Freezer Inventory: How To Keep Track of What You’ve Got

Making many meals ahead of time or doing a full day of freezer cooking is a great thing — provided that you use what you’ve made in a timely manner. There’s no time, money, or effort saved if you end up pitching unmarked or old, unused food.

Labeling well is one answer to this dilemma. I mark my packages with the date and name with a Sharpie pen. If it’s a dish that has special cooking instructions, I mark those on the package as well so that I don’t have to look up a recipe when it’s time to cook. This also makes it easy to give a meal away or to take a mom’s night off and let FishPapa do the cooking.

Hand in hand with good labeling comes keeping good track of what’s in your freezer. That’s where a Freezer Inventory Sheet is super handy. This is my inventory sheet from last month’s Big Cooking Day:

I simply a list of my different meals or proteins that I stashed away. Then I made a tallymark with a circle around it for each one that I was storing in the freezer. I keep this on the front of my fridge. As I pull something out of the freezer, I cross off one of my circle doodahs. At a glance, I know how many of each item I have left. You can use a different symbol or even number each circle, if you want. But, this works for me.

As long as I cross it off each time I pull something from the freezer, I’ve got a great record of what’s left to eat. This helps me tremendously with meal planning.

How do you keep track of what you have in the larder?

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Comments

  1. I like this idea. It is something I struggle with. I feel daunted by assuming I could undertake it today, but since I am targeting an empty freezer by Christmas for a much needed defrost, I will have to definitely follow this plan as I refill it.

  2. Great idea, I am very discouraged b/c my freezer is pretty full, so where to start? Also, I'll share my method- I usually take a mental inventory when things start falling out on me :) I would love to get to this point…I'll have to try baby steps!

  3. Girls, you're going to hate me for saying this….

    Go empty your freezers! I'm serious. Now that the kids are in bed, go take everything out and write down what you have. Just think – it's like grocery shopping without leaving your house! You'll probably find all sorts of treasure that you can cook up this week.

    I double dog dare ya. ;)

  4. Anonymous says:

    That is a great idea, thank you! I am going to apply that chart to my stock of pasta, cereal, oatmeal, dish soap, etc. that is threatening to take over my basement.

  5. Mother Hen says:

    Hubs and I were just looking at freezers tonite at Sam's and I thought, "I'm gonna need a clip board and a system for this!" :D Thanks for the visual!

  6. Ann Marie says:

    What a great idea!! Especially if you have a big old deep freeze!! I will definetly be trying this soon! :)

  7. I have our list posted right on the freezer – and I taped a pencil on a string to it so it would never disappear. This system is marvelous – give it a try! (And yes, you do have to empty your freezer the first time you make the check-list.) Sometimes organizing the list by shelf helps, but only if things don't migrate on you.

  8. Rita Kent at TesoroFino.Com says:

    And I thought I was organized. This is wonderful and perhaps I can have this work for me and the family too. Thanks for sharing. Please stop by and visit and browse a while. If you like what you see, click the "Follow" button and subscribe just below to get instant updates. This way we can share ideas and spark each others creative juices.

  9. Amanda from Faith, Food and Family says:

    That is a great idea! I need to start doing that. Thanks!
    God bless,
    Amanda

  10. Yes! I have used almost the exact method before when we purchased meat from a co-op. I had not thought to use it now for my freezer meals! Sometimes the solution is so obvious that it is hard to see. Thanks for some perspective!
    PS. I clicked over yesterday from Crystal's site yesterday. I had a great time reading your older posts. I'm a homeschooling mom with 4 littles so I was *very* pleased to find your site!

  11. great idea…i have a small freezer for just a couple months and I've already had to take everything out 4 times because I can't remember whats in there(or the fridge freezer!)

  12. steadymom says:

    I love the idea of having everything listed on one easily accessible sheet – would save a lot of time!

    Jamie

  13. Rona's Home Page says:

    That's a great organization idea!

  14. That is a great idea! I am starting to pay attention more to what is in my freezer.

  15. I have to do this today – I have done it many times in the past and now our 2 freezers are bursting, so I need to plan meals with what I have.

    I have a master spreadsheet that I just modify each time I do an inventory – I inventory my pantry too when I am super organized – I haven't done one in a LONG time though :)

  16. This definitely is a great idea! Right now, I just have the Ziploc bags labeled, but that means sorting through everything.

  17. The Eclectic Dabbler says:

    Do you have a large freezer? or just the fridge/freezer in the kitchen?
    I am struggling to have room in our fridge/freezer for: making baby food (in bulk); my husband's coffee (he buys 5 lbs. at a time and freezes in 1 lb. increments); meats I buy on sale–pork roast, roast beef, hamburger, chicken; frozen veggies; chicken nuggets/hot dogs for the kids; ice cream . . .
    Let alone the turkey for Thanksgiving! or making meals ahead of time . . .
    Is it possible to do the "cooking for a month [or at least a couple weeks]" without the big freezer?
    We really don't have the $$ to buy a big freezer right now, but sometimes I feel like, if my freezer were better organized, maybe I could do it. Any thoughts?

