know thy pantry
Knowing what you have on hand can greatly improve your cooking options, and eventually lead to increased creativity in the kitchen. The Grocery Inventory is a running list of all of items in our pantry. It’s a device that can start you on your way to being a great cook! Use it to help you think about what ingredients you have, and those you don’t. Stock up on staple items, and always be prepared.
How to Make Your Inventory Work for You
Start by identifying the physical space in which you’ll keep your groceries after you bring them home—no matter what shape or size, this is your pantry. If you have multiple locations, great. If you’re like L. Smith, you’ll measure them too just to get a better handle on how much you can store there.Next, create a list in a spreadsheet document. Add each item of your panty to the list, defined by a series of column headers. Have a look at the columns we’ve used and feel free to use those. Under “Item” we have: “Brand”, “Type”, “Style”, “Size”, “Unit”, and “Serving Size”. Separately, we have “Ideally” and Currently”. I’ll talk about these last two columns a bit further on. Note that Serving Size is actually the serving size per container but we shortened it to keep the column width down. Feel free to add in columns you think will be helpful to you, like the “Sell By Date” or the date you purchased the product. This might help you track which ingredients will be the freshest for the meal you’re making.
Giving the List an Inventory Structure
The thing that will differentiate your basic list of items from a useful inventory is the categories that structure it. The categories themselves are less important than the content of your stock of items. However, they can help you be more conscious of what types of foods you keep in the house. Feel free to use the best set of categories that works for you. You can model it after the categories of the food pyramid if you’d like: “Bread, Cereal, Rice & Pasta”; “Fruits”; “Vegetables”; “Meat Poultry, Fish, Dry, Beans, Eggs and Nuts”; “Milk Yogurt & Cheese”; and “Fats Oils and Sweets.” Or, you could choose categories designed to help you make active healthy choices: “Fruits”; “Vegetables”; “Grains”; “Legumes”; “Healthy Fats”; “Seasonings”; “Dairy”; “Eggs”; “Fish & Seafood”; “Lean Meats”; and “Accompaniments.”
We found that when we re-modeled the categories as types of food we wanted to keep in the house, rather than what we simply had in the house, we were much more successful in stocking the items that we needed for our meals. Run the categories down the left side of the list. If you have to, re-structure your inventory items (by copying and pasting them) to be under the appropriate category.
Dealing with Blanks
For the flavor, notice that we put a value like “original” or natural” if the item doesn’t have a particular flavoring. Don’t feel like keeping up with adding and removing each item as you have it? That’s ok! If you run out of an item over time, just keep the item in the inventory list, and put a “0” in the quantity column.
The “Ideally” Column
Nothing about this column heading is purely scientific. It will likely take a length of time to develop a sense for which quantities should go in the Ideally column. Your numbers will (and should really) be different than ours, and that’s ok. For each item ask yourself, “How much of this do I want to have on hand?”, keeping in mind you’ll want to have at least one of that item left even after you use one for a meal. When you think of what that ideal number is, put it in the Ideally column.
From there, it’s easy. Use the last column, “Currently”, to simply note how much of each item you currently have. After you’ve done the steps above to create the inventory, this is really the only column you’ll have to adjust week-to-week.
Here is a completed blank file for your use: The FTF Grocery Inventory. Enjoy!