Monday, February 10, 2020

Reconsidering Shopping Goals: Freezer Inventory

So, first, where is the "Frugal Friday" post for last week?  Well, a bunch of stuff happened.  We ended up buying flooring for the son's room way sooner than we had planned when we discovered his flooring was in worse shape than we had at first thought, so while we saved 50.00 by buying during a sale and using a coupon...we spent a LOT more than that on the flooring and the other things we would need for installation.  While working on the son's flooring to see if I could save it for a while I overdid it and my body had enough and my cough got way worse.  So, off to the doctors I went and I'm on antibiotics again.  Between that and just general life things, like grocery shopping, we didn't so much spend money last week as bleed it.  Nothing to be done about it, but yeah...there wasn't a lot to report on the money saving front, unfortunately.  I will, however, have a ton of stuff to report on monthly goals in the next couple of days.

Anyway, part of what we spent money on this month was because I had a kind of rethinking of how I do some of my grocery shopping, especially when it comes to meat.  

So, allow me to drag you down an interesting rabbit hole.  

It all started with me going through all of my cookbooks and things looking for ideas on what different things you could make with hamburger to use up some of my surplus I have in the freezer.  And I happened to stumble across this in my collection of vintage pamphlets and booklets.  I had bought it at one of the used stores for .25, mainly because it was from 1949 and I LOVE vintage reading materials like this.  What can I say.  I'm a home economics nerd *laugh*.  Anyway, while reading through all of my booklets on how to use up left overs and things from the same era, I decided to flip through this booklet to see if they had any recipes tucked into its pages.  I didn't find any recipes, but I DID stumble across this neat item... 

A suggested freezer inventory for a 6 cu. ft. freezer.  

I read through the list and was kind of like, "Interesting" and then went about my business.  And then later as I was taking stock of what was actually left in my freezers, I remembered the inventory and that the pamphlet had a bunch of advice on what to stock in the freezer and things.  So, intrigued now, I went back and read the booklet.  And then I read it again.  And again.  Every time I read it the advice and the method for what you should keep in the freezer and when to use it made more and more sense to me.  

I'd always kind of approached my spare freezer as a kind of food hoarding mechanism (which was against EVERYTHING the booklet suggested you use your freezer for).  Sure, I used the meat and things in it, but I also used it to hoard sale items (such as the pie crusts which were 1.25 per package right after Christmas and I stocked up a ton of them to use later) and would hold onto free things that I always ended up cooking and we'd end up choking down because they were free and we weren't going to waste food.  Now, I started to look at those items as wasting space that I could better use putting up something my family would actually want to eat willingly.  The, "put cheap meat into the freezer and use it" method was a product of my childhood and I hadn't thought much of it.  And the hoarding everything like the end of the world was coming was pounded into my head over years of dealing with the feast or famine pay schedule that my husband had at his old job.  But, I finally realized that I could rethink things a bit now that my husband's pay schedule is regular and I could still stock ahead, but I could maybe do it in a way that better suited the needs of my family.

Mind you, I probably wouldn't have even attempted to start a new freezer system if we hadn't eaten down the freezers so much over the last year (earthquake matters and lack of money DUE to said earthquake really helped to motivate me there) and the lack of good meat sales hadn't helped it along. But looking at the nearly empty fridge freezer and the second standing freezer that had a bunch of empty space in it and I thought, "You know, this whole freezer inventory thing might work.  Let's give it a try."  

So, I give you a new thing I'm trying out this year.  I'm going to try and work around a freezer inventory.  Not an inventory of things that are currently in my freezer, which is what I have done in the past, but actually making an inventory of things that we would want stocked in the freezer and working hard to make sure that we have those things in the freezer at all times.

Mind you, this is still a list in progress.  I started with the above freezer inventory they had listed, made the amounts more realistic for us, and honestly some of them I'm still trying to work out in my head (10 lbs of steak for instance...I still need to take stock of how much steak I have and how much 10 lbs would equate to *laugh*).  Of course, I also deleted things that I plain didn't want on the list (liver for instance is out for us) and tweaked this and that, but finally got a basic beginning list of things I wanted to put in the freezer.

