Meal Planning Step 2: the Inventory

If you’re following along, you have probably made great strides in thinking more intentionally about your meals, whether or not you have actually done any formal planning. I think that attention and intention are what really produce the results, especially in the beginning. I don’t think the exact method you choose makes as much difference as simply the decision to start paying more attention to what you eat and how you shop.

So now that you have your list of meals you and/or your family like, the next thing to do before planning your meals is to take an inventory of the food you have on hand.

What it is
A list of all the food in your cupboards, drawers, fridge, freezer, pantry, cold room, root cellar, etc.

How to do it
There are many printables out there with other people’s pantry lists with little squares that you can check off, but I’ve never found one that is useful for me. I just take a peek in every place I have food stored, and write it down in my meal planning/grocery list notebook. Make a list of how much of something you have, how many cans, and so on, so you know at a glance what might be good to use up.

Why do it?
I know I’m not the only one in the world who stockpiles things and never uses them up, but each week instead buys more to stockpile. Well, no more! While it makes sense to me to buy sale items in bulk that I regularly use, and take advantage of bulk discounts and price clubs, it only saves you money if you actually eat some of that stockpiled food once in awhile! Then you are actually taking advantage of that sale price 🙂

Another even bigger advantage of starting with an inventory is that you will certainly reduce food waste. I am so guilty of wasting food that I forgot to use up, so it spoils. Shopping in my own fridge/pantry/etc. first helps me use things up before they expire.

Allows you to think up creative meals when you see items listed together.

Helps you notice what items you do not actually use. If that giant bag or quinoa appears in your inventory week after week after week, never growing any smaller, you will probably have the good sense to pass up that “amazing” deal on quinoa at Costco the following week. It’s not a deal if you’re not going to eat it!

Remember: the cheapest food you can eat is food you’ve already paid for!

Ready for more? Stay tuned for step 3.

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