Uggh. How do you remember what's in the refrigerator? A great tip from two experienced cruisers!

What’s In The Refrigerator?

Boat refrigerators are small, with lots of food packed in. Whether it’s a top loading or front loading, it can be hard to remember what there is, where it is, and what needs to be eaten pretty soon.

A couple days ago, I saw a Facebook post by Brittany of Windtraveler (FB page; blog) with a great idea that she’d gotten from Jody of Where the Coconuts Grow (FB page; blog). She graciously allowed me to share the idea and her photos here. I love how cruisers all share information! P.S. These are two of my favorite blogs and Facebook pages.

Uggh. How do you remember what's in the refrigerator? A great tip from two experienced cruisers!

Said Brittany:

Write what you have in there on a dry-erase board! Still perfecting my system – but now I can meal plan a bit better, save some energy not having to open the fridge and rifle through to see what we have, and will always be reminded of what we need to use soon, saving on food waste!

You could also use a chalk board — or paint an area with chalk paint. Jody says they write on a mirror that’s above their refrigerator (use window markers).

I’ve just added a white board to my Amazon list of things to order as soon as we’re back aboard. I always forget about something that’s in back and end up with something that spoils. I think this is one idea that will pay for itself very, very quickly. And it’d be every bit as good when living on land!

As a student and then in my first jobs, I used white boards a lot. When I saw Jody & Brittany’s idea, all I could do is wonder why I’d never thought of something so simple!

You can often find white boards at the dollar store, but be careful of the quality — I’ve had boards where you can never really erase the writing and after a short while nothing is legible.

It’s helpful if the board has a clip for the special marker (and be sure to get a couple of extra markers, as it’s totally unusable if you lose a marker or it dries out).

Use Command Strips to hang the board without harming the underlying surface. You really don’t need a special eraser — a bit of paper towel or clean rag works just as well to update the list.

You can find white boards in most office supply and big box stores. In addition, Amazon has a good selection of boards and accessories. I’ll admit, I often use Amazon when we’re on the boat instead of trying to find something in a local store in an unfamiliar town. My Prime membership really pays for itself.

I’m thinking that a second dry erase board would also be good for posting a meal plan!

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  • Candy Ann Williams
    Posted at 01 July 2015 Reply

    Great idea! I hate to riffle through and let all the cold air out…plus this way maybe I won’t waste any produce!! Thanks again for another helpful hint!!

  • Jane Gammons
    Posted at 01 July 2015 Reply

    This is a helpful Idea I use by my chest freezer. I should use it for the side by side also. You can also put dates telling you how long some item has been there. Like the turkey I bought on sale last Thanksgiving……

  • BJ
    Posted at 01 July 2015 Reply

    Also a bit of WD-40 will rid your white board of lingering marker residue…

  • Jim Shell
    Posted at 01 July 2015 Reply

    On Phantom we use a ball bearing memo clip, Metalla “Stainless Steel Magnetic Memo Clips”, for this same function, attached with hot glue. It hangs at eye level and doubles as a recipe holder as well as a place to hang other reminders. We have a second wooden ball bearing towel holder that uses a marble as the ball bearing that holds our dish towels. A similar wooden holder was available at Michael’s craft store as a quilt holder. We purchased ours in Port Townsend, Washington at a curio/gift shop.

  • Around 'n Circles
    Posted at 01 July 2015 Reply

    Thank you for sharing!!

  • Terri Zorn
    Posted at 01 July 2015 Reply

    Wow, that’s sure a good idea ! 🙂

  • Jim Shell
    Posted at 01 July 2015 Reply

    The towel holder mentioned earlier is a fancy version of the Dritz Quilting Quilt Hangers available at JoAnne Fabric and Craft Store for about $14,00 for a pair. They are raw wood and can be reshaped and finished to your wish. Hot glue, Command Strips or double sided tape to attach to the surface. This has been a great towel holder!

  • Brittany Meyers
    Posted at 01 July 2015 Reply

    Thanks for sharing! (And especially tanks to Jody from Where The Coconuts Grow! For making our galley life easier!) ha!

  • Lisa Kim Hublitz
    Posted at 01 July 2015 Reply

    so simple and so smart! thanks!

  • Nancy L. Beukema
    Posted at 01 July 2015 Reply

    I’ve put food inplastic storage containers and labeled them with masking tape. I like the dry eraase board idea.

  • Frances Liz Fernandez
    Posted at 01 July 2015 Reply

    This is so timely!!! Works for land based refrigerators as well. Freezer was jam packed full but I didn’t really have any meat in there… turns out I found about a dozen frozen bananas (or more) I thought I’d save to make a cake or muffins “one of these days”. Mystery meat packages…so I thought I’d keep track making an inventory list. The dry erase perfect

  • Where The Coconuts Grow
    Posted at 01 July 2015 Reply

    Thanks Carolyn! Glad you found it helpful too 🙂

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 02 July 2015 Reply

      It’s great! As soon as we get to the boat, I’m getting a dry erase!

  • Russ fink
    Posted at 02 July 2015 Reply

    We use a free app on our iPhones called Wonderlist. That saves the space of a whiteboard, and the lists automatically share with those designated. It also works even better for provisioning lists.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 02 July 2015 Reply

      I use list apps for many things but I think for me having the visual reference right by the fridge would work better. Great idea if it works for you!

  • Carolyn Brown Fuller
    Posted at 02 July 2015 Reply

    I have a dry erase/magnetic board for misc notes. Now it can serve another use! Fyi, use rubbing alcohol to clean one.

  • Marie Raney
    Posted at 17 July 2015 Reply

    I’m thinking of painting the bulkhead next to my top-loading fridge with chalkboard paint (comes in lots of colors or clear). Rather than having another thing to bang around!

  • Agua Salada
    Posted at 15 June 2016 Reply


  • Deviant Dream
    Posted at 05 August 2016 Reply

    You can also pick up some WET erase markers. I love these as they don’t wipe off when they are touched inadvertently. Just a damp towel and they clean right up.

  • Barbara Neumeyer
    Posted at 23 July 2017 Reply

    We’re not “live aboards” yet, that’s to come in the next 3 years after selling the “Farm”, literally. Having raised 7 kids and having 2 full Freezers and 2 refrigerators, I’ve learned that not only writing down what’s in each appliance but “mapping” items is very helpful. I’m thinking that with the downsizing , that this will be required more than helpful in knowing what’s what and what’s where.

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