This morning I was rooting around in my refrigerator preparing my breakfast when I realized that for the first time in a year I could see the back of it. My boyfriend and I suffer from food hoarding. We should be on a reality show about people who have good intentions. Buy food for making meals and discover that they over planned or have a poorly organized fridge and find last month’s Indian leftovers permanently congealed to the wall. We feel like we do the best we can. He always asks for the bare minimum, milk, cereal, bread, sandwich fixings. And I always plan my meals meticulously including snacks. Grocery trips are a mental exercise for the boyfriend in spatial awareness as he is always moving bottles of juice around containers of yogurt and making all the new produce fit. And yet, we always have this grand surplus of food and a larger portion than I care to admit gets thrown into the trash or the food waste bin.
But now that I can see the back of the fridge I am determined to keep it looking this good. My upbringing in the most minimalist, stark white kitchen has always made me find appliances on the counter and boxes of cereal visibly displayed a bit cringe-inducing so this new found white space is one I long to preserve.
I have also found this space in my pantry. Now pantry is a very loose term I use. We have a series of shelves and a few cupboard devoted to dry and canned goods. For the most part they are always full to bursting with extra containers of chicken broth, cans of organic pinto beans and fire roasted tomatoes. Plus our not-so-secret stash of chocolate. The shelves are covered in baking materials like whole wheat and spelt flour and 4 kind of sugar and wheat germ and wheat bran and on and on. I have not baked without a mix in over a year.
So now I am determined to keep these spaces clear and stop over-buying groceries. How do I do that?
With an inventory.
I know fellow artists are calling me out on my stage manager-ness right now, but hear me out. An inventory is essentially a list of all the things you have in your pantry. My 4 containers of vanilla extract will be accounted for and my shortage of the ever-necessary chicken broth will be available at my fingertips. An inventory is great especially if you are the main cook in your house (Boyfriend can make eggs. Oh! He did poach salmon last week so I do need to give him more credit).
The way to start an inventory is either a Word or Excel document (I prefer Excel, stage manager-ness showing again). You simply list what you have and what the quantity is. Now you have a great list of what tools are available to you. It’s even better if you put it on a file sharing program like Dropbox or Google Docs so you can access your inventory from your home or office computer (I hate to admit it, but I do a lot of my meal planning during downtime in rehearsal).
Now how does this save you money? I’m sure you’ve figured it out. With a ready list of what you have (that you are going to, of course, keep updated) you no longer run the risk of buying what you don’t need and can plan meals around your surplus of Israeli couscous.
This is the basic concept of use what you have before you get something new. Same applies with less consumable goods like TVs, bikes, and cars. You use what you have until it is unusable, i.e. eaten or worn out, before you replace it with something new. This should save you a ton of money in food no longer being thrown away and delicious meals once you get through that ten pound bag of brown rice.