So, with a supplemental list of things I wanted to put in the freezer in hand, I sat down and went on our local Meat Market's website and started figuring out how much things would cost to add to the freezer.  My husband and I both decided to go to a really nice big meat market in Anchorage (my husband stopped off after work one day to get my list of things I gave him) and I had him pick up a few specialty items, along with the basic items on my list, that I wanted to put in the freezer for future projects and/or just because I liked them and wanted a bit more variety to the meat we had in the freezer.  I used some birthday money combined with a home school reimbursement for some supplies I had bought earlier (and already paid off) and off my husband went :).

So, for about 100.00 we got enough meat to stock up the freezer nicely with enough room left over for some corned beef briskets that I want to add when the sales go on for St. Patrick's Day coming soon.  

Right.  Here's the list of things that I'm hoping to keep in the freezer at a minimum...

Meat, Poultry, Fish:

2 Beef Roasts (totaling about 8 lbs).  At the moment I have 2 chuck roasts. 
Steaks -- Still in progress on amounts (at the moment I have a few packages of steaks, but ideally I'd like to have enough steaks for 2 meals of decently thick cut steaks and 2 meals of thin cut steaks for things like fajitas or beef teriyaki and things). 
2 Pork Roasts (boneless pork loin or bone in pork roasts both count toward this).  Currently I have two bone in pork roasts. 
Pork Chops, 8 lbs (since I can get the big value packs of chops pretty cheap on reduced a lot). 
Lamb Shoulder Chops, 3 lbs (this was a purchase I made at the meat market and would like to keep stocked in the freezer because I really like these for a change of pace for dinner.  3 lbs netted us enough chops for three meals). 
Hamburger (6 lbs).  Currently I have about 20 lbs in the freezer since I was able to score hamburger so cheap, so I won't have to buy that for a while. 
Bacon (2 lbs).  This actually works out to be, what, about a pound a half I'm sure with product shrinkage, but I just bought a big slab of thick cut bacon on sale and that'll last us a long while. 
Sausage (breakfast or other):  3 lbs 
Chicken, cut up (4 big value packs of chicken or 16 lbs, depending which is accomplished first).  We eat chicken a lot and I can get the value packs of chicken thighs or drumsticks for 5.00 per package on 5.00 Friday about once every month, so I THINK that should be enough chicken to see us through until the next sale comes about.  I might have to tweak the amount but we'll see. 
Ham, 2 steaks.  With the husband's blood pressure we just don't eat much ham anymore and this really is a good amount for us I think. 
Fish/Shrimp:  Enough for 3 meals, at least.  I'm hoping to get more fish into the freezer as we really should be eating more of it, but we'll see how the budget stretches as fish is not cheap price-wise up here.
Hot dogs (1 big package) 
Corned Beef Brisket:  3 
Miscellaneous Meats, sometimes for specific projects (as needed). 

Strawberries (4 lbs)
Blueberries (2 lbs) For waffles, muffins and pancakes and things. 
Other fruits as I need them or put them up (like I have applesauce in the freezer from getting apples cheap earlier in the year).

Broccoli in cheese sauce (4 boxes) 
Edamame (3 bags) 
Green Beans (2 bags) 
Carrots (4 bags...I use these in stews, corned beef brisket and things instead of fresh as I've found that this leads to less waste on my part). 
Asian style vegetables (2 bags) 
Onions and Peppers mix (2 bags...for stir fries and things) 
Greens (currently I have spinach and collard greens):  2 big bags


Pies (2 baked).  I plain don't have a lot of time to do things anymore, so I'm putting things up ahead of time for the sake of my sanity. 
Cakes:  2 baked (I'm planning on just making a 2 layer cake and freezing both layers separately.  This will give us cake for two meals at least). 
Cookies/Cooky Dough:  2 dozen.  Baked or unbaked. 
Muffins:  1 dozen (at least)
Bread:  2 loaves, baked (currently in the fridge freezer...this is where I'm figuring on putting a bunch of the baked goods as they'll be more easily accessible there). 
Rolls:  2 Dozen, baked 
Waffles/Pancakes:  Enough for at least four meals.
Ice Cream:  1 Gallon (or as close as you can get anymore) 
Butter:  4 lbs (I wish I could go for more, but unless a great sale pops up, that is where the number stays) 
So, yeah, that is what I have been up to for a good portion of my spare "when the kids aren't sleeping well" time of late.  It's definitely still a work in progress, but I think I'm starting to get things dialed in where I am finally getting down what we like and will eat and what things I definitely want to keep stocked in the freezer to use on a day to day basis.

Will I still shop sales?  Oh heck yeah.  Will I stock up on things?  Sure.  But, I'm really trying hard to make sure that I'm only stocking up a realistic amount and an amount I know we will use in a decent period of time.  It's just another way I'm hoping to keep my grocery budget more tightly under control.

So, let's see if I can do this and if it actually works.  I'm going to be curious to see if this actually saves me money or if it will fail spectacularly and I'll feel really dumb for putting so much effort into it initially.

Let's find out in the coming months, shall we?

How about you?  Do you have a freezer system?  Any advice on what works for you and your family?  Please share as I'm sure I'm not the only one that looks for new ways to do things!


  1. Interesting. I do use my freezer to hoard things and I hadn't realized it until now. I am hoarding basil pesto made from my basil plants. I LOVE it and can't buy it from the store because it has sugar. There is about 15 half pint jars, some from two years ago.

    My system: I spend the summer and fall filling it up, then suddenly at Thanksgiving realize the door won't close, and spend the winter months working on getting it empty. In March or April, I clean it out, add bags of beans so it won't sit empty, then begin filling it again.

    Right now it is stuffed full of meat because meat prices have been plummeting. Due to the crop failures last year, the farmers are bringing their meat to market since they can't feed them. Rarely do I say my freezer is full of meat.


  2. For meat, I stock according to the favourite meals we are currently making. I try to keep a variety, so we don't end up eating chicken for 7 days. I have certain meats I will buy when the stock gets low (like chicken breasts). But I shop sales to add variety (like I stock hot dogs when there is a good sale in the summer, so they last into winter). I definitely stock up big time on cheese when it's on sale, and keep that in the freezer until needed. I refuse to pay $6 or more for cheese when it regularaly goes on sale for $4!

    Most of the fruits and veggies I keep in the freezer are bought during summer (when at their seasonal lowest price), then processed and frozen for winter use. The exception is corn (I just can't process enough to keep up with famiy demands), peas (not a high demand veggie for us and fresh peas are very expensive), and mixed veggies (corn, beans, carrots mix which I use for fried rice). I like to have 1 bag that is being used and a second as a back up. When I start on the back up bag, I add the item to my grocery list and buy another bag. Frozen veggies are pretty cheap most of the time and don't go on sale much here. But if they do, I will stock up if needed, and there is space. I prefer to can my homemade apple sauce, along with peaches, pineapple, pears etc. and save the freezer space for berries, rhubarb and other softer fruit that don't can up as well. Sometimes I add unique fruit, like mango, to the freezer if there is an amazing sale. I make and can up several batches of homemade jam each year, in the fall when it is cooler, often using some of the frozen berries and fall fruit. I enjoy being able to mix different fruits to create some awesome jam mixes (like strawberry pineapple mango jam!), again to add variety to our pantry.

    I keep bread, wraps, buns, English muffins, etc in the freezer and stock up when I find sales. However, I try not to get too far ahead because these can quickly become freezer burned. Every year, we make up and freeze a years supply of unbaked homemade apple pies and apple crisp from a bushel of "C-grade" apples bought during peak season. Occasionally I have other pies, like homemade peach pie as well. However, they do take up a lot of valuable space. So keeping frozen fruit and making fruit based desserts as needed can save freezer space. I like to keep a couple sweet loaves in the freezer, in case we have guests or suddenly need to take something somewhere. Otherwise, I make baked goods as needed each week. I prefer to keep cake and brownie mixes in the pantry which are very easy to whip up when time is limited, which don't take up freezer space.

