Save Money on Groceries {By Keeping Your Freezer Clean}

It is no secret that I am passionate about reducing waste and saving money on groceries. I even wrote the book about it. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that saving money on food (and other things) is a lot more involved than merely clipping coupons or finding the cheapest price.

In fact, I would say that a bigger impact on your grocery budget (and other parts of your budget, too, I daresay) is a little thing I like to call “Inventory Control”. Yes, I gave it a fancy little title and everything, but really, the concept is quite simple: keep track of how much food you have in your house. 

Before you assume that you have all of this under control already and go clicking off to other great world wide web destinations, let’s chat for a minute. I have a few questions for you:

  • Have you ever unearthed a package of food that’s way past its expiration date?
  • Is your freezer (pantry/fridge/cupboard) ever so full that you don’t know what’s beyond the obvious front row?
  • Have you ever gone grocery shopping without a list, only to return home and find that half of what you bought you already have, and you forgot to buy half the things you really need? (Maybe that’s just a slight exaggeration?)
  • So tell me. How often do you clean out your fridge/freezer/pantry/cupboards?
  • Can you tell me right now off the top of your head how many cuts of meat you have on hand? How many packages of frozen vegetables? How many eggs? Or pounds of beans?

If you passed my little pop quiz with flying colors, then good for you. I mean it! You are on top of your Inventory Control, and you are well on your way to grocery budget success. But if you failed any of those questions, I have a suggestion for you.

Clean out your freezer.

That is, in fact, what I did today. The organizational bug that hit me at New Year’s still has a death grip on me, but I’m enjoying it, so I don’t mind. And the process of cleaning out my freezer was so gratifying I determined that I’m going to make it a monthly habit as preparation for my regular grocery shopping trip. There were a few things tucked in the back that I had completely forgotten about, and one or two things I realized I didn’t have (that I thought I did!).

Because I cleaned out my freezer I was able to:

  • Make a large batch of chicken broth
  • Make a batch of bread pudding and probably some bread crumbs as well
  • Put navy beans on my grocery list because I found a ham bone
  • Take stock of the cuts of meat remaining
  • Make room for what I will be buying at my big monthly shop next week
  • Organize what was left neatly so I can see at a glance what is available.

All that from about twenty minutes worth of work! In my opinion, the benefits of keeping my freezer (and other food storage areas, like the pantry, fridge and cupboards) neat and organized are such that I plan to work it into my monthly shopping routine. If I do it on a regular basis, it will take me 10 minutes or less to quickly go through the items in the freezer, toss out the yucky stuff, and put to use the leftover bits that need to be made into something. This will save me money because I won’t be buying food unnecessarily, and I can use what’s in the freezer to make something new (like the bread crumbs) from something that would otherwise be trashed.

How do you keep your food inventory under control? 

Need some more help with your Food Inventory Control? Read about how I keep my pantry neat and organized without spending a dime.

  Read many more money-saving tips in my eBook, Your Grocery Budget Toolbox. Each chapter presents a new tool that will help you save money on groceries, with an emphasis on healthy, whole foods. No extreme couponing allowed! These are all common-sense strategies that almost anyone can adapt to their personal needs and family situations. Read Crafty Garden Mama’s review (and get a discount code!) for more information. If you are interested, you can find purchasing information here.


  1. I had the same bug at New Year! I finally defrosted our chest freezer & got things organized so I can find them easily. What a difference it makes in meal planning. BTW, loved your book 😀

  2. Great post. I try to keep everything organized on a regular basis. I like to go through my refrigerator and clean it out right before I do my big monthly shopping trip. Seems like I am always working on this, rotating and restocking stuff, using up this and that, but I enjoy it. I find it a great challenge. Enjoy your day!

  3. My refrigerator freezer is a mess and it needs going thru desperately, though I did this about 4 months ago, it needs done again. The biggest problem for me is that I cant open the door all the way and its a major pain to get into it. But I will be doing it this next week. Yesterday, I removed everything from my frig and its sparkling & cleaned up & out. Summer & fall was insane with all the fresh veggies thanks to my garden & CSA.

    My large full sized standing freezer in the basement, I tend to keep pretty organized by shelves. There are two right now that need some tweeking and I’ll be doing it pretty soon too. Maybe next week as well.

    The top shelf of my freezer is where I keep my regular meat & fish.. at eye level.. The second shelf also contains some meat and also food items like sausages, hot dogs, or other commercially prepared meats or foods. I store home cooked leftovers here too..and/or freezer cooking dishes. I also keep serving size & family sized containers of soups, and other dishes to grab & go if needed

    The next shelf contains veggies of all sorts, breads & miscellaneous items either not enough room for the above mentioned things.

    The bottom 2 pull out baskets contain all sorts of things.. I have many packages of bacon, loads of cheese I got for free, tamales, ice cream and other sweets, and bags of fruit.
    In the door I have lots of chocolate, all my flours & blends, meals, nuts, butter, coffee creamers and assorted other things I store in the freezer.

    My upstairs pantries I keep pretty organized & organize fairly often.. but my basement pantry is a disaster right now. I did spend a little while down there a few days ago but a much longer session is over due. Again, because of the summer bounty, I just didnt have time to focus on keeping it organized. Most of my summer was run & dash.. and what wasnt, I was fallen over in a heap recovering. 😉

    I’ll be doing this soon in addition to straightening out my basement again.. It needs a good rearranging about every 6 months or so.. Its just a part of life. 😀

  4. Oh man. This one is a doozy for me! I need ideas on how to stay organized! I’ll check out your pantry idea, but what is the best way to organize the freezer? I make notecards listing the contents and then forget to update it :(

    • Carrie, I find that any system that requires regular updating doesn’t work for me. What does work best for me is to have different “compartments” in my freezer. On the right hand side I keep all the meats, and on the left-hand side all the fruits and vegetables. The middle is where I put leftovers and baked goods. The bottom shelf is typically reserved for food that is safe for my boys (who have food allergies), but since they’ve lost most of their allergies, I’ve started putting miscellaneous things in there. Anyway, if I stick to this system, I can always tell easily how much meat, etc. I have at any given time simply by looking at the section where it’s supposed to be stored.

  5. I’m pinning this to my Freezer Cooking board! I found you via Raising Homemakers, I’d love it if you’d link up with us for Favorite Post Friday at ; )

  6. I’ve been cleaning my freezer out VERY SLOWLY, though as we use up items in the freezer, I’m also finding stuff that is way too old to be used. I pushed myself to use up some items this week in my menu plan and I’ll do it again next week.

    Thank you for sharing at Fabulously Frugal Thursdays! I pinned your post on the FFT linky board.

  7. Great post! I really need to organize the freezer and pantry, just trying to find the time. The freezer is the top of my list right now because I need to do some freezer cooking and I know if I organize the freezer I will find plenty of room for the stuff I will make, but every time I plan to do it something comes up. And unfortunately with a big chest freezer it is not a project that you can get started and come back to. If I got all the food out and then left it would be a big mess :)
    I would love it if you would share this (and anything else you have been working on) at my linky party!

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