Although I enjoy cooking, there are nights that I either don’t have time, or just don’t feel like cooking. But when I do cook, I usually cook big! For most recipes, it's not a lot more work to make extra servings, so I’ll double or even triple the recipe, resulting in plenty of leftovers.
Once the food is ready, I enjoy my freshly cooked meal. I then freeze the leftovers in containers that hold one or two servings. If it’s a meal that improves after a night in the fridge (which allows the flavors to develop), I refrigerate it and freeze it a day or two later.
Using this system, anyone in the household can look at the dry-erase board and instantly know what meal choices there are, as well as where to find them. It’s great to have several different meal options to choose from! Just add a salad or other vegetables/sides and you’ll have a healthy and delicious home-cooked meal in a flash.
Make a list of numbers along the left side of a dry-erase board (see photo).
Add a column on the right (or two columns, for a second freezer). The column will show how many containers of that dish are in the freezer (and in which freezer). In the photo, “In” denotes the kitchen freezer, and “Out” refers to my chest freezer in the garage.
Hang your dry-erase board on the side of the fridge, or elsewhere in your kitchen.
Cook the food you want to freeze.
Write the name/description of the dish on your dry-erase board (i.e. “sweet potato enchiladas”) next to a free number (i.e. “9”).
Take out enough storage containers and lids to hold the portions you want to freeze.
Using masking tape and a Sharpie, make a set of labels, all with the same number (number “9” in this example). If you want to re-use your numbers later, fold the edge of the label over, so they’ll be easier to peel off the containers when you’re done.
Place a number label on the front AND on the lid of each container. Add numbers before filling with food to ensure that they will stick.
After food has cooled off, fill the numbered storage containers with food.
Place the full containers in the freezer (see photo).
On the dry-erase board, write the number of containers you’ve put in the freezer in the column to the right of the food’s name. For example, in the photo, I’ve added four containers of sweet potato enchiladas, labeled “9” to the garage freezer (but none to the kitchen freezer).
When you take a container of food out of the freezer to eat, decrease the number on the dry-erase board.
Once you’ve eaten the food, remove the number labels from the now empty containers and stick them on the inside of a kitchen cabinet door for reuse (see photo) or just toss them.
Once you’ve used the last container of a meal, erase that meal from the board. That number on the board and its corresponding number stickers can now be used for a new meal.
As long as you remember to adjust the numbers on the board when you store and when you eat the food, this system works perfectly. You’ll be surprised at how much time it saves. You’ll no longer spend time digging through your freezer, trying to guess whether a container has chili, spaghetti sauce, or something else. You’ll no longer search your entire freezer for the black bean burgers you thought you'd have for dinner, only to realize that they're no longer there. Give this system a try and hopefully, you’ll find it useful too.
The S, L, XL, SQ next to some of the numbers on the board are shorthand for small, large, extra-large and square containers I use. Feel free to use just numbers, or your own shorthand for whatever containers you use.
The label colors in the photo are meaningless. I just ran out of red tape and started using green!