The next step in the meal planning process is to inventory your kitchen. What?! Yes, Inventory. In some professions, taking inventory is a major part of running a business. It helps a business know how many products are available to sell to a consumer. The same concept can be applied toward your kitchen. If you don’t know what you already have in stock / on hand, you will more than likely spend money on duplicate items that you already own. Who needs eight (8) cans of corn? Well, you do, right? LOL
To start your kitchen inventory, you will need to gather the necessary supplies; paper and pen or a pantry / kitchen inventory app. If you are using paper, please have multiple sheets of paper available as you will need a sheet of paper for each food group; meat, dairy, vegetables, fruit, bread / pasta, canned goods, etc. If you are using an app, be ready to scan products using your phone or tablet. If you choose not to use an app, you could print out a pre-made inventory list from the Internet, make your own using a spreadsheet or word processing software or you could use plain old notebook paper and pencil to keep track of each item as you go. The downside to using a pre-made list is that some items you own may not already be included on the list. In this case, you would have to manually write down the missing items on your pre-made list.
Next, you will need to decide where to start in the kitchen; refrigerator, freezer or cupboards. I prefer to start in the refrigerator because you can easily see most of the items. Using your pre-made inventory list, app or paper and pencil, account for each item you see and then list how many of each item you actually have. You can keep track by using tally marks or by writing the number beside the food item if using paper. Depending on the app you choose, the app may keep track of the quantity of food items.
Whatever you do, please don’t go through your pre- made list or app and start checking items off from off the top of your memory. This is not an accurate depiction of what you really have in your kitchen. You are solely relying on your memory to make an inventory list and you will undoubtably forget to add something to your list. You actually need to add each food item to the list one by one under the appropriate food group or heading of your choice. I know it might seem tedious at first, but in the long haul, it will save you so much time and money because you will know what food items you already have on hand and how many of each item. Keep adding to your inventory list until you have accounted for everything in your kitchen. If you come across some expired or soon-to-be expired items, either throw the item away or use that item within the next week or so. You could highlight the soon-to-be expired item(s) on your list so you don’t have to try and remember it later. Also, next to the highlighted items, write the expiration date. If the expiration date passes before you have had a chance to use the item, then you can easily find the item and throw it away.
Please be mindful that this process can be divided into multiple days or you can complete these tasks in one day. How long it actually takes depends on how much food you have in your kitchen to inventory and your own personal pace.
If you need help with meal planning for yourself or your family, please contact me by phone or email. I would be most honored to help you and/or your family.