    I stock up on butter and margarine only when it is on sale and keep that in my freezer. I buy what I afford and what will fit in the freezer space available. We then make it stretch until it's on sale again. I keep Cristco in my pantry, which can also be used for baking, to save the butter for when it really counts.

    I should note we have 2 upright freezers that we use. I also feed a minimum of 4 adult sized people and upwards to 7 sometimes. I use 1 freezer for meat and main meal things (like french fries/onion rings). The second is used for storing fruit/veg, baked goods and butter/margarine. I also have a food saver, which is really valuable for keeping frozen meat from getting freeer burn. Highly recommended kitchen gadget! The baggies for the machine are expensive, but worth it if it means the expensive meat stores longer!!! I hope this helps with your planning, Erica!

  3. I have never posted before - but thank you so much for your wonderful blog. This freezer post came at just the right time!! Again, thank you- I know you spend many hours on this blog and I just wanted to say you make a difference in my life!!! Blessings to you and yours... LynninRI

  4. The vintage freezer inventory was very interesting, I’m guessing those were suggestions for upper class families as some of the foods seemed expensive.
    I’d like to keep a variety in my freezer but it really depends on what I find as good deals. I do try to keep homemade spaghetti sauce, taco meat and chili in our freezer as I can make quick meals out of them,

  5. Post up how it works. I'm like's a mish mash of cheap stuff or whatever....we need to eat it down, clean out the frost and redo it too.

  6. This sounds like a practical way of stocking your freezer. I'm in the process of figuring out how to reasonably stock our freezers/pantry this year as well. Last year my eldest married, which has left us with only 4 at home. That said, my husband being a truck driver, is gone all week, so that leaves only 3 eating at home throughout the week, and 1 doesn't necessarily show up for all the meals either. That basically leaves only 2 people at home consistently.

    With our new situation, we don't need the large quantities of food stock as before. So, I started to purge our freezers and pantry, beginning in January, and I'll probably get them down close to the "bare bones" by the end of March - (I needed to use up excess and/or older produce and meat anyways.) Then at that point, I will restock with fresher on-sale items, but with a twist. For example, in the past I'd buy whole pork loins that came on sale for about $1.44/lb. and butcher these into fast fry chops; cubes for kebabs; stir fry strips; or just cut in half to get 2 roasts. Although a more cost-effective cut of meat, we found this pork tended to be tougher and we prefer more tender cuts, like pork tenderloins. Since we don't need to purchase in quantity anymore, (hence only buying low-priced meat, despite our preferences), I'm going to buy quality instead. I'll still buy the odd large pork loin and butcher as described above, but it won't be our staple pork anymore. The same for beef. I'll only buy this meat when on sale, however, as I still need to stretch our budget.

    With my pantry challenge, I'm learning what cuts of meat we prefer, and the approximate amounts I should have on hand, and I'm figuring out the new amounts of fruit and vegetables that I need to freeze and home-can, when in season, as well. It just doesn't make sense to spend on excess amounts of food just to have it get freezer burned or sit on fruit cellar shelves indefinitely. I still want to maintain a cushion of stock, but not to the larger extent as I've done in the past. It's simply not practical for us anymore. But exactly how much to have will be an on-going process that will continued to be tweaked by and by. This has been one of my new goals for this year.

    Pat J.

