Making (and Maintaining!) a Freezer Inventory

FI 1

I’ve got a chest freezer and love it.  But I don’t love how hard it can be to put my hands on the package of chicken thighs or the bag of frozen peaches.   I also find that I forget what’s in there and often come home from Costco with a giant bag of frozen blueberries when I’ve already got a bag in there.  I had tried my hand at making a freezer inventory two summers ago when our garden produced way too many green beans and I had hours on end to peel, slice, flash freeze, and bag peaches (August + teacher + no kiddo).  I wrote up a great spreadsheet and marked off how much of everything I had but then I never updated it.  And when I looked at the printout thinking I had a dinner’s worth of sliced steak in a neatly labeled freezer bag (which I did at one point), our beef stroganoff ended up being mushrooms and pasta with cream sauce.

Why you should have a freezer inventory

If my anecdotes haven’t convinced you to make a freezer inventory, perhaps these reasons will:

  1. Stay within your food budget: buy in bulk when items are on sale and freeze until you use them in a meal.
  2. Meal plan effectively: when you are planning a week’s worth of meals (how we roll), you know what you already have on hand.  This is really great if you used up a good portion of your monthly food budget (what we do) buying in bulk the previous week.
  3. Store with confidence: foods get eaten in a timely manner before they get freezer burned, too old to eat, etc.
  4. Avoid overbuying: you don’t purchase something you already have, especially if you need to stick to a food budget.

Making your freezer inventory

So how do you make a freezer inventory?  You could use ones that are already available (ones you can find online by googling “freezer inventory” or the ones I made which are attached here) or you could make your own.  I’ll walk you through how I made mine (time estimates after each step):

Step 1: Pull everything out of your freezer and write it down – both what you have and how much of it you have.  This probably means taking everything out for a few minutes so you can get to the bottom of the freezer.  If you realize there are things that you typically buy but you don’t have on hand right now, include them on the list as well.   You can put your food back in the freezer once you record the type and amount; the rest of the steps are all done on paper or the computer.  (15 minutes – when you’ll want your crawler to hang out in the exersaucer ;) )

If you’re also using this as an opportunity to clean your freezer, put everything in a cooler/another freezer and take a few hours to defrost it.  For us impatient folks, take the pancake flipper to the ice to hurry up the process.  While you’re at it, toss anything older than a year or that you don’t see yourself eating.  Freezer burned ground pork, anyone?

FI 2

Step 2: Organize your written inventory into types of food.  I went with fruits and veggies; main dish; breads (muffins, pitas, etc) and breakfast; meat, poultry, and fish; treats, dairy, and other. (10 minutes)

Step 3: If applicable, organize within categories.  For us, that meant listing items “ready to bake or heat” separate from “sauces” under the “Main Dish” heading. (5 minutes)

Step 4: Designate typical sizes based on how you would retrieve them from the freezer.   I chose “1 loaf” for things like banana bread since you’re not going to leave half a loaf in the freezer (unless you stored it that way, of course).  For something like pizza sauce, I chose “1 cup” because I buy a giant can of pizza sauce and separate it into vacuum seal bags in 1 cup portions (I L-O-V-E my FoodSaver – no, there’s no affiliate link and I didn’t get paid to say that).  It really just depends on how you store things in the freezer. (10 minutes)

Step 5: Mark how many of each of the serving sizes you have.  In the case of whole chickens, I’ve got 4 of those (for now). (10 minutes)

You can use the “Comments” to note what kind of product you have: i.e. raspberry and strawberry freezer jam.

Total time: 50 minutes to an organized freezer!  And since the first step is the only non-paper/part, you can spread out the rest when you have time (or tackle it all at once, of course).

FI 3 done

Utilizing (maintaining) your freezer inventory

The key for maintaining a freezer inventory is to be consistent.  For me, that means having the list on a clipboard hanging right next to the chest freezer.  Whenever I get home from the store, I mark down what I purchased before it goes in the freezer.

FI 4

I’ll use this round of print outs until I don’t have any more room to write on it.  You might want to keep it electronically or print a new one out sooner than that.  I’ve found that if I use a pencil, the OCD side of me is more willing to write on it and actually use the inventory because I can always erase an entry when amounts change and/or erase my sloppy handwriting if I need to get things in the freezer quickly.

So…grab your favorite hot drink (chai for me!), a friend or an exersaucer to watch the kiddo(s), and get going on that freezer inventory.  If you don’t want to make your own, you are welcome to the PDFs I made for myself (below).  If you discover any tips/tricks, please post them in the comments.

Happy organizing!  Here’s to a more maintained home. :)

~Rachel @ reprezent98201 for embracinghomemaking.net

Downloads

PDF: Fruits and Vegetables

PDF: Main Dish/Breads and Breakfast

PDF: Meat, Poultry, Fish

PDF: Treats, Dairy, Other

Would you like the Excel spreadsheet file?  I’d be happy to email it to you.  Just fill out the form below!  And as always, I’d love to hear how this goes for you!

