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.
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.