Knowing every ingredient you already have in your fridge, pantry shelves and beyond is difficult to keep up within your head. learn these quick techniques for master inventory so you never overbuy again
Knowing what you have saves you money
According to a study done by the united states department of agriculture (USDA) in 2018, it was found that american consumers waste about one pound of food per day or 225-290 pounds per year. Imagine taking your grocery budget, and throwing about 20% of it in the trash. Tragic right? but there’s a solution: only buy what you need for a certain period of time. This practice not only helps you reduce waste in your home, but also saves that precious 20% of grocery cash that would normally go into oblivion.
The best way to buy what you need is to know exactly what you already have. Taking regular inventory of your pantry stock, refrigerator and freezer contents helps you to understand what you need to actually shop for. Master inventory is something I learned to do in culinary school and its stuck with me throughout my career and home life. It’s easy, and what you spend in time, is made up for in grocery bill savings on the back-end. Read on to learn my 5 easy steps on how to do master inventory at home.
How to do master inventory
Create a dated list and divide it up by ingredient types, or sections of your kitchen (fridge, pantry, etc). Make your own, or download my free template here
Then go through one section at a time, sorting each ingredient (like canned goods) so you know exactly how much you actually have. I like to take this time to consolidate ingredients into 1 easy to see container (like sugar and flour). be sure to label and date the items you take out the original packaging, so you can find it with a quick glance later.
Next, write down the ingredient, and the quantity on your list. Leaving off how much you have can leave you asking questions when you actually get to the store.
Repeat these steps until you’ve gone through all the contents of your kitchen. Jot down any recipes you might want to try, to use up ingredients you already have.
You’re done! you can now take this inventory list (and your recipe ideas) to create a grocery list noting only what you actually need. No guesswork on aisle 7!
Some helpful tips
Break your inventory up over a few days if you have to. pantry on one day fridge, then freezer on another. There’s no rush!
master inventory does have to happen every week. some staples don’t deplete that quickly, so there’s no need to record them over and over. i recommend doing one master inventory once every 1-2 months, then doing a quick 30-minute inventory before your meal plan/grocery runs.
on the topic of meal planning, always take preference to what has or about to expire. this technique is called fifo (first-in-first-out). cooking up older ingredients first will help you reduce waste the fastest. download my free master inventory sheet to help you get started right away!
in these live video recordings, i go through my own master inventory and then show you how i use it to plan meals for the following week.