If you’ve read the first two posts in my new series “The Real Guide to Managing a Kitchen” then you know that things are about to get real. Today, we’re talking about inventory.
No, I’m not going to make you clean out your pantry and fridge right away. I HATE doing that!
But if you’re like me, you have little idea what’s in your freezer, refrigerator or your pantry beyond what you can see when you open the door. Chances are there are things in there that are old. REALLY old. But I bet there’s also the ingredients for something that you bought last month that you thought you’d make and never got around to it.
This is important: You are not cleaning out right now.
The goal right now is just to know what you have on hand for the purposes of meal planning. Cleaning out is something I suggest that you do less often. And once you’ve done a weekly inventory a few times, chances are it will be easier to separate the old from the new and the task won’t be quite as terrible.
Why do inventory? Because money doesn’t grow on trees and if you already have 4 boxes of pasta it doesn’t make any sense to buy more so you can have spaghetti for dinner, does it? Also, knowing that there is chicken in the freezer goes a long way when your plans are waylaid and you need to do an at-home meal quickly.
I’ve created a great printable sheet for inventory: Weekly Inventory Sheet. It’ll help you know what’s available in your kitchen so you can plan meals around it. Get yourself a clipboard and use this sheet to go through the kitchen and jot down what you see.
My version of weekly inventory is not terribly exacting. I’ll list out “pasta” but probably not how many boxes or exactly what kind. Likewise, in the freezer I’ll list out “chicken, ground beef, steak” but I won’t provide any detail. The goal here is to physically look at everything and identify what is useful to you for menu planning purposes.
Once you’ve written down the items you have on hand, take a look at your sheet and see what’s there. Chances are, there were some surprises, but also a few things that will be helpful in the meal plan you’re getting ready to do.
The bottom portion of the page is there for meal ideas. If you have both chicken breasts and fettuccini, you could make fettuccini Alfredo. Ground beef and tomatoes is a good start on Taco Night. Feel free to ask your family what their favorite dinners are and jot them down. What sounds good? What haven’t you had in a while? Or, what are the basics that make your family happy?
By completing this step in the process, you are taking control of your kitchen more than you know.
Planning and shopping is way easier when you already know what you have at home and the endless pit that is your freezer has lost it’s ability to strike fear into your heart.
The weekly inventory is also very forgiving. If you skip it one week, you’ll be ok. Because even those of us with no long-term memory can probably recall what we bought last week, and the last inventory you did can just be edited by crossing out what you have used in the past few days.
So there you have it Step 2 in the Real Guide to Managing Your Kitchen Series. Take it for a ride and see where it gets you! Next up: Step 3: A Multi-Day Plan + Shopping. Stay tuned!
Read the other blogs in this series: