storage Boxes and Baskets
Investing in storage boxes and baskets for your freezer can be a real winner.
There are few things more annoying than digging around in the bowels of your chest freezer, trying to find a bag of lamb shanks that you put in there 2 months ago. Before you know it, you’ve taken half the contents of the freezer out, because those shanks aren’t where you thought they were and you can’t get your hands on them.
If you put items into boxes and then stack those in your freezer, finding various meals becomes much easier.
How you organise your freezer storage is up to you. You could go by month, or maybe have all of your chicken dishes together. It’s your choice. The one thing we know is that once you’ve found a box system that works for you, you’ll never go back to just opening the drawer or lid and tossing things in.
Read this if you are still unsure which vacuum sealer is best for you.
The Freezer Inventory
There is one more hack that you really should adopt if you want to make your cooking time efficient and pain-free.
Let me explain the brilliance of the freezer inventory.
As you get into the swing of vacuum sealing your fresh produce and meals and stocking up your freezer, you will find that you have a lot of packages piling up and keeping track of them can become an issue.
Labelling and putting a date on your vacuum sealed pouches before you place in the deep freeze is a huge help, but it probably isn’t enough. This is especially true if you have a dedicated freezer for all of your vacuum sealed goodies and a 100% certainty if you have a chest freezer.
C’mon chest freezer owners. How many times have you almost fallen into that icy coffin, trying to find a pack of sausage rolls that you think may or may not be hiding in the far left corner of it’s chilly insides?
You need a proper system. A freezer inventory.
At its simplest, this is a list of everything stashed in your freezer. The vital bits of info are:
- Date – What’s the date on the day you put the item into your freezer?
- Item – What is it? And remember to note if it is raw, cooked or partially prepared.
- Quantity – How big is the portion? Either by weight or serving.
In addition to these, you might want to include:
- Use By Date – What’s the latest that you should get it out and eat it?
- Where – People often forget this, but boy is it a timesaver! If your freezer has shelves, which shelf is it on? On the left or right side? If it’s in a basket, at the front or the back. Again, this could save you hours if you have a large chest freezer.
Or you may prefer to keep everything listed in a special notebook that you keep in your kitchen.
A friend of mine who has a huge chest freezer in her garage writes detailed notes on what’s going into it on a white board nailed to the wall over its lid. This works particularly well as people can simply wipe items off the list as they take them out.
And this is another important thing to think about. The whole point of an inventory is to know exactly what you have, when it went in and how much of everything there is. This means that you need to find a way of adding new items and removing others as you use them. Crossing meals out in a book as you eat them is fine, but it can become messy and difficult to read. A system where you literally remove the item from the list is ideal. This is why the whiteboard is so good.
It’s also great if you can work out a way to see which things should be used first. This is pretty tough to do unless you do regular rewrites and move the details of the packs that need to be eaten in the next fortnight to the top of your list.
If you’re still looking for some help vacuum sealing food, see here.
Quick Hack – Experiment with colour-coding
Use colours to show which vacuum sealer bags should be used first. For example, anything that goes into the freezer in October is highlighted in hot pink in my inventory notebook. And to make it even more efficient, I put the same flash of pink on the label of the actual bag that’s going in the freezer. That way, I can open the freezer drawer and tell at a glance which items are from October, rather than November.
If you want to take this to the next level, you can organise your freezer drawer or baskets by colour too. So you can have a drawer of various vegetarian meals arranged by colour so that all of the older packets – let’s say they are from March 2020 and have a lemon yellow stripe on their label – sit at the front and later months – identified by red, blue, black and green stripes – are lined up behind them.
It may be obvious, but I’m going to say it anyway.
Pack your vacuum sealer bags of food in neat rows in your freezer with the labels facing up at you. The perfect scenario is a drawer full of clearly labelled meals that you can pull out and read at a glance what everything is and the date of preparation etc.
It may be tempting to lie your sealed pouches down in your freezer baskets and stack other bags on top of them, but you’ll find it irritating and a time waster when you go to find a particular meal in a few weeks’ time.
Keep your sealed packages neatly organised in boxes if you don’t have shelves in your freezer and keep the labels visible at all times. It’s easy to do, saves time and looks good too!