About Rachel

Rachel Zupke is a stay at home mom permanently on hiatus from teaching high school science. With Christ's strength, you'll find her chasing after her newly crawling baby girl, crafting/sewing, supporting her hard-working husband with delicious frugal meals, and learning the ins and outs of making their 103 year old house a home. In her *spare* time, she coaches basketball and rowing. Rachel blogs at http://rachelzupke.com.

  • http://www.facebook.com/justlynsey Lynsey Jones

    LOVE banana nut muffins!! They are our FAVORITE! Yum!

  • http://twitter.com/2Wired2Tired 2Wired2Tired

    This looks so good! I love banana bread and have been thinking about making some but maybe I’ll make this instead. I pinned it so I can remember to give it a try.

  • http://twitter.com/marriedcoupons Dawn Lopez

    Yummy, those looks completely delicious! Thanks for the recipe!

  • http://twitter.com/hardertobreathe Beeb Ashcroft

    You want to know what’s funny? Just last night I was thinking, “I should look up a recipe for banana muffins.” You have excellent timing my dear! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/trendymom.reviews Daisy Tremorev

    This recipe is awesome. I had some bananas to use up and this made a dent. I made a double-batch and frozen some! I’ll make this one again!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Stefani-Tolson/1098908760 Stefani Tolson

    I love banana nut anything. Your muffins look yummy. I just pinned them on Pinterest!

  • http://twitter.com/blueviolet Liz

    That looks incredibly delish!!!!

  • kSquaredGlamour

    mmm banana nut muffins and bread are my weakness!

  • Dawn Kropp

    Umm… YUM!! Looks delish, Ash!

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  • Pam W

    I so need to do this! I can never find anything in my chest freezer.

    • Rachel

      Isn’t it frustrating? Happy freezing! And then finding… ;)

  • suelee1998

    thanks for the great tips, I am sure this will help me with my freezer.

    • Rachel

      I hope so!

  • brett

    great tips- i need this for my freezer!!

    • Rachel

      If you come up with an improvement, please let me know! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/trendymom.reviews Daisy Tremorev

    I love freezing stuff. It’s so nice to have good food in the freezer, especially for busy nights.

    • Rachel

      Amen!

  • http://www.amomstake.com A Mom’s Take

    Our freezer is packed to the brim so I always wonder what is at the bottom, lol! Great info!!

    • Rachel

      One of my friends even packs her stuff in those shoe-box-size plastic bins you can get for $1 at places like Target and labels the lids…

  • http://www.notquitesusie.com/ Shell Feis

    I really need to work on a freezer inventory- I rarely use anything in it because I don’t remember what’s there!

    • AshleyWalkup

      Oh, me too!!

  • Angela

    Great tips! It’s always important to clearly label and date things when stocking up.

    • Rachel

      Oh how I love my Sharpies. :)

  • Liz @ A Nut in a Nutshell

    Why didn’t I ever think to do this? I am constantly forgetting what I have in my freezer and then stuff goes bad. This is awesome!

    • Rachel

      Totally…don’t want $$ to get thrown out!

  • http://www.contest-corner.com Beeb

    Very comprehensive – I love this! I don’t have a standalone freezer, but I have a pretty spacious freezer portion in my fridge. I try to avoid packing the freezer too much because we’ve been known to have really bad winter storms and long power outages in my area – there hasn’t been a long power outage for several years, but I know lots of people who lost $500 or more in meat when the power was out for 4-7 days, so I think we’re all still traumatized from that, LOL!

    • Rachel

      4-7 days? That would traumatize me too! While we don’t lose power around here as much, I am paranoid about the freezer getting unplugged (which has happened when it was out in the garage) so I’ve gotten in the habit of canning stuff when I can rather than always freezing. At least when I have things that are can-able. If you want tips on that, I can peaches every summer and wrote about them here: http://reprezent98201.wordpress.com/eat/canning-peaches/

      • http://www.contest-corner.com Beeb

        Canning is a great idea – I’ll bookmark that post for later! Yeah, we had hurricane force winds here in 2007 – I lost power for about 4 1/2 days and some people in the area lost it for up to 2 weeks. Luckily I was able to take all the food out of my freezer and cook it on my grandma’s grill to share with family and friend, so it didn’t go to waste!

  • ebmommy

    What a great system! I soooo want to get a freezer chest but sadly have no place in my home :(

    • http://reprezent98201.wordpress.com Rachel

      One of my college friends bought one of the slim ones and used it as a console table. She had a cute runner on the top and just moved it when she need to get into it! You definitely have room…you just need to make it. ;)