Without opening the door, I know exactly what I have in my upright freezer.... how many pounds of each meat type or veggie.... when I bought it..... how much it cost..... and what needs to be eaten first to keep it rotating. Here is what my freezer looks like today.
I can produce receipts for every purchase if needed for insurance purposes.
I know exactly what is given to me by food fairies when they leave it at my doorstep.
When I start putting things that I get from my garden into there I can document that too.
Here is the key to it all. This is my freezer inventory list. A combination of this list and the use of numbered bags makes it very easy to use.
The reason I came up with this system was because three times in a row I lost every bit of food in the freezer due to natural disasters which caused the power to be out for many days. Each time, I was told I could not get paid by the insurance company unless I could provide proof of my purchases and what I had in the freezer. I was also frustrated when every time I opened the freezer, to get something out, there would be some of it fall out onto the floor or my foot. Sometimes I would forget what I had and it would not get eaten.
Here's how it works:
On my inventory list I have six columns.
- Bag # - this number corresponds to the number on the plastic bags
- Date - this is the date of the purchase or the date the food went into the freezer if obtained other ways
- Item - this simply describes what is in the bag. Meat is listed by the type (beef, chicken, pork) and then by the cut.
- Pounds - this tells me whether it's enough for a recipe or not and is good for insurance purposes
- Cost - this is the original price
- Paid - this is what I actually paid for it. I find lots of bargains and sale items.
I hated stacking foods on top of each other in the freezer only to realize the package I needed was always on the bottom of the stack. I hated having to remove several items to look for something older so it could be used first. Lining everything up like books on a shelf works so much better. If I had a chest freezer, (instead of an upright) I would still line them up like books; but, the bags would be inside of some boxes with the tabs on top of the bags. The number tabs would be seen from the top instead of from the side.
The numbered bags are not for keeping the food from freezer burn, they are simply place holders. Although, an extra layer of plastic does help. The numbered bags are reused over and over again as food goes in and food is taken out. I use tabs instead of writing on the bag because the tabs are easier to see no matter how tightly packed the freezer gets.
Ok, let's say I'm ready to take something from the freezer for dinner. I look on the list in column number two. What's been in the freezer the longest? I have chicken legs that were put into the freezer in October last year. I look to see if the poundage is right for my recipe by looking at column four. It looks about right so I decide to use it. I look in column one to find the bag number. I see it's bag number one so I open the freezer and take out bag number one. The contents are removed from the numbered bag to thaw and the bag is put away to be used again. I mark through the line for this bag on the list so I know it's been used.
You can see some blank lines on this list? That's empty bags waiting to be used after my next shopping trip. I shop once a month and I update and print out a new copy after new foods are put away. After shopping I flash freeze my purchases, put them into numbered bags, and add to the list. New information will be typed in and a clean copy printed out. The list stays on the freezer door.
Ok, for those who like to menu plan, a list would be helpful too. Simply look at the inventory list to see what you have in the freezer before making your menu. What about those who only have a small refrigerator freezer? This will work for you too. Just create a shorter list. You would be surprised at how much you can fit into a small freezer when it's set on end like books.
If, heaven forbid, there is another natural disaster and we loose power for several days; I'm prepared for the insurance requirement to document my purchases. I keep all receipts from my shopping trips in envelopes by month. I do not record the receipts. I simply keep them in envelopes should the need ever arise to show the receipts to an insurance adjuster. If my inventory list shows I still have something in the freezer from say May, there should be receipts in the May envelope to match it.
I discard the whole batch of receipts from an envelope when all of the items for that month are gone from the freezer. I know which to discard from my inventory list (column two) but I keep the envelope to use again. If I needed to show a receipt for something in the freezer it's easy to see what it was and how many pounds by looking at the list. Most receipts show this information too. It's simply a matter of matching a receipt to what I have on the list.
Items from my garden or those given to me by the food fairies are documented by looking at sale papers for the week it goes in the freezer. I cut out the portion of the sale paper with the current price and put it into the envelope along with how many pounds I actually have.
You will notice that the items in the door shelves don't have numbered bags. There's no need to number those because I can see them easily. I do have them listed on the inventory sheet so I know what I have before I open the door.
The inventory list saves energy. I'm not standing there searching through packages while the cold air falls out. A quick look for the right bag number and the door can be shut. You might think keeping the list updated is time consuming but really it's not. Setting it up for the first time was the most time consuming because I had to create the bags.
Let me know if anything is still unclear. I hope more people find this system helpful and start using it too. If you would like to read an earlier post from when I made the bags go here.