603 – The Great Freezer Cleanout

When it’s time to make dinner, do you fall prey to the game of “Freezer Roulette?”

Do you find yourself pulling out a container of presumably edible, yet completely unidentifiable frozen food, wondering:

  • What is that?
  • How long has it been there?
  • Do I really want to eat that?

Join Kathi and Roger Lipp for tips and tricks to organize your freezer and save yourself time, money, and hassle.

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The Accidental Homesteader: What I’ve Learned About Chickens, Compost, and Creating Home

Homesteading [hohm-sted-ing]
noun
1. an act or instance of establishing a homestead.
2. the act of loving where you live so much that you actively ignore the fact that your house is trying to kill you on a regular basis.

For Kathi Lipp and her husband, Roger, buying a house in one of the most remote parts of Northern California was never part of the plan; many of life’s biggest, most rewarding adventures rarely are.

Kathi shares the hard-won wisdom she’s gained on her homestead journey to help you accomplish more at home, gain fresh perspective, and give yourself grace in the process. Here’s a handful of the lessons Kathi shares:

  • Prepare before the need arises
  • Everything is always in process, including us
  • Your best household solution is time and patience
  • You don’t have to do everything the hard way
  • Be open to new and better ways of doing things
  • A lot of small changes make a huge difference.
    Highly practical, humorous, and inspirational, The Accidental Homesteader will encourage you to live with more peace, joy, and contentment.

Order your copy of The Accidental Homesteader: What I’ve Learned About Chickens, Compost, and Creating Home here.

Do you label your freezer contents? Share your answer in the comments.

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Meet Our Guest 

 

Roger Lipp

Roger is a productivity and quality engineer for a Fortune 50 company.

Roger helps teams reach their full productivity potential by teaching them the practical and simple steps to reach their goals. Roger and his wife, author Kathi Lipp, teach communicators how to share their message through social media and email marketing.

He and Kathi coauthored Happy Habits for Every Couple with Harvest House Publishers.

Transcript

Well, hey, friends. Welcome to Clutterfree Academy, where our goal is to help you take small, doable steps to live every day with less clutter and more life. And I am back here with the person I’m fighting clutter with every single day. He is the super man. To my Wonder Woman. I think about the bracelets and reflecting all that clutter in our lives. It’s Roger Lipp.

It’s so good to be here. I’m glad I’m fighting clutter with you.

Yes. No, I’ve said this many times on the podcast. There’s a Taylor Swift song where the lyrics are. Wait, it’s me. Hi, I’m the problem. It’s me. I know. I’m the cluttery person.

We do have different clutter.

We have different kinds of clutter. Yes.

Different kinds of clutter. Yes. I know that. Either you or your kids have been here. If they’re empty drink container. Not even empty. Yes, empty drink containers, like a soda can or a fast food drink sitting next to the sink in the kitchen. I’ve never understood it.

I’ve just come to the place where these are people I love, and these are tokens of their love. You could also throw those away, but that’s okay. Apparently, that’s not your journey. It’s fine. And then my clutter is. Yeah. Anyway, we won’t discuss that. We don’t discuss that among polite company, except with thousands of podcast listeners every single week.

But we’re talking about something today that, wow, I don’t think we’ve ever talked about it on the podcast. And I don’t know if this has been an issue for other people, but it’s definitely been an issue for me as the chief cook. And I was going to say bottle washer. You’re the chief bottle washer. I’m the chief cook in our house. And that is freezer management, because, holy cow, it is hard. And let’s just start off by admitting that we have three freezers, and we.

Also have special circumstances.

We do have special circumstances. I would say if we lived in town, we would have two freezers. We would have the everyday getting stuff in and out freezer, and then we have the more long term freezer, the deep freeze.

That is, in fact, what we had in San Jose.

Yes. And we used it. But if you don’t stay on top of it, there are lots of benefits to having not just a regular freezer, but a long term freezer. When you’re buying meat, you can store more of that. We can sometimes get snowed in here, or whatever it is. And so it’s really important for us to have extra food on hand. We sometimes have. Just last month, we had 13 people here, and that all had to be managed and feeding that many people.

It’s good to have a freezer. It’s good to have an extra freezer. Most people don’t need three. We do. It’s fine. But I want to talk about, how do you manage the freezer? How do you clean it out? What do you do? So let’s talk about that. We came up with a system of how we manage our freezer, especially after some winters where we couldn’t get out and a fire where we couldn’t get in. There are barriers to it.