  18. Great idea!

  19. I blogged about my frezer list last year. Unfortunately, things at home have taken some turns for the worse and I'm not as organized as I once was. Hopefully it will happen again….

    http://ifonlyihadsuperpowers.blogspot.com/2008/03/freezer-list.html

    Love your blog!! :)

  20. Kitchen Stewardship says:

    I have so many things in the freezer, not just meals, that I need a whole notebook to keep track! I have a page for "fruits and vegs", "beans", "broth", and "venison", along with columns on my main wipe-off board for meals, meats, breads and staples like peas, lime juice, bacon, brown rice… I like to say I'm the freezer queen! :) Katie

  21. I did it! I just emptied my freezer and finished inventorying (is that word) my big freezer. WOW! That feels awesome to know exactly whats in there. Thanks for the nudge in the right direction

  22. I love this idea! I’ve been using a white board and I think I’ll continue to do so (especially when I start freezer cooking), but I like the tally marks!

  23. I am totally going empty my freezer and make a list like this for my fridge! We have a chest freezer so things get lost at the bottom sometimes. We also get 1/4 side of beef every year with multiple cuts of beef. I can never remember how much of each cut we have left.

    This will be a great tool!

    Thanks!

  24. I recently started using a spreadsheet on Google documents to track the inventory. I have columns for meat, vegetables, ready to eat, dessert, and misc. It works great! Obviously it is helpful in the weekly meal planning, but it is especially helpful for unplanned or l;ast minute runs to the store. My husband and I can access it from anywhere and see what we have on hand.

  25. That’s such a better way to keep track than what I was doing!!! I am definitely going to start doing it that way!!! Thank you!!!!
    Just posted on my blog what I got done….not much but it works :) Thanks again for being such a wonderful inspiration! You have no clue how much you have helped me! :)

  26. I have a spreadsheet created on the computer and then printed and taped to the top of the freezer. Each package of an item is a separate entry recorded with date, type, and amount. Items are crossed off as they are removed and written in as they are added. Every couple of months I pull off the sheet, update the computer file, and put on a fresh copy. It works great!

  27. How do you distinguish between cooked food and raw, i.e., chicken from the store, or leftover chicken? Thanks for the input.

    Ro

  28. I have struggled with this since I got a chest freezer two years ago. Nothing seemed to work, the simplicity of your idea got my attention and I went to work. Same concept. AND I ready your post about comletely emptying and cleaning your fridge. I was super inspired and did it that day with my dh’s help. He moved the shelves around to function better for us (duh, never had thought about it) and I had a hard time keeping the door shut all night when we were done. I couldn’t believe how nice it looked, and how FUNCTIONAL it is now. Thanks for all the inspiration, truly.

  29. My first chest freezer is being delivered tomorrow so I can’t speak for that, but I’ve been using a dry erase board to inventory my small freezer. I drew sections on the board to match the sections in my freezer (main shelf, door shelves), and then I store my food by type, so there’re sections for raw meats, cooked meats, veggies, meals, and desserts. I read a blogger that cut pictures out of sales flyers and attached magnets, then slid magnets back and forth between “Stocked” and “To Purchase” on the freezer door, but I’m just afraid that my three year old would have waaayy too much fun confusing mommy with that system!!!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] food away and wasting money. I’m spreadsheet happy so I keep my inventory on my computer. Life as Mom has a great approach to her inventory list that makes it easy to mark off items as you use them. [...]

  2. [...] I’m cooking and planning this week and hope to have a big cooking bash early next week. With a freezer inventory sheet, I can also know that I have a meal plan in the [...]

  3. [...] Thanks for visiting!The other day I emptied my freezer and took stock. Yes, I was a little lax in keeping up on my freezer inventory sheet this past month, so I wasn’t completely sure what all was there. Now I know what we have and [...]

  4. [...] have been terrible about keeping an inventory of what’s in our freezer. At one point it got so full that it was really hard to see to the bottom of it. But, now I see it [...]

  5. [...] meant I wanted to spend as little time as possible digging around in there. Then I remembered this freezer inventory post I read from Life as Mom, and thought to myself: That’s [...]

  6. [...] up my freezer. We’re set for meals for the month — and then some! I am not very good at keeping up with that freezer inventory, and lo and behold! There was more food in there than I thought there [...]

  7. [...] planned out this month’s meals in about five minutes. I had a freezer inventory sheet by my side as I sat at the computer with my planner open. I clicked to page 96 in Organizing Life [...]

  8. [...] decided that I would use a tip I saw over on life as mom to organize my inventory and keep track of what is being used as we go through the month. So as I [...]

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