So…it’s time to meal plan… and I have no idea what is in my freezer or pantry! I do most of my meal planning on my lunch hour… so I can’t just go to the freezer to look and see what’s there. I started doing a very high level inventory of basic meal ideas. I do this by looking to see what “meat” or “main course” ideas that I have on hand. This is not a comprehensive inventory of everything in the freezer or pantry. It is just what I have on hand that will be the “backbone” or “basis” of a meal. (This post may contain affiliate links. This means that if you purchase a product through a link we have here in the post, we may be compensated at no cost to you.)
I do this in three stages: (1) Indoor Freezer, (2) Outdoor Freezer, and (3) Pantry.
I start by going to the “indoor freezer”. This is the one attached to the refrigerator. These can be very small or quite large depending on your refrigerator. I use my “indoor freezer” to hold precooked meats, frozen veggies, and items for our lunches. I usually have one shelf that is opened bags of chicken and other meats that are ready for meal preparation.
The first step is to empty the freezer. Here is the chaos that came out of my indoor freezer! Yikes! I sorted and organized each type of meat and then checked the expiration date on each bag of veggies, tubs of cool whip, and other boxes of frozen foods before I put them back or tossed them. I also took this time to toss some “un-identified” frozen objects (can you relate?)! LOL! I then wiped out the shelves and put everything back neatly.
I then took out my freezer/pantry inventory sheet – it fits in my Happy Planner – and wrote down each type of item such as hamburger, chicken, or veggies and how much of each that I have. I took a picture of the completed form – I will show it to you when I am finished. Here is the finished “indoor freezer” – it looks so much better!
Next, I go to the garage for the “outdoor” freezer. Some of you may not have an extra one like this. We didn’t for a long time, but now we really use it a lot for stocking up on things when they are on sale. I keep most of our stock of meat in the “outdoor” freezer. We get a half or quarter of a beef every year or two and if I see chicken on sale, I buy a couple of bags then. I have also started watching the sales at Sam’s club and am starting to stock up on some things. You will note the Marie Callender’s Pot Pies… these were a stock up item! I then write down the meal basics that I have in this freezer on my freezer/pantry inventory sheet while organizing as I go. Here is a before and after photo of the “outdoor” freezer.
The last thing I do is check the pantry for meal basics. This is usually ingredients for soups, tortillas, marinades, really just anything that can be considered a meal idea! Again, this is not a comprehensive list… I am just looking for ideas for meal planning. I add anything I see to my freezer/pantry inventory sheet. I usually do this type of freezer/pantry inventory about once a month. It really helps to use up the food in the freezer and pantry and not let it go to waste. This is a very quick process and it can be finished in less than 30 minutes. I then put my inventory sheet in my planner (see post here). Now, I am ready to begin meal planning and I can work on it anywhere I go! I am working on a monthly meal plan and thinking of trying to go to monthly grocery shopping. I would love to hear from you… what are the pros and cons of monthly grocery shopping?
Here’s the Freezer/Pantry Inventory for Meal Planning sheet that I used. We will be posting this template soon!