How to keep track of your pantry inventory! An easy way to create a pantry inventory, whether you prefer printable templates or a digital app.
We’ve all come across those dusty cans in the back of the pantry, looking forlorn and long expired.
Then there’s a flash of guilt at the idea of money wasted…
…and the thought that some hungry person could’ve really used that food.
It’s all too easy to forget those items in the back, and then re-buy things we already have.
So, what’s the remedy?
A simple pantry inventory!
A pantry inventory will help you:
- See which foods you actually eat regularly
- Learn the foods you buy and intend to eat…but don’t
- Get a count of what you currently have on hand (that you can make meals from)
- Save you the trouble of running back out to the store for things you thought you had, but didn’t
- Notice the items you’re running low on, so you can add them to your shopping list
- Save TIME by allowing you to always know what food and supplies you have in stock
For ease, let’s consider ‘a pantry’ to be anywhere that you regularly keep food stocked.
That could be a shelf, cupboard, storage cabinet, or designated pantry in your home.
A Pinterest or Instagram-worthy pantry full of matching Container Store bins is not required!
(And you can use this same process to do a fridge or freezer inventory, too.)
How to create a pantry inventory
Step 1: Take everything out
If you’re new to taking food inventory, it’s best to start with a clean, organized pantry.
Once you’ve taken everything out, wipe down the shelves.
Step 2: Sort and organize
Make 3 piles of food:
Try to remove guilt from the equation.
Yes, you spent money on those items. But if you haven’t eaten them in 6-12 months, you likely won’t.
While you’re at it, toss any items that are stale, rancid, or almost empty.
If you’re stuck on whether or not to get rid of something, try to think of a specific meal you’d actually make with that item.
If you can’t think of any, it should probably go.
Step 3: Put food into categories
Group like items together, so that you can more easily see what you have.
It also makes taking inventory much quicker going forward.
- Baking supplies
- Pasta and grains
- Canned goods
- Dry mixes
- Side dishes
If you stock a lot of canned goods, break down the category further into veggies and fruits, soup and broth, etc.
Step 4: Write the inventory
Before putting everything back, it’s time to take the actual inventory!
To take the inventory, you can use either:
- Printable fridge, freezer, and pantry inventory template sheets (included in our Ultimate Meal Planning Bundle!)
- Our digital grocery inventory and meal planning spreadsheet
- A notebook you already have on hand
If you’re not using one of our templates, just be sure to at least make note of the item, how many you have, and how many you need to buy.
Pro-tip: Highlight, or put a star next to, the items that need to be used soon.
Step 5: Put food back in an organized way
This should be easy, since you’ve already separated everything into categories.
Designate areas for each of the categories. You’ll know right where to look when you need to grab something.
If you want to make your pantry pretty, incorporate storage bins and labels.
Clear storage containers help you see what’s inside, and help keep bugs out of your grains, flours, cereal, and other dry goods.
To save space, take things like granola bars, oatmeal packets, and individual-sized snack bags out of their original boxes, and place them in a bin.
Pro-tip: Arrange items by expiration date, with the nearest expiring dates in the front. When you buy something new, place it behind the ones you already have.
Step 6: Restock your pantry
A well-stocked pantry makes cooking dinner SO much easier.
Try to keep enough food on hand to make several meals from, so that you don’t ever have to run out to the store (or get takeout) at the last minute.
Below are the budget-friendly pantry staples that I recommend.
You can make lots of meals out of these ingredients!
Ingredients to Stock Your Pantry on a Budget
- Rice or couscous
- Spices (salt and pepper, garlic powder, Italian seasoning blend, and cinnamon are a good starting point!)
- Canned or dry beans
- Canned tomatoes
- Stock or broth
- Peanut butter
- Baking ingredients (such as flour, sugar, vanilla extract, baking soda and powder, quick yeast)
- Baking mixes (pancake, brownie, cookie, or cake mixes)
- Pasta sauce
- Jarred salsa
- Instant potatoes
- Canned veggies
- Cereal and oats
Bonus step: Make a meal plan
Now that your food inventory is fresh in your mind (and hopefully written down in front of you) brainstorm a list of meals you can make with those ingredients.
Each week, try to make a few meals out of the food already in your pantry.
You’ll save a ton of money at the grocery store, and make sure your pantry food isn’t expiring before you eat it.
If your pantry is especially full (or you want to spend very little on groceries this week) try doing a pantry challenge!
Ready to try doing a pantry inventory?
As you can see, doing regular inventories of your food supply is beneficial to both your grocery budget AND your meal planning.
I recommend doing this at least twice a year, though monthly or quarterly is even better!
Use the printable pantry inventory templates in our Ultimate Meal Planning Bundle to make it super easy.
It’s FULL of helpful kitchen printables to keep you organized.
You can print them over and over, or laminate them to reuse with a dry erase marker.
Or if you’d prefer to use an app for your pantry inventory, grab our digital meal planning spreadsheet right here!
(You can use Excel or the free Google Sheets app to track your food supply with it.)
I hope you consider taking a pantry inventory soon.
It’ll really make your life easier in the long run!
For more tips on staying organized in the kitchen, check out:
- How to Get Started Meal Planning Today: 10 Super Easy Tricks
- 40+ Dirt Cheap Meals to Make When You’re on a Budget
- Frugal Meal Planning – Everything You Need to Know to Eat on a Budget