How to Use a Freezer Inventory
In the weeks leading up to Jack’s birth, I had two main goals: get the house moved in as much as possible and get our freezer stocked as much as possible. For those of you who have been reading since I was pregnant with Sam, you may recall that I use a really easy, no-fuss approach to stocking our freezer. The idea of doing a mass shopping trip and spending a whole day preparing freezer meals is just really overwhelming to me. So instead, I simply duplicate (or triplicate or quadruplicate) any meal we’re already having for dinner and put additional sets in the freezer. This not only allows me to use up extra ingredients that might otherwise go to waste; but over time, I build a really solid freezer stash without a whole lot of hassle. (You can read about my freezer meal system here.) In just a month or so, I had about 20 dinners ready to go; and to help me keep track of what I had on hand and what we used up in the weeks after Jack’s birth, I relied heavily on my printable Freezer Inventory. Today I want to show you how to use a Freezer Inventory and share how it can save time and sanity when preparing and using freezer meals with your family!
Freezer Inventories aren’t anything complicated. You can easily make your own or even scratch notes onto a blank piece of paper. My version (that you can get here) has spots for the item name, serving size, and then 15 squares to mark inventory. While I have created inventories for anything and everything that go in the freezer (e.g., meat, vegetables, fruits, etc), I personally only inventory my freezer meals. As such, I use the page that has pre-printed categories for Sauces and Freezer Meals.
As you add items to your freezer, simply take an extra minute to add that food/dish/sauce as a line item on your Freezer Inventory. Then, populate whatever you are considering a serving. If you’re inventorying meat or vegetables, you might want to designate a serving as the item (e.g., breast, bag) or by the pound. When inventorying meals, I find it most helpful for the serving size to be a single meal. That way, every hash mark indicates the number of meals on hand at a given time.
Speaking of hash marks, keeping the inventory up-to-date couldn’t be easier. Simply add a “/” for any dish you have on hand. As you use up the meal/serving, turn it into an “X” by adding the “\”. When you’re preparing your meal plan, all you need to do is look for the “/” marks on your Freezer Inventory to know, immediately, what you have on hand!
Adding to the existing Freezer Inventory is also really simple! The next time you make/buy a specific item or dish, there is no need to create a new line item. Just keep adding “/” marks along the original line to indicate the added quantity you now have on hand. Once you fill the entire row, then start a new row or new sheet!
Years ago, I created my All-In-One Kitchen Binder so that I could create an entire meal plan and grocery list while seated in a single spot, instead of having to run around the house/kitchen looking for various recipes and resources. As such, I simply tuck my Freezer Inventory into the front of my binder and can reference it as I create my meal plan each week (meaning I don’t have to dig through the freezer to see what I have!).
Speaking of my meal planning routine, this is how I do it these days. I simply translate our weekly activities from our digital calendar to a paper weekly calendar. I then pick out 7 meals that work with and around those activities and add them to the meal section of the page.
The “F” on my meal plan indicates that it’s a meal from the freezer. This is helpful both as I’m assembling my shopping list (I don’t need to buy those ingredients since the meal is already prepared) and during meal prep time (so I remember to thaw it in time!).
TIP! You’ll notice that I have our freezer meal set for Sunday. Since I am home all day during the week, I’ve actually found that preparing weekly meals isn’t so hard. Rather, it’s when we’re out and about all weekend, doing chores/projects, or just trying to relax that I find it hard to get myself to make dinner. As such, the weekend is when we use up most of our freezer meals. This backward approach might be worth a try if you too find yourself struggling to prepare meals on weekends!
You’ll also notice that I have a “X2” written next to one of the meals. So that I keep my freezer rotation stocked, I try to prepare at least one (if not 2) meals a week that can be easily doubled and placed in the freezer. The “X2” reminds me to not only buy double the ingredients, but also to prepare double the recipe on that night!
TIP! How do I quickly identify recipes that freeze well as I’m building my meal plan? I simply page through my Binder and look for the “freezer-friendly” stickers and then add the recipe(s) that sound good for that week!
With all my recipes AND my freezer meals listed out and tucked into the front of my binder, populating my meal plan each week couldn’t be easier! And although we don’t have the deepest freezer in the world, having a running list of what we do have on hand helps me stay stocked and eat dishes in a timely fashion.
I will admit I can’t get myself to keep a running list of everything in our freezer, but having an inventory of our freezer meals really helps me keep track of what we have, makes meal planning much easier, AND motivates me to make more freezer meals as items get used up. If you do a lot of freezer meal prep but don’t keep an inventory, give it a try! I think you might find that it’s the missing piece to your freezer meal system!
Oh! And if you need some meal planning help? Here are some of my most popular resources!