And what we’ve come up with for us, that works for us, is we build up our freezer stock in the fall, and we eat it down in the winter and spring. Do you want to explain why we do that?

Yeah. In the winter and spring, we could get trapped here because of snow. So it’s good to have extra food on hand. So that’s why we build that up for the winter and the fall. I’m sorry, spring. And in the summer, we want to do the opposite because we may have to evacuate. So we’ve kind of learned that there’s a natural rhythm up here that we need to abide by. And in the summer, we want that backstock to be low, and in the winter, we want it to be high.

Yes. Because we’re not probably going to have to evacuate for a long period of time in the winter. We may sometimes things happen, but that has not been our journey so far. So recently, we did a big freezer clean out, reorg, that whole thing, and we did it in the month of January 1, because it’s really cold up here, and you can keep things cold for a while while you’re cleaning things out. And so we learned a few things while we were doing that. You were kind enough to help me unload, and I think the very first smart thing you did is you put on your gloves. What kind of gloves do you have?

Yeah, well, gloves up here are kind of a way of life. I put on a glove to carry out the garbage.

But the glove that I like to use, it’s a good general purpose glove. I like the Milwaukee glove from Home Depot. It’s the red glove. It’s grippy, has just a little bit of insulation, so it kind of keeps my hand away from stuff and allowed me to deal with the freezer without getting cold, but I could still pick things up.

That’s the important thing. And we can throw those in the washer and they drip dry and they’re just great. So I thought wearing your gloves was a really good time. It was a great time to do it because the stuff is going to stay cold. You wear your gloves, and then one of the things that you did is you used laundry baskets and totes to carry everything into the kitchen so I could kind of see it and organize it.

We actually have some of those totes permanently in the freezer.

Yeah, we’re going to talk about that.

So I just picked those up and brought those in. But then there was a sorting process that you were doing in the kitchen, and I was bringing things in from the outside freezers through the laundry basket or whatever. Carrying mechanism.

Yeah, it’s nice to have two people, if you can. One just doing, let’s just say grunt work and the other doing the sorting and organizing and stuff like that. So, yeah, grab some extra laundry baskets so that you have a way to organize stuff. And then I’ll be showing on our show notes the kind of totes that we use that we keep permanently in our deep freeze. They’re almost like a basket. How do I want to say that? Like an organizing basket or. They kind of look like they could be garbage cans. They’re not.

I got them at Target, and some of them are kind of deep. The rest of them are a little, maybe they’re six inches deep. One of them is probably a foot deep. And I keep different categories in there. So one of them I keep bread in. I don’t want them to get too heavy because I need to be able to lift them. But we organize our food in that. But before you get to organizing, the first thing I think you need to do is throw away anything you wouldn’t be excited about eating.

This is anything that is, if it’s not labeled, do you know what it is? Because if you don’t know what it is, you’re not going to cook it, most likely. Or you can do what I did last week, there was something in there. I didn’t know what it was. It did have a date on it, so I felt good about. But I thought it, and I’m like, oh, that’s a pork roast. At first I thought it was a beef roast, but it was a pork roast. And so we cooked that up. But throw away anything you wouldn’t be excited about eating.

And that’s the what and the when. The date is important too.

Yes, the date is very important because we’ll talk at the end of this podcast about how long things should be in the freezer and when it’s just gone too much. The other reason you might want to throw something away is if it has a lot of freezer burn. If something was put in there and it’s just not looking appetizing anymore, it’s okay to throw things away and give yourself a fresh start. So the next step is, while everything is out, clean the inside of your freezer. Now, I’ve done this recently, we didn’t do it with this last decluttering of the freezer, but if you just take a little bucket of hot soapy water and then you do another bucket with some clean water, you’re dipping your towels in there. You’re not throwing that all in the freezer, but then finally your last towel is just a dry towel to dry it all out. You’re going to be golden. Now I will tell you, the thing I learned last time is have your washing machine emptied out before you do all this towel maintenance, because then it’s just easy to throw it all in there, wash it and you’re ready to go.

It’s not going to make you crazy doing this. So clean that out. And then the next thing I did, if you have a taller person, that is a good reason to say you need to be the one to wash out the freezer. Just a little hint there, since I have somebody taller in my life. Make a list. The next thing I want you to do is make a list. Make a list of everything in your freezer. I did it by categories.

