Don’t let good food go to waste! Keep a freezer inventory so you can keep track of what you’ve got — and enjoy it before it loses its freshness, taste, and texture.
Whether you do a freezer cooking session for the holidays or load up on freezer meals to take on vacation, know what you have so that you can use it up within a good time frame.
Ever go to the freezer thinking you’ve got a batch of marinara sauce to use for dinner, only to find, NO, you used that last month and forgot you did so? Or buy a few packs of pork chops on sale, thinking you’re being really wise only to find that you’ve got SIX packages in the freezer already?
Making freezer meals, shopping the sales, and pantry challenging it are all great things — provided that you use what you have in a reasonable way. A freezer inventory is what you need.
Why Do This
There’s no time, money, or effort saved if you end up pitching unmarked or old, unused food. Or overbuy and find yourself eating pork chops every week for two months.
Taking a food inventory is the first best step to meal planning and shopping your kitchen. Keeping good track of what’s in your freezer with a freezer inventory can help you save money, eat well, and avoid food waste.
Types of Tracking
There are a number of ways to track your freezer inventory.
In an app: There are several different apps you can buy for your device that will help you track what you have in the fridge or freezer. Many of these operate by having you scan the barcode on products. This is fine if you buy a lot of packaged foods, but not so helpful if you’re freezing hand-packaged ingredients or homemade freezer meals. Be sure to check that the app you choose allows for manual entry of custom items.
On the freezer door itself: Some people keep their freezer inventory written directly on their freezer — yep! they write on the door — in dry erase or wet erase marker. If your freezer gets a lot of traffic or if children and jokesters live in your house, this might not be the best bet.
On a dry-erase board: You can write your freezer inventory on a magnetic dry-erase board that attaches to your fridge/freezer or on a regular board that hangs on the kitchen wall.
On a paper template: I like using a paper template that I’ve laminated and stick on a clipboard. It can travel through the house with me, from the kitchen to the garage and provides an easy writing surface. I have magnetic hooks on the fridge for hanging the clipboard.
Here’s what a Freezer Inventory Sheet can look like:
Purchase the Freezer Cooking Planner for the printable template pictured here.
- Create a list of the different meals or ingredients that you have stashed away in the freezer. If your freezer is quite full, you may need to empty the freezer completely to understand exactly what you have.
- Next to the item’s name, draw a circle for however many you have on hand. If you have three portions of beef stew, draw three circles.
- As you use up the items in your inventory, cross out a circle. In this way, you’ll know at a glance how many you have left.
- Keep this freezer inventory on the front of your fridge or freezer.
As long as you cross it off each time you pull something from the freezer, you’ll have a great record of what’s left to eat. Not only will this help you tremendously with meal planning, but it will help you make good use of sales, knowing what you have and what you need.
This same process will work if you need to keep track of a pantry or fridge inventory.
There is a huge variety of foods you can freeze. You can freeze rice, sauces, soups, casseroles, beans, many cooked vegetables as well as many fruits, baked goods, and so much more! Avoid items with mayonnaise as well as fresh vegetables that you want to stay crisp, such as lettuce or cucumbers. You’ll also want to avoid freezing certain vegetables uncooked as they will change colors or texture. Check our extensive archive of freezer-friendly strategies.
There are multiple ways to track your food inventory: in an app, written on the appliance (fridge or freezer), written on a dry-erase board, or written on paper.
Food kept frozen below zero will be safe to eat indefinitely. However, its taste and texture may decrease over time. Home freezing, however, is difficult to maintain at those safest temperatures. The shelf life of frozen foods will vary based on the item and whether it’s stored in a fridge-freezer or deep freeze. The USDA offers extensive information about freezing and food safety.
Great Freezer Meals
This post was originally published on November 4, 2009. It has been updated for content and clarity.
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
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….
Love your blog!! 🙂
The Eclectic Dabbler
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?
This definitely is a great idea! Right now, I just have the Ziploc bags labeled, but that means sorting through everything.
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 🙂
That is a great idea! I am starting to pay attention more to what is in my freezer.
Rona's Home Page
That's a great organization idea!
I love the idea of having everything listed on one easily accessible sheet – would save a lot of time!
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!)
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!
Amanda from Faith, Food and Family
That is a great idea! I need to start doing that. Thanks!
Rita Kent at TesoroFino.Com
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.
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.
What a great idea!! Especially if you have a big old deep freeze!! I will definetly be trying this soon! 🙂
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!" 😀 Thanks for the visual!
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.
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. 😉
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!
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.