A pantry inventory can be super helpful when you’re planning meals, planning grocery shopping trips, and trying to figure out how to save money. While all these are important, many of us are especially concerned about our budgets right now so saving money is definitely top of the list.
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If you’d prefer to watch my explanation, feel free to view it here. However, there is some information below that I don’t go in to in the video.
What is a pantry inventory & why do I need one?
Basically, a pantry inventory is simply a thorough, accurate count of the ingredients you keep in your pantry to use to make meals.
It’s helpful to have pantry inventory on hand because with it you know what ingredients and food items you already have in your home without having to go to the cupboard, pantry, or storage area and rummage through things to figure out what you’ve got.
Additionally, your pantry inventory can be a real time saver because you know exactly how much you have of certain items – and where it is (if you’ve made notes due to having more than one storage area).
How can I make my own pantry inventory?
A pantry inventory isn’t hard to conduct and you can make yours as simple or as elaborate as you like. You can use something as simple as a piece of paper or a spiral notebook, use a pre-printed inventory sheet (such as the one I have here in my store) or keep your records in digital form in a spreadsheet, word document, or some kind of app.
If you’re starting from scratch, I’d suggest that you pull out a spiral notebook start going through items. As you get to any item…write it down. And be sure to add a count of how many you have.
For example, write down the category “green beans” or “tomato sauce” and then record how many cans you have of each.
You’ll want to use a pencil for this part of the inventory. If you’ve got items in more than one item in your home, you’ll need to be able to add the quantities together – and a pencil makes this lots easier and keeps you from having a messy sheet that you can’t read!
Once you’re done you may want to consider typing it in to a word document or a spreadsheet if you prefer something neater than just a handwritten list.
If you’re not wild about the idea of going to all the work to write everything out, I do have a pantry inventory sheet for sale on my site. It’s just $2 and you’ve got a choice of three patterns to choose from.
The pantry sheet I’ve created has items grouped into “baking goods”, “spices”, “condiments”, “canned meats”, etc. The nice thing about creating your own pantry sheet is that it is truly customized to what you keep in stock. However, the downside is that you’ll likely spend more time since you literally have to write everything down instead of just counting and recording the totals.
How can a pantry inventory help me save money?
It helps you in three ways:
- You know what you have on hand, which means that…
- You know what you need to purchase, and most importantly…
- You know what you don’t need to buy.
When you’re on a limited budget – or trying to build a stockpile – you need to be able to focus those grocery dollars so that you’re purchasing what you truly need. A pantry inventory gives you a very clear picture so that you don’t waste money buying things that aren’t a priority.
Where should I keep my pantry inventory?
The short answer is to keep it wherever you’re most likely to see it and use it.
I know people who keep their pantry inventory clipped or taped inside a cupboard door. Every time they open the door it’s right there in plain sight.
Other people keep theirs on the refrigerator or freezer door.
Personally, I like to keep mine with my menu planning notebook. It’s handy to put in a sheet protector or tucked in the front pocket so that you can refer to it as you’re planning your weekly menus.
Just be sure to change the quantities as you plan meals and as you bring items home from the grocery store!
Do I have to keep my pantry inventory on paper?
Of course not. You can keep your pantry inventory in any form you like. If you’re not a paper person then you could keep a spreadsheet, or use some other software or digital app.
Depending on whether you’re phone is an Apple or android, you should find lots of inventory apps to choose from. I use android and here are just a few apps that I found:
- Stock & Inventory Simple
- Out of Milk
- Inventory & Shopping List Manager
There are scads more so you’ll want to read the reviews and figure out which is best for you should you choose to go the digital route.
How can I keep my pantry inventory up to date and accurate?
The key to having an accurate pantry inventory is to get religious about making changes to it. This means that whenever you plan your weekly menu go ahead and make the changes to your inventory sheet.
Likewise, when you bring groceries home, go ahead and make the additions then. Another possibility would be to keep your grocery receipts and sit down at regular intervals and make the additions and deletions all at once. This method may not be quite as accurate, but it should still be pretty close if you’ve kept your receipts and menu plans.
How do I teach others in my home to use the inventory?
This is actually an issue whether you go with a paper or digital inventory system.
If you go with the paper system then you’ve got two options:
- pull the inventory page out and make the changes to it as you’re putting your groceries away, or
- sit down after the groceries are tucked away and use your grocery receipt(s) to make the appropriate changes.
If you go with an app, you most likely just need to scan the barcodes of items you’ve purchased or put in your grocery cart. The thing you’ll need to remember to do is to remove items that have been used.
Whatever system you choose, having an accurate inventory of what’s in your pantry is a helpful tool to help you save money and plan meals. And at our house, saving money has always been a necessity!
Learn more to make the most of your money
We’ve always had to be frugal at our house – teacher salaries weren’t going to make us rich. Besides, my grandmother, who grew up poor and then was a young wife during the Great Depression, taught me that it’s foolish to waste money.
But recently I’ve been participating in Thriving On A Dime which is a membership program that goes into more depth on ways to stretch a dollar than even my grandmother knew!
I’ve truly been amazed at the things I’ve still had to learn. But I’m happily implementing them…because doing so saves me money.
I strongly encourage you to go take a look at her membership…unless you’re just drowning in money, that is. Odds are that you’ll learn some strategies that you didn’t know or that you’ll learn some new tips and tricks to stretch your dollar till it screams.