A Little Secret

I just finished reading the Ribollita Recipe on 101 Cookbooks, that was posted in early January of this year. The author, Heidi Swanson, writes about opening her freezer, looking in, and wincing at what sees; 'a frosted landscape', 'petrified bags of cheese'...you get the picture. She had no idea what was in there. I, too, winced at her discoveries because I remember having a freezer that once looked like that, and it dawned on me that perhaps I should share a little secret of my own. (For the record, Ms. Swanson goes on to write about how, from the tundra of frozen darkness, she manages to pull all the ingredients for a Ribollita, which I find impressive.)

Over the summer, I freaked out because I couldn't find anything when I opened the refrigerator door. I decided to make a change in the way I dealt with the organization of my food. No, I didn't get a bigger fridge, and I didn't pull out all the jars and organize alphabetically (ok, I may have thought about this once or twice, but really, that's going over the edge). I took myself to the store and purchased 4 dry-erase boards. I made sure to purchase boards that had magnets, so that they could live on the fridge. I took these boards home, opened my fridge, and took inventory of all the fresh veggies that were currently residing there. I then placed the dry-erase board on the refrigerator door, so that I could "see" what was available in the fridge. Then, I tackled the freezer. I pulled everything out, tossed the stuff that was really old, and wrote whatever was left in the freezer down on another dry-erase board. I made sure to label any containers, bags, or wrapped items clearly before I placed them back in the freezer, and I placed the second dry-erase board on the freezer door. I did the same thing with the freezer in my basement, and I kept one board empty for writing down grocery lists or recipe ideas.

When I say this project was cathartic, I'm not exaggerating. I immediately felt calm and collected, and...organized. I also felt like I was going to save a ton of electricity, because I'd never really need to open the fridge or freezer door to see what I had. All I'd need to do is scan the boards, decide on what I wanted, open the door and grab my choices, and then cross whatever I just selected off of the list. By the way, the crossing off is key. We learned this lesson more than once after assuming there was chicken in the freezer, going grocery shopping, and then coming home to make a chicken dish, only to remember we had used the chicken a few nights before and we'd forgotten to erase it off the board.

Now, I know you might be thinking that I've gone over the top with listing what I have in my fridge/freezer. And you're right. I've since softened my obsessive grip on the fridge inventory, but I've actually upped the freezer organization, so that everything is grouped similarly, and I've divided my downstairs lists into a "Prepared Foods" board and a "Loose Ingredients" board. Are you rolling your eyes? Go ahead...I challenge you to try and list everything you've got in your freezer right now.

And in case you're hoping for a visual, here's one of my freezer lists:

I've been using this method of freezer organization for over six months and it's really working quite well. I always know what I've got on hand and I can come up with a meal in a moment's notice. I never see David standing in front of the open freezer with a blank stare on his face, and subsequently, I am no longer called into the kitchen to help him find the so-and-so. If it's on the list, it's in there, and he knows it.

If this sounds like it might make a difference in your life, here's how to get this project done:
  • Go to the store and purchase a few small dry-erase boards.
  • Put aside an hour of your time.
  • Empty out your freezer (I like to do one shelf at a time, so that I don't have a bunch of stuff defrosting while I take the time to write everything down)
  • Discard the old stuff.
  • Label what you're keeping, and write it down on the dry-erase board, along with the quantity you have (i.e. Ground Turkey, white meat, 1lb)
  • Put the food away.
  • Place the board on your freezer.
  • Stand back, put your hands on your hips, cock your head to one side, and smile as you admire your organizational skills.
Each time you remove an item from the freezer, erase it, or change the quantity to reflect what you've used. Each time you place a new item in the freezer, add it to your list.

Now, if only I can get motivated to organize my closet this way...


  1. if there is an armageddon, I am heading for your house...

  2. This has been on my list of things to do for a while now--you may just have inspired me to finally do it! I've actually done the same thing with my spices. I have bags of this and that that were driving me crazy so I bought two clear plastic Rubbermaid containers that stack. The ends that face out each have a piece of paper with all the contents written on it--its awesome!! I can see exactly what I have and where to find it. I plan on doing the same thing with my canned goods too--my cupboard is so long and narrow that I can't see what's in there--I'm always buying stuff I already have. Yay to kitchen organisation!!

  3. what a nice way to keep track of the things inside the fridge. the only problem is, sometimes when im in a hurry, i forget to write or erase the items that i brought in or out. i need to have a secretary at home. :)



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