Stick with me – I know inventorying your freezer sounds like an OCD thing to do. I’m not crazy!! (Well, maybe a little, but not in regard to this!) We have 4 freezers in our house and a small one in the top of the shop fridge. If I can’t keep track of what’s in there I might as well forget we have all that food. Nothing is worse than having an overflowing freezer and “nothing to eat”. So anyway, here’s how I did it.
There are a lot of helpful articles and videos out there if you google “inventorying your freezer”. There are also several printable templates available to make your job easier. I wanted a template that allowed me to set my own categories and made it easy to add to the list as we put more food in the freezer. My favorite pick was this template from organizedhome.com. Look around, if you don’t find one you love than whip up something. Heck, use a piece of notebook paper for all I care. Just do it!
More specifically: here’s how to do it. You’ll need someplace to sit all the food so you can empty the freezer out and start fresh. I used a big cooler and some laundry baskets. Get yourself a little dish of hot soapy water, a sponge, and hand towel. Pull everything out, making a mental note of the different types of things you find. You can try to pile things in general groups (steaks vs. burger) but don’t waste too much time here or some things will start thawing on you. Once the freezer is empty use your sponge to wipe the inside. Start at the top and work your way down. Dry each section with the towel as you clean to avoid frost buildup. It doesn’t have to be perfect but let’s try to get that freezer jam off the top shelf and the ring of meat juice off the bottom. Yuck-o!
As soon as you’re done cleaning start getting the food back in where it’s cold. Start with the meat – it should go at the bottom to avoid contaminating other food in the event of a power outage. I put a lot of our meat in the door, too, but where it will only thaw on to other meats. Separate different types of meat (chicken, beef, pork, fish, lamb) and then stack by cut (roasts, steaks, burger, etc.). Once the meat is back in organize the rest of the food quickly but effectively. I have fruits and veggies on one shelf, baked goods and potatoes on another, and yet another shelf of freezer meals and precooked meats.
If you have a chest freezer without shelves invest in some plastic crates or at least sort things in to paper sacks or cardboard boxes. Irregardless, once you have a general place for everything it’s time to do the actual inventory. Jot down EVERYTHING in the freezer. On that template I chose you write in each item and then put a slash through one box for each bag, loaf, whatever. I kept it simple: there is no need to count every hamburger patty.
Hamburger Patties [\] [\] [\]
I know that I package my hamburger patties in gallon Ziploc bags so when I see this on the list I’ll know there are 3 bags of patties in the freezer. When I finish one bag I add another slash to make an X (like this: [X]) and then there will be an X and two slashes so I’ll know we have 2 bags on hand. Later, when I make more patties, I’ll add more slashes, and so on. Easy peasy once you get the swing of things.
I went through this process with both my upright freezer in the basement and the side by side freezer in the kitchen. Right now both inventory lists are stuck on the front of the upstairs freezer for ease of reference. I’ve been doing this now for a few weeks and I think the list for the downstairs freezer should go on the front of that freezer instead. As it is sometimes we forget to adjust the list when we take things from downstairs.
I took things one step further, too. On the back of each list I drew a basic sketch of that freezer and jotted down what category is where. That makes it even easier to find things. One look at the sketch and we all know to look on the top shelf for broccoli and the third shelf for lemon chicken.
Like I said, we’ve been doing this system for a few weeks now and it actually works. We’re still keeping it going. The upstairs freezer has a sampling of what is downstairs and I can quickly look at the list to see what items need to be used up. No more digging through or standing there staring while I ponder what to cook. Works for me!! 🙂