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Using a Grocery Inventory

Putting together an inventory for all your food and other consumables might seem like a lot of work. But for anyone with a robust domestic life who likes to cook for friends and family, or who needs easy-to-make meal options at the ready, a grocery inventory can help you shop a lot more efficiently.

Pains in the Pantry

Right now, can you name everything in your pantry? You may feel you have a pretty good idea of its contents, but if you checked, chances are you’d probably find some discrepancies. You might have a lot more of some items than you thought and maybe none at all of something else you’re sure is always on hand. It’s awful to be halfway through an exciting new recipe and realize you’re out of turmeric. It’s almost as awful as going downstairs looking for ketchup and finding three bottles of expensive, organic, expired-two-years-ago, ketchup that need to be thrown out.

By building an inventory, you can quickly check to see whether you’re stocked up or getting low on something. Rather than shopping by intuition, you’ll be going off the facts of your pantry. Your shopping lists will practically write themselves.

Savings and Other Benefits

Never again will you waste money by buying too much or letting something go to waste! Additionally, an inventory will allow you to monitor the price fluctuations for your most common purchases over time. As you notice cyclical patterns, you can adjust the size and timing of your purchases to coincide with the greatest savings.

Sometimes a product catches your eye at the store and you get an idea on the spot: “Oh cool, cottage cheese, I’ll make this special dish with it sometime.” Your inventory will help you remember that it’s there so you make that special dish before the ingredient expires at the back of the fridge.

You may also be surprised to find the inventory will help you plan meals! Next time you wonder “what should I make,” look no further than your ingredient catagories that are piled higher than the others. Who knows, you may even decide it’s time for a dinner party.

It’s Not All About the Food

Your grocery list can be more than just food. You know what’s worse than running out of an ingredient or throwing away expired food? Running out of toilet paper. With an inventory, you’ll never be in such a compromising situation. Anything you consume frequently goes on the list. Cleaning supplies, hobby supplies, and even writable CDs or printer paper can find a place in your inventory so you always know when you’re running low.

How to Make Your Inventory

There are lots of apps, websites, and software that have preset categories—mostly for free or a very reasonable price. Some even let you use barcodes to scan in items. Apps to check out include Fridge Pal, Epicurious, Fresh Box, and Grocery hero. You may find that you want more control, like keeping track of all the purchase dates and price fluctuations. If this level of inventory intensity sounds up your alley, a DIY inventory might be the better option. You’ll have to decide whether you want to use a simple spreadsheet or database software. Database software might take a little more getting used to, but don’t be intimidated. It will be very helpful in the long run! Happy shopping!

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