Keep Track of My Food
September 4, 2012 5:15 PM   Subscribe

Is there a good way for my family to keep inventories of our refrigerator and freezers?

My family has a longstanding problem with items being hidden in the back of our refrigerator and freezers and discovering that things we thought were eaten by others are rotten piles of goo, or in the case of the freezer, rebought many times over because we didn't know we had it.

We're getting a new freezer tomorrow and I'd like to know any strategies people use to keep track of everything in their fridges, with the catch that multiple people use this fridge.

My ideal solution to this would be a mobile-friendly website where we can all add and remove things from a system of nested lists that would be shared among all of us. This would hopefully be very user-friendly, as my tech-illiterate mother does most of the shopping and would be the most resistant to inventorying of the household.

I've also considered just having a notepad fastened to the door and using a system of writing things on it and then crossing things out as they're removed.
posted by EtzHadaat to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I have never had luck doing this - I have the same problem but I'm just not consistent enough with any systems I use - but there are two things that should work:

1. Put labels with dates on everything

2. Workflowy. It's a nested list type thing, items can be deleted or marked as "done" which hides them. You can also tag things, so #dairy #untilMay2 or something is possible. Workflowy allow list sharing, person tagging (@person), it'd be easy to share an account, and it works fine on phones (though you'll need an active connection).
posted by 23 at 6:02 PM on September 4, 2012

Try what they do at the supermarket: bring the older items to the front as you add new ones, and always consume the stuff in front first.
posted by Dragonness at 8:01 PM on September 4, 2012

My mother keeps a inventory that's formatted like this:

Item, Date Added, Count of number of servings

for example if she had five bagels she added this month and three she added last month it would look like:
Bagels, 8/12, 1 2 3
9/12, 1 2 3 4 5

When she takes a Bagel out she crosses off the appropriate highest number so she has an easy to read list of whats in the freezer.

Bagels, 8/12, 1 2 3
9/12, 1 2 3 4 5

If she adds something she just writes it at the bottom of the list by hand. Once in a while she updates the list on the computer and re-prints it.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 8:11 PM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Definitely put dates, quantities, and directions (if applicable) on anything you freeze. I'm with jamaro on the point that I would never ever actually pull out my phone to update the inventory while I'm cooking. While I have thought about doing the whiteboard inventory, I doubt I would update even that.

What's been working lately for me is to simply not stock up on anything extremely perishable and go shopping more often. I haven't been throwing quite as much food away.
posted by sfkiddo at 8:40 PM on September 4, 2012

Whatever system you adopt, someone will fail to update it, and then your problem will be worse instead of better.

The only thing that works for me is to empty everything once every few months. Very much the case that YMMV, however.
posted by Segundus at 1:28 AM on September 5, 2012

I would definitely use something on the fridge as opposed to something technology-based, which I think would be pretty inconvenient in this case. We actually write directly on the fridge/freezer drawer with a dry erase marker (best to try this somewhere inconspicuous, and use a nice name-brand dry erase marker- every surface is a little different, so what works for me could mark your freezer up)

I also use magnets for things we use frequently. For example, every time boneless skinless chicken breasts are on sale, we buy a lot of chicken and freeze it into half-pound bags. So I made a bunch of magnets that each represented one small bag of chicken (using computer printouts onto card stock and some of those adhesive magnet sheets). One magnet for each bag of chicken sits on the front of the freezer. As it's pulled out, the magnet gets moved to the size of the freezer. This works great for things that are used up consistently- it's a pain to constantly erase and re-write quantities for something you'll reach for all the time, and I can glance at the freezer and know instantly how much chicken we still have.

And yes, label EVERYTHING. What it is, the date you put it in the freezer, and (if necessary) reheating/serving instructions.
posted by kro at 3:01 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

Sheets of paper and a pen. When the paper gets too full of scribbling (esp. the BAGELS line), we take the time to re-write it, and also go through the freezer to verify the totals.

Stop thinking so much. :7)
posted by wenestvedt at 1:20 PM on September 5, 2012

Way late, but in the event someone stumbles on this for future use: Freshbox for iOS. A Friend turned me on to it after I had a similar complaint, and it has been the perfect solution.
posted by TravellingCari at 8:40 AM on July 21, 2013

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