Tag Archives: Grocery

Taking a Food Inventory

Taking a food inventory

A food inventory is ALWAYS my first step in meal planning. Before looking at Pinterest. Before looking at my Meal Categories binder. Before thinking of any meals.

“That will take forever!!!” you are probably thinking.

BUT. If you are consistently doing this method and using up your inventory, this doesn’t take long AND you are saving money by using what you already have. A stocked freezer or pantry is nice in theory, but food is money.

So, moving on to the method.

Inventory Planning Meals


1. Inventory your pantry.

Write down anything you have that is useful for a family meal.  No, not the half bag of chips or the 1/2 cup of rice.  I’m talking canned goods, 1/2 or almost full boxes of rice, enough potatoes for your whole family. These are all components that can be used to make a complete meal.

2. Inventory your refrigerator

Same rule as above. Only usable items. This also helps you see what you can quickly throw together for a snack or meal to use up before grocery shopping. 1 nectarine and 1 plum? Great, cut it up for your kids’ snack this afternoon. Use it up! Food. Is. Money.

3. Inventory your freezer

I count freezer meals I’ve prepped in this one as well.  When I freezer prep, it’s because I’ve made a double batch of something or saved some leftovers. These meals are usually used up within a month.  Sometimes I have extra meat because it was an insanely great ad price.


Look at your list of ingredients and mentally put them together to make a meal. For example, I have rice, tortilla, chicken in the freezer, and Rotel.  All I need is some sour cream and cheddar cheese and I can make enchiladas.  Another example: red sauce and spaghetti noodles. All I need is some ground beef, or we could have a meatless spaghetti. Add these ingredients to the list on the inventory sheet.

Sometimes you will be able to make a full meal without buying anything additional. The key is to look for meals that only need 1-2 ingredients. This way, you are using up what you have and your grocery list is going to be short.

Download your FREE copy of the Inventory sheet I use and check out how I shop for these ingredients and plan my remaining meals: Ad Shopping.



How I Shop The Ads

How I Shop The Ads

I have 3 main goals when I look through the ads.

  1. Find ingredients that I need for the meals I came up with from my inventory sheet.
  2. Check for staples we always have around the house that may be on sale. Things like salsa, bread, certain produce my kids love, etc.
  3. Look for great deals that can contribute to a meal. This might be meat at a great price, produce on sale that we will eat as a side, or other components like rice and tortillas.

Other tips:

I almost always “settle” for an ad item. What I mean by this is instead of eating broccoli as a side, we will have asparagus because it’s on sale cheaper than the broccoli.

Don’t buy an item just because it’s on sale. Buy it if it’s cheaper than the store brand and you actually NEED it or will USE IT for a meal.

Color code the stores as you make your list. You will be able to see which store has the best deals at a glance, then decide if it’s worth going to that store.


If there are only 2-3 items in an ad that you need, will use, and is cheaper than store brand, it’s not worth going to the store. I only go to the store if there is a significant amount of sale items.

If you’re new to ad shopping, I suggest starting a price sheet just to start seeing what good prices are. This opened my eyes a ton to seeing what is actually a great sale price. You can read about how I did that here.

Download my Ad Shopping sheet below!

_Ad Shopping

Mid-Month Meal & Grocery Planning

My goal going into part-time work was to cut our grocery bill in half. On You Need A Budget, I noticed it was the 3rd highest spending category so I changed the way I shopped for groceries.  At the beginning of September, I detailed how I only spent $151 for two weeks.  Here, I will lay out my mid-month planning and shopping.

The first thing I did before planning meals for the remainder of the month was take inventory of the ingredients we already have.  I list all the things in the freezer, pantry/cupboards, and fridge – items that can be part of a meal.   You may already do this in your head, but it’s much easier to see the meals you can make once it’s all written out.

I studied the list and checked to see what I could use together to make a meal – frozen taco meat, tortillas, taco shells, garden tomatoes – all I needed was some lettuce and sour cream for tacos.   Same thing with hamburgers – I had frozen buns, ground beef, and french fries. Hot dog pizzas – I had pizza sauce, frozen hot dog buns, and mozzarella. All I needed was the pepperonis.  Chili – I have every single ingredient and hadn’t even planned on it!

Next, make a list of ingredients needed to complete each meal, as well as items for snacks or refills (dish soap, syrup, etc.).

I had already done my price sheet so I checked that to see where the cheapest price was for each item. If it wasn’t on sale, I quickly searched online Walmart and Hyvee. I was ordering online anyway, so I just added it to my cart at whichever store was cheaper.

Last, I hit up Fresh Thyme for cheap produce and picked up my orders at Hyvee and Walmart! Grand total was $182.89.  I wanted to be around $150, but purchased meat this time. A few convenience items also brought the price up.

Meat: chicken legs, chicken breasts, turkey sausage, deli turkey, deli ham

Produce: 2 baby carrots, lettuce, avocado, canteloupe, 2 salad bags, grapes, oranges, apples, 2 prepared salads, pears, 3 bags frozen vegetables, bananas

Convenience: PBJ Uncrustables, frozen pancakes, taquitos, juice boxes, Larabars, 20-pack of snack crackers, 8 fruit cups, frozen veggie noodles

Diary, etc.: Eggs, 2 packages sliced cheese, string cheese, cheese singles, stick butter, soft butter, sour cream, 5 yogurt Flips, Go-gurt

Refills: syrup, gum, dish soap

Other: 2 loaves of bread, pita crackers, nacho cheese, 3 bags chips, raisins, chocolate chips, canned fruit, chocolate pretzels, oatmeal, almonds, cinnamon