  7. Erika at the once posted...BE CALM YOU DON'T NEED TO STOCK UP FOR THE APOCALYPSE... I have it printed off so I can see it and it's taped to my basement door that I walk through to go to the pantry.Right now with just the 2 of us I have 3-15 cu ft chest freezers, 1-6 cu ft chest freezer and 3 refrigerators with freezers along with a full stocked 600 sq ft of pantry ...APOCALYPSE mind for sure

    I really need to do something different immediately. I can say that there is nothing in this house that is over 18 months in the food

  8. I think you have hit upon a very good topic. I like your ideas very much and I hope they work well for your family. Every family's needs will be different. I know my freezer contains basically 3 categories of food: berries, frozen unbaked apple pies and a few loaves of homemade bread and meat. Sometimes if I find a good sale, I will add a few pot pies. This seems to work well for us. That is the upright freezer located in the garage. The freezer side of the frig is a bit of everything and honestly needs some help. My husband loves to stick a bit of this and that in there and then never use it.

  9. I'm hoarding, but there's a method in my madness, I hope.
    We live in a very seasonal place, half the year nothing is growing. So during seasons I process and freeze as much as possible: rhubarbs, stawrberries (basically as much I can stuff into my chest freezer, about 10kg/summer), currants, lingonberries, berries in general, chard, new zealand spinach, wild veggies, zucchini, mushrooms - only thing I buy are strawberries.
    That's one part of my freezer stock.
    Another part has been ice cream (hb works in industrial freezer and ice cream has been a product they have been able to buy cheap) and all kinds of bread (my mother brings us leftover breads from a local supermarket; buns, loaves, rye breads... everything baker might do).
    Then I try to keep a decent supply of meats (minced meat aka hamburger meat), pork in all different forms, chicken, sausages. Some fish.
    One part of my freezer supply is "fast food", that is food I can prepare quickly when I'm tired; fish fingers, chips (french fries), broccoli (my children love broccoli), chicken nuggets, pizzas (or pizza bottoms) etc.
    And then there are extras: moose meat we get free from our friends and neighbours, leftovers divided into a portions for me to take as luch at work or to heat for children, shrimp, juices/squash (made by me or my mother), fruits, herbs, puffy pastry, cheese etc misc. stuff.
    I try to thaw both freezers every winter: so far this winter I have had no luck, because I usually do it during a deep freeze season, and this winter we have not had more than 12 hours of really cold weather at time. (because I take everything from freezers and put them outside while ice melts away inside freezers). At that point I go through every product and packet and container and make a mental notes what should be uses asap and what I need to buy more if i stumbe upon a sale. There's not so many surprices because of that, but sometimes I end up cooking very peculiar meals afterwards...
    My aim is that I can feed my family at least a a week from freezers if I can't go outside the house. And that includes our pets, therefore there's always some yellow sticker minced meat.
    During Christmastime my freezers are full to the brim, but now, two months on, there's already a big dent.

  10. Such an interesting topic and I love the insight into the 1940's mind....especially since most adults would have lived through the depression and then shortages during WWII.

    I had to think for awhile to come up with these categories of food I keep in my freezers:
    1. Homemade food to use for future fast meals: soups, spaghetti sauce, pizza dough balls, bread/quick bread, cookies, stuffed shells, stew, pesto, pulled pork, chicken stock, chicken breasts in homemade marinade, etc.
    2. Dairy items bought on stock-up sale prices: shredded mozzarella, cheddar bricks, 2% milk (I freeze directly in the cardboard container without opening and have never had one explode), butter, containers of feta, parmesan, and gorgonzola.
    3. Meat purchased on stock-up sale prices: whole roasting chickens, chix breasts, ground pork, bacon, beef roasts, Italian sausage.
    4. Fruit I froze during the summer and use on oatmeal all winter long: blueberries, peach slices, strawberries, cherries, and raspberries.
    5. homemade "convenience" ingredients: cut up green onions, lime juice frozen in ice cube tray and then transferred to plastic bag, whole ginger root, diced onions (I dice an entire bag every now and then and I LOVE how fast it makes dinner prep), diced celery, lemon zest, bacon grease, diced jalapenos, sliced bell peppers, etc.
    6. Store bought ingredients: frozen chopped spinach, peas, nuts so they don't go rancid, etc.
    7. Miscellaneous: the wrappers that sticks of butter are wrapped in - they are FAB for buttering muffin pans, ice packs for lunch boxes, hmm..that might be all!