I did fruits and vegetables, meats and seafoods, prepared meals, grains. So grains were like rice, potatoes, breads and then liquids. I made a list of everything we have in there, which is great because then you can start to meal plan from what’s in there. And if you know it’s in there, it’s easier to get yourself to dig to the bottom so that you can.

Yeah, because you’re not digging to find out if something is there. You’re going with a purpose.

Yes, it’s so true. You’re going in there because you’re like, okay, I know that there’s a roast in there, or I know that the brown rice is in there and you can do it that way. I think another thing that that list is valuable to have is in the deep freeze, it’s easy to forget what you have and what you don’t have. So making a list of things that you have too much of and you do not need to buy again. Let me just tell you, apparently I am addicted to frozen fruit and soup dumplings.

We’re good. What?

Yes. Like little wontons that you can throw in soups or you can throw them in the deep fryer stuff like, we’re set for a while. We’re good. In fact, we should have that for dinner tonight. Roger. Yeah, we’re going to be fine, so don’t worry if there’s an emergency.

We’re good on souped up links. Yes. And then I would say put things back in categories so they’re easy to find. Kind of have a bread section. Here’s the other thing. I would say have your bread section on top of your meat section. So put the meat lower down. And there’s a couple of reasons for this.

One, it’s not as heavy. Two, you want that meat towards the bottom because you’re going to get less freezer burn, the less air you have around it. So hopefully you’re using your bread pretty quickly because that can get freezer burned pretty quickly. But you want that towards the top. You want the lighter things towards the top. Maybe the prepared meals, that kind of stuff. But have some people buy a quarter of a cow and you want to have that packed down at the bottom. But you want to know what you have that’s really important.

So make sure things are labeled, pack them in tight. And then another thing that you and I have done is you’ve just done freezer roulette where you’ve grabbed things out. It’s like, okay, that’s what we’re going to make for dinner tomorrow.

I think we did that for some podcasts, didn’t we?

Yeah, we did it for TikTok. Yeah. But you can reverse engineer. You don’t have to create a menu plan and then go to the store and buy stuff. You can see what you have on hand. And reverse engineer. Like for us, we’re going to have wanton soup and we’re going to love it. It’s going to be great.

We’re going to love it. It’s our own little guy’s grocery game right here.

Right. So put things back by the category so it’s easy to find them. And we love guys grocery game. We think that’s very fun. Use the bins from Target or however you’re going to do it to be able to organize. I’m going to tell you, Roger, for some anniversary coming up. You know what I want? I want to replace our deep freeze with a standing freezer. Have you seen just.

Well, we used to have one. Right. I was just going to talk about the different configurations of freezers. And does that change your packing strategy? Because I know for the standing freezers, you can’t pack them too dense in certain areas. Otherwise you don’t get cooling, but yet you still want things to be accessible. I was just kind of wondering if there was a different strategy.

So the standing freezer we had before was kind of like a refrigerator. It just had shelves, but it was all freezer. The one I’m kind of interested in.

It’s an eight drawer freezer.

A drawer, like a filing cabinet?

For food. All right.

Right. And Costco has them for less than $400. And the reviews on them are excellent. So I have not done this, but.

I like the concept.

Yeah, I like the concept a lot. Yeah.

I can see putting a label on the outside of the drawer. Here’s my meats, here’s my breads. Here’s the stuff that Roger wants.

All the frozen pieces are here.

I know. Here’s the thing, guys. Our deep freeze is only five years old because we bought it when we moved in here. And these things last for 20 years. I don’t know that I’m going to last for 20 years. So I may just have to bite the bullet and say, this is what I want, because we can’t have four freezers.

Well, for the sake of providing a review to our valued listeners.

We might need to get that and let you know how it goes.

The connection that Roger and I just had on that, that made me love you, like, a percentage more. I didn’t think there was room for improvement, but that may have tapped us out at 100%. Okay, so I do use the bins from target. I will show those to you so I can lift things up easily and see what’s in our deep freezer. I think it’s really important. Don’t use round containers. Use rectangular containers, because with round, what you’re doing is you’re putting space around that food and you’re going to trap air in there, and that’s going to lead to freezer burn. And I don’t want that for you.

I think that that’s really important. Science guy. You would agree with that, right?

Well, I think the freezer, it’s the amount of air inside the container. So the thing that’s tripping me is with a round container, you’re just wasting all that space as well. Yes.

I think you’re wasting space on the outside, too, right?

That’s what I’m saying, yeah.

And that’s going to make your freezer work harder because of all that air.

