Freezer Finesse: Living the Leftovers Lifestyle

As a Starving Grad Student(TM), I've become a big fan of freezers. Supermarkets seldom stock student-friendly sizes, and if I stored all my left-overs in the refrigerator, I'd be living off the same meals for days at a time.

With the freezer, though, I can cook and freeze a lot of food at once and microwave whatever meals I feel like having. Freezers also keep bread very well. I recently discovered how much better life is when you slice bagels _before_ you put them in the freezer.

Of course, freezers aren't foolproof. I have three other suitemates, and our freezer's always crowded. Entire meals can get overlooked if I don't regularly dig through the frosted pillars of food containers and cleverly cling-wrapped chow. The freezer keeps things safe to eat for months, but I still have to remember to finish them!

So, how can I keep better track of all these leftovers in the freezer? Hmm, maybe the D*I*Y Planner Matrix will be helpful.

The Matrix form can help me keep track of food type, use-by date, and portions left. Writing is easier than erasing, so I should use blanks to keep track of portions left and I cross them out as they're finished. If I use the first two columns for food type and target date, I have five columns for tracking portions. I can have more divisions if I want to, but most recipes in cookbooks serve from 4 - 6 people, so this is usually fine.

  1. Write down the name of the food in the first column.
  2. Write down the target month in the second column.
  3. Cross out blanks until the number of blanks is equal to the number of portions left.

In this example, I have three portions of rice and two portions of adobo in the freezer.

Tracking leftovers with D*I*Y Planner Matrix

I can quickly scan the list for things I need to eat this month, or look for the blanks in order to enjoy more variety. Whenever I take something from the freezer, I can keep track of it by filling in the rightmost blank. When I finish something (yay!), I can cross out the entire line.

That should help me live with leftovers. Hooray for refrigerator templates! Do you have any tips for someone who has just discovered the wonders of refrigerator magnets?

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Other uses for fridge magnets

Hi sachac, Welcome to the wonderful world of left-overs.

I've always just listed my fridge/pantry inventory on regular paper. I never thought to use the matrix for keeping track of this. Thanks for the great idea.

My fridge front isn't magnetic (so I use blue-tac), but the first thing I put up there was a clip to hold paper. Every week I post a menu that lists:

  • The dinner each night (and any reference for cookbooks).
  • A list of all the available breakfast foods.
  • A list of all the available leftovers/lunches.
  • A space to list the ingredients as we run out.

It's based on the knock-knock's What to eat pad. I make the menu based on what I have and from that derive my shopping list.
I also keep a pen stuck to the blue-tac and use post-its to put up special dates and reminders. The side of my fridge (which is magnetic) holds doctor's appointments, coupons, and other grab-and-go information.

Awesome idea! I'm going to

Awesome idea! I'm going to have to start keeping my grocery list on my ref door. It's one of those well,-duh! ideas, isn't it? =)


MMMM....I love my wife's adobo....

This matrix "scares" me, I

This matrix "scares" me, I can't live such a controlled life, it's too much for me. OK, I understand the the freezer necessity but I think this is all too much bother. You could better manage to measure the food you eat in a month and buy the right quantities. Refrigerator parts could easily solve this problem without the matrix. Anyway, I appreciate your structured thinking.

Living for Leftovers

Hi Gordman,
Yes - at first glance living from leftovers does sound like an exercise in excess. However, for me at least, leftovers form the cornerstone of my lunches. I try to freeze at least one portion from every meal I make with the intent of eating it in the future for lunch. I need to build a small reserve of these frozen treats because I don't cook every night. Sure I can substitute some days with wraps or sandwiches; but I love variety and leftovers allow me to have a wider variety of choices.

So you see, I actually do buy the right quantities -- because I want leftovers; either for lunch or for a great (and easy) supper. And because I want a few days between when I make the food and when I eat it for lunch - it's best if I keep it written down somewhere. That plus labeling my leftovers helps me avoid throwing out something I can't identify that's overly freezer-burned and been in my freezer far too long.

Your link doesn't really make sense to me, to which part of that site did you want to refer?

Matrix Form

I do like this idea. How do you decide what the target date? How long can you keep leftovers in the freezer? (Ex. food in divider dishes-home made TV dinners)

Web site


There's a web site I heard of recently that tells you how long stuff will keep in the fridge or the freezer or even at room temperature..

It tends to cover stuff that was bought frozen, rather than leftovers..

Also there are lots of womens magazines and cookbooks that cover this concept as well.

Real Simple

Also, if you have a chest freezer or other freezer that has to be defrosted from time to time, the food will last longer before going blah or freezerburned than the frost-free type.