January Freezer Inventory

Last Valentine’s Day, my husband and I gifted each other with a new deep freezer.  Okay, let’s be truthful.  I got a new deep freezer for Valentine’s Day/our 9th anniversary.  For about 8 years, we had a small chest freezer that could hold a few things but was hard to organize and locate food in a hurry.

So after waiting on them to go on sale for what seemed like FOREVER, we bought a BEAUTIFUL frost freeze upright freezer.  Seriously, I cannot accurately explain to you the level of excitement I had over getting this new freezer.  #adultingisweird

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I absolutely adore meal planning, freezer cooking, and planning ahead.  During football season, I am usually much more organized with my pantry and freezer stash along with having a meal plan.  My husband’s work hours are much more intense and our lives just work better if food isn’t at the top of my “things to worry about” list.  As a working mom with a spouse who works long hours, the fewer decisions I have to make at 5:00 pm, the better.

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During the off season, especially during the holidays, I usually fall off the meal prep bandwagon. Around this time every year, I have to do an inventory of what I’ve got and eat from the freezer/pantry prior to a big January shopping trip.  During the fall and early winter, I typically do a freezer inventory sheet for each month (or every several months).  With my previous planners, I used the blank pages at the end but it’s become even easier with my bullet journal.

And that’s where I find myself currently.  I have no clue what’s in my freezer and what’s for dinner next week.  It’s been months since I did a big clean out of my freezer and meal planned around what we had on hand.  It’s also been several months since I made an effort to stock my freezer with meals and precooked ingredients.

So, I ventured out into my freezing cold garage this morning and assessed this mess…

Here were a few questions I immediately asked myself when I looked inside the freezer:

1. Why in the world did I buy a Stouffer’s lasagna that big?

2. FOUR bags of hashbrowns?  Really?

Update on #2:  After reading this post, my husband informed me that the reason we have 4 bags of hashbrowns is because two were bought accidentally and have peppers and onions in them and I won’t let him throw them away even though none of us like that kind.  All of which is true. Whoops…

3. The popsicles in the door are left over from summer and literally the only ones left are the flavors no one likes.  And yet I keep them thinking my children’s taste will suddenly change.

4.  Three gallons of sliced frozen apples.  I really need to come up with a plan for that…

Anyway…I digress….back to my freezer inventory…

You might think that taking a written inventory of your freezer is ridiculous.  And it may be ridiculous in your current season of life with the routines you have in place.  Personally, I like knowing what I have in the freezer so I don’t waste food or resort to eating out when I have a perfectly good casserole hiding out in the back of my deep freeze two days before payday. 🙂  Also, my garage is cold and I don’t want to make more trips to the freezer than necessary.

There are also times where I’m using the freezer almost exclusively (i.e:  FOOTBALL SEASON!) and there’s no need to keep an inventory because I’m using it enough to keep track.  (And the garage is warmer then!)

Today my task is to inventory my deep freezer see how many meals I can plan out of what I’ve got.  Here’s what I started with:

This page is just the next empty page in my bullet journal so it’s right in the thick of my January weekly spreads and other notes and lists from this month.  I divide up my inventory around the type of food because it makes it easier to add later on.  I may do another inventory in a couple of weeks or maybe a few months.  Whatever works!

I simply write the item and draw an empty circle next to the food.  Two circles next to “mozzarella cheese” lets me know I have two bags of mozzarella cheese.  As I use them, I put an “x” in the circle.

There are some freezer foods that I don’t include on my inventory page.  Breakfast items and school lunch foods I keep in the small freezer above my refrigerator and access on a daily basis. I really only keep track of long term foods that I may not need to use as frequently

I also did a quick pantry clean out last night to make sure I was using up any food before it expired. When both were finished, I created a list of any meals that I could make completely out of what I have on hand. Then I went on to make a second list of meals I could make but may need to buy 1-2 ingredients.

The whole process took about 20-30 minutes this morning but saved me tons of stress and money over the next few weeks. Our meals for at least the next week will consist of what can come completely from our pantry and freezer stash.  (Note:  after making this meal list on the right, I actually went back and was able to add at least 4-5 new meals)

This time of year I keep very few full meals and frozen casseroles. During the winter and spring, uncooked meats and precooked ingredients such as browned ground beef and cooked shredded chicken are more useful.

I don’t know about any of you, but I am past exhausted when I get home in the afternoons.  Along with all the other things that have to get done in the evenings, it’s so nice to not have to worry about dinner.  I don’t mind cooking- I just want it to be done as simply as possible!

What are your favorite freezer recipes?  Or suggestions with what to do with 4 bags of hashbrowns and three gallons of apples?