We don’t want that. Yes. No, we don’t want that. Okay. So the other big hint I have for this is to break your packages down into usable packaging. Here’s what I mean by that. I just recently bought one of those Costco bags of giant chicken wings because we like to have chicken wings every once in a while in the air fryer. Love that for us.

But to drag that ten pound bag out every time, it doesn’t work for me. So right now, we’re on our last individual bag of chicken wings. So when I open up that big container, what I’m going to do is I’m going to pull out my food saver and we’re going to break that down into probably eight to ten packages. Individual packages of, like, eight wings. That’s usually what we’ll have when we’re doing chicken wings. And so we’ll have those eight to ten packages of wings, but we can just pull one out at a time, stick it in the refrigerator, let it defrost and be done with it. And I find that I’m much more likely to use my freezer food if it’s already packaged in usable packages. Does that make sense, what I’m saying, Roger?

Oh, 100%. I think there’s a lot of different food that we do that with because otherwise, when you open it, you’ve exposed the whole set of stuff to air, which is deadly to freezer stuff.

Freezer food. Yeah.

Right. So having those individual containers is really important, and that’s a great tip for folks like us. We cook for two primarily, so to proportion that food according to however many people you’re going to be cooking for. I think that really is smart.

And one of the things that I did, especially when we had a large family, but I still do to this day, is if we get, like, a bag of chicken breasts, I’ll just put two into a freezer, a little container, and I’ll put marinade on it. And so while it’s defrosting, it’s marinating, and we can just pop that into a saute pan into the oven. However, we’re going to do it with some vegetable that we’ve got a mixed container of. So things that you can do this with chicken parts, like large packages of pork chops, hamburger meat, there’s a million different ways you can do this.

Let me just pile one more thing on breaking that stuff up into the size that you want. Basically, you have to thaw it first, break it up into the stuff, and then refreeze what you didn’t use. And now, oh, my gosh. You’ve lost all that moisture by doing that up front. Makes a lot of sense.

And it’s easier to package into your refrigerator. It just is. You’re not pulling out these giant things. It’s a win win. If you’re able to use reusable containers, that’s a win for the environment, too. Keep at least half of your freezer full to avoid freezer burn. That’s a really important point. And, guys, just, again, label, label, label, label.

What I’ve done now is I’ve got a list of everything that’s in our fridge. When I pull something out, I’m marking it off so I know exactly what’s in there, at least for the most part. And then in the notes of this episode, we are going to put the government food safety website so you can see how long your stuff should be in cold storage. It’s really surprising some meats can be in there for up to two years. It’s not so much a safety thing. It’s usually a taste and a texture thing. Why? You have to get rid of things when you do. But you can keep things in a freezer for a surprisingly long time.

You don’t want to keep them in there too long because they do start to break. Also, I would be remiss if we had a freezer episode where we didn’t talk about, what if you have a power failure? Because Roger and I have lived this.

I knew you were going there.

You have to. Right. And here’s what I’ll say. If you have a power failure. One. You guys, if it’s longer than 24 hours, I would rather be safe than sorry because I’ve had food poisoning. Not by my cooking, by somebody else’s, and I wanted to die. So we’re not playing here, friends.

We are not playing. But ours was a three week power failure. Yeah. So if you have a substantial power failure, my number one tip is when you get power back, plug that freezer in and freeze everything. Because it’s so much more pleasant to clean out while it’s frozen. Because, yeah.

It doesn’t smell when it’s frozen. So that it is much easier to clean.

Yeah. I will say if we had to evacuate again, I would get a large tote and throw all our freezer food in there and just take it with, like, we can figure it out on the other end because it’s a nightmare to clean that. I almost just asked Roger to take the freezer to the dump, but nope, I froze it. Got. We took all that food to the dump. We got in there with hot, soapy water. We washed everything out a couple of times and we dried it. We saved the freezer.

It’s the freezer we use to this day, but, yeah, freeze it all again. Trust me, you don’t want to smell that unfrozen. I promise you. Anything I’ve missed, Roger?

No, I think that’s great. That was good.

Okay. This is a fun episode. We got a good energy on this episode, I think because we’re hungry. It’s lunchtime, and yes, we’re going to.

Go visit the freezer, find some of those noodles.

Yes, exactly. We’re going to make it happen, friends, thank you for listening. You’ve been listening to clutter free academy. I’m Kathy Lip. Now go create the clutter free life you’ve always wanted to live.

Clutter Free Academy Team

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