How to Save Money By Tracking Your Kitchen Inventory
As a frugal living and personal finance blogger, I love spending and saving wisely. It’s not just about dollars and cents. I don’t like to waste utilities, household items, or really anything if I can help it. The one area in which I flop on this is food, which is why I started keeping track of the items in my kitchen.
Tell me if this has happened to you before:
- You pick up something from the back of the fridge or the bottom of the vegetable bin and wonder what it is, how long it’s been there, and if you even want to touch it.
- You have tons of spices in your cabinet. You wonder what some of them are and why you even have them. Every time you look for a certain spice, you pick up every bottle and packet because they are all in random order.
- You dig through the pantry and get excited finding that you have, for example, three cans of garbanzo beans when you didn’t know that you had any. Then you think about all the ways you’d like to cook them.
This has happened to me many times over, and I know I’m not the only on this happens to. Lots of friends and family have told me about food going bad and having to throw things away.
The United States Department of Agriculture releases a report each month on the cost of a healthy diet consumed at home. In September 2017, the cost for a family of 2 adults was $384.80 per month on the thrifty plan to $765.60 per month on the liberal plan. For a family of 4 people (two adults and two children ages 6-11), that cost varied from $642.70 on the thrifty plan to $1282.10 on the liberal plan.
I’ve read statistics that the average American throws away 25% to 50% of their food. That equals over $1000 of food waste in just one year using the USDA’s numbers. Can you imagine throwing that amount of cash into the garbage bin?
In an effort to cut back on food waste and extra food spending, I created an inventory of items in my kitchen.
Benefits of Keeping an Inventory
Save money by planning meals around what’s in the pantry. Save money by identifying when you’re running low on something and replacing it when it’s on sale instead of when you run out.
- Eat out less due to prioritizing eating what’s in the fridge or pantry. That equals savings.
- Use up all the food you already have before it expires. Less food waste is good for you and the environment.
- Save time by making meals or snacks with what’s on hand instead of running to the store at every opportunity. Save time by avoiding searching the cabinets, pantry, fridge, and freezer for things you might or might not have.
- Save space by eating what you have, avoiding storing duplicates, and clearing out expired food.
- Utilize space better by storing things out of sight in the back of the fridge or pantry and not having to worry about them going stale or forgetting about them.
The process is straightforward and hopefully pretty easy for you to use too.
1) Take out everything in your freezer, fridge, and/or pantry.
2) Write down every item and count how many you have of each of them.
3) Keep track of when you use an item and adjust the quantity accordingly.
4) Write down additional items and their quantities as you purchase them.
Depending on how big your pantry, freezer, and fridge are, the initial process can be short or time intensive. It took me about 20 minutes to do each inventory because I looked over the items and reorganized them on the shelves. Then it only took a few seconds to cross out items when I used them and mark the page again when I restocked them.
These are a few dishes I’ve made recently with some items already in my kitchen.
You can get a free kitchen inventory tracking sheet to help you get started keeping track of the food in your house. Just fill out the box below and receive it straight to your inbox. Each line of the sheet has space for the item, date obtained, expiration date, and quantity up to ten. I marked each box with a slash to note its availability and will write another slash to make an X when it’s been used.
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What do you do to reduce food waste in your home? Do you use any kind of inventory system to better use the food in your home? How has it helped you?