Freezer Week

How to Make a Freezer Inventory — And Keep It Up-to-Date at All Times

updated Aug 13, 2020
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Refrigerator, with freezer door opened. Food in freezer has been neatly organized. On the fridge door the freezer inventory checklist is hanging.
Credit: Sarah Crowley

Pop quiz: Do you know what’s actually in your freezer right now? No judgment if your answer is Kind of? Or even just a flat-out No. I recently became a freezer believer and after decades of using my freezer to store ice and ice cream and nothing else, my freezer is now an extended pantry — filled with zip-top bags and containers. Going from zero to 60 (in terms of storing stuff in my freezer) got me appreciating the old-fashioned freezer inventory. It’s really the Key (capital K!) to using the freezer to its fullest.

No matter what the current state of your freezer happens to be, it’s possible to make a super-simple freezer inventory that’s also super simple to maintain. There are other, more complicated systems out there, but this one is the absolute easiest. It is a totally basic method that doesn’t require any fancy apps or anything more than paper and a pen (although you could use a dry-erase board; if you go that route, I recommend a magnetic one that sticks to the side of your fridge.) Here’s how to do it.

Credit: Sarah Crowley
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Take everything out of your freezer:You might want to have a large cooler and/or insulated bags to hold the contents of your freezer as you work. As you pull things out, throw out anything that has gone bad or you know you won’t ever eat, and label anything that needs it.

How To Make a Freezer Inventory 

What You’ll Need

  • Large cooler (suggested)
  • Sharpie marker
  • Masking tape
  • Paper
  • Pen
  • Dish towel or microfiber cloth

Instructions

  1. Take everything out of your freezer: You might want to have a large cooler and/or insulated bags to hold the contents of your freezer as you work. As you pull things out, throw out anything that has gone bad or you know you won’t ever eat, and label anything that needs it.
  2. Set up your list: Create sections on your paper (fold it or just eyeball things!) for meat and fish, fruits and veggies, soups and chilis, prepared dishes, and other. Of course, you can use other categories if there are some that are more suitable for how you shop and cook. These are just my suggestions based on what I tend to have on hand.
  3. Write down what you have: List each item under the appropriate column. For example: Ziti, chicken thighs, strawberries, and so on.
  4. Take count: Use a circle system to track how many of each item you have. It’s up to you how you decide that. If you have one tray of ziti to feed your whole family, you may want to mark just one circle. But if you have a bag of four chicken thighs, that could be one circle (for the whole family) or four, depending on what makes sense for you. One bag of frozen strawberries could get one circle or a few, if you plan on making a few smoothies out of it.
  5. Put everything back in the freezer: Reload your freezer in an organized fashion, putting anything that needs using up quickly toward the front. 
  6. Update the circles: Hang your list in a spot where you’ll see it and remember to update it. (I recommend on your fridge!) As you pull something out of the freezer, cross off a circle. As you add things to the freezer, write them down where they belong.
  7. Redo your inventory list as needed: You may find that you run out of space on your inventory list. Or maybe you manhandle it with greasy kitchen fingers. Or maybe it gets a little too crowded with stuff you no longer have. Simply take your list, redo it on a clean piece of paper, and put it back in its place. 
Credit: Sarah Crowley

Notes

  • You may find that writing down “everything” for you includes every single thing in your freezer, from soup to nuts (literally!). You may also find it makes more sense to list meals only, or something in between. I recommend starting with a complete list and then figuring out what works best for you. 
  • If you want to make this even easier, you can just list out your groceries without worrying about categories. I just find that makes it harder to skim before heading out to the store.  
  • Finally, pay attention to what you use up quickly and what lingers in your freezer for weeks. Any patterns that emerge could influence how you meal plan and what you shop for.

Do you keep a freezer inventory? If so, how do you do it?