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Last week I showed you how we organize our chest freezer, and it has been great having all of our frozen foods so easily accessible! But that little OCD part of me wasn’t quite satisfied with just having the contents of the freezer organized; I still never remembered what was in there and found that sometimes we ran out of things or I bought duplicates of things because I hadn’t seen them in the freezer the last time I checked.
So I decided we needed a freezer inventory system to make sure we were replenishing the things we used, and that we were using the things we bought instead of just letting them sit there. Today I’m going to show you how easy it is to set up your own freezer inventory system, and how easy it is to maintain!
The most important piece of any organizational system is the ability to easily maintain it. It doesn’t matter how awesome your system is or how long you spent setting it up; if it isn’t easy to keep up with it, you’ll abandon it eventually. Luckily this freezer inventory system is not only easy to set up, but super easy to maintain!
And to make it easier for you to get started, I’m sharing my complete freezer inventory template! I used Excel to create this template but you should be able to edit it to fit your grocery habits using any spreadsheet software. Get the link to download the freezer inventory template below.
Set Up A Simple Chest Freezer Inventory System
Assuming you’ve already got your freezer organized, here’s what you’ll need to set up a freezer inventory system!
- 45 minutes (time spent doing stuff)
- 0 minutes (time spent waiting around)
- 45 minutes (total project time)
- pen and scratch paper
- computer with spreadsheet software for editing and a printer with some paper in it
- freezer inventory template (you’ll need to save a copy of this file to your computer before you can edit it)
- small nail
First, before you even open up your freezer, figure out what types of foods you normally have in your freezer and break them down into categories (i.e. chicken, beef, dairy, ready to eat, etc.) You can see an example of the categories I used in the downloadable freezer inventory template above. If you’ve already organized your freezer, this part will be simple; just think of what types of foods are in each of your bins and baskets and use those as your categories. If you haven’t organized your freezer yet, now is the perfect time to do so! You can read this post for more details on how I organized our freezer, but the basic idea is to organize your food into categories and group your like items together in small bins so that you can easily find and access anything in your freezer.
Here’s an example of one page of my freezer inventory template. The categories are Chicken, Beef, and Pork, and under each category heading you can see the specific type of food, the size of the package that food is in, a blank space for marking the quantity of packages, and a larger blank space for writing notes.
Once you have your categories in mind, empty out your entire freezer and sort your foods into your categories on the ground next to your freezer. If your foods are already in bins or baskets, just pull the bins and baskets out; no need to empty each bin unless the bins need to be reorganized. This whole part will take about thirty minutes or so, so make sure you have an uninterrupted thirty minutes to do this piece; you don’t want to leave your food out on the floor too long!
Once your freezer is totally empty, go through each category of food and mark the following down on your scratch paper: the name of the food you have, the size of the package it is in, and the quantity of packages you have.
For example, one of our categories is Chicken, and in that category we normally have thighs, breasts, and drumsticks in our freezer at any given point. We shop at Costco, so when we come home with a giant package of chicken breasts, I don’t want to freeze the whole thing together. So I pull out my FoodSaver (totally love this thing, by the way!!!), put two chicken breasts into a bag, vacuum and seal it up, and repeat until the Costco package is gone. That way we can thaw out two chicken breasts at a time and leave the others frozen. When writing this down on my scratch paper, I would make a category called Chicken, and in that section of the page I would write “chicken breasts, 2 per package” and then make tally marks to indicate how many packages of chicken breasts I had in the freezer.
Repeat for all of the types of chicken you have, and then stick the chicken back in the freezer. Grab the next category of frozen food, write out the category name on your scratch paper, inventory the individual items, and stick that all back in the freezer. Keep going until all of your food has been inventoried onto your scratch paper and returned to the freezer.
Now it’s time to create your printable freezer inventory. You can start with the downloadable freezer inventory template I provided, or you can make your own! If you’re using my template, just update the spreadsheet with your category names, your food items, and the size of your packages. For example, not everyone separates their chicken breasts out to two per package; maybe you have a larger family and put four in a package, or maybe you don’t separate them out at all! Whatever size the package of food normally is when you stick it in the freezer, that’s the size you should go with.
Once you have your categories, food items, and sizes in the spreadsheet, print it out and stick the pages on a clipboard.
Using a pencil, transfer the quantities you wrote down on your scratch paper onto your printed freezer inventory, and add any notes as you see fit. For example, we had a bag of catfish nuggets in our freezer, but normally when we buy catfish it is in filets, so I wrote down that the catfish we had was nuggets, not filets.
Find somewhere near the freezer to hang up your freezer inventory. You want it to be close enough that you remember to update it as you add things to or remove things from the freezer. Our freezer is in the basement, so I just drove a small nail into the wall behind the freezer and hung my clipboard up there (remember to clip the pencil to the clipboard!)
As far as maintaining your freezer inventory goes, it’s simple! Whenever you pull something out of the freezer, erase your previous quantity and write in the new quantity. Whenever you go grocery shopping and have new things to add to the freezer, package them into the same size packages you have listed on your inventory, erase the previous quantity, stick the items in the freezer, and write in the new quantity!
Now every time you go grocery shopping, all you need to do is look at your freezer inventory list to figure out what you’re low on. No more sorting through mounds of frozen foods trying to figure out what you need, and no more forgetting that you already have a package of chicken breasts lost in the bottom of the freezer and buying more accidentally!
The best thing about this system is that it’s so easy to maintain, even my husband does it! I always put food away after grocery shopping, so I make sure to update the freezer inventory when we have new items in the freezer, but my husband does 99% of the cooking in our house, so he’s almost always the one to pull stuff out for us to eat. For most of my organizing systems, he kinda just looks at me and washes his hands of the whole thing (to this day he still leaves mail on the dining room table even though I have “a system” for where unopened mail is supposed to go!), but with this freezer inventory system he pulls down the clipboard, updates the quantities on whatever he’s taking out, then puts the clipboard back. Perfect!!!
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