Saturday, March 10, 2012

Frugal Foodie Maintenance

Maintaining a frugal foodie budget takes some extra planning and extra work. It's a lot of work in the beginning, when you are just getting started, but gradually as you develop a system (and the habit of menu planning), it won't take up a lot of your personal time. [My menu plan printable]
Part of the frugal foodie maintenance is regular freezer inventories and pantry inspections (or cupboard inspections if you don't have a pantry).
I like to use this Freezer inventory sheet from Organized Home.
Note the system at the bottom of the sheet-
a slash mark for each item \ then when you use it up you make the opposite slash mark / and X it out. Easy peasy!
Note to self: Make sure your family is in on your system...
For this reason, my freezer inventory is on the side of the freezer with a pen. Helpful and handy.
You still need to train yourself to get in the habit of marking items off as you remove them or you'll need to stick your head in the fridge and give it a quick check once a week or two.
Sometimes we're good at checking off every time we pull something out but more often than not- I'm sticking my head in and going thru everything every two weeks or so.
It's helpful to date your inventory sheets with the last time you checked if you prefer the second method.
I just did an inventory today and the last date was 2-10-12. Yipes!

Organized Home also has the same set up for a Pantry Inventory sheet.
Here's one from Pinterest- this links to both a pantry and a freezer inventory- and it's pretty:



and here's another oh so pretty pantry list:



And this freezer organization right here-- I love it and very much wish to do something similar:



I have created my own pantry inventory sheet according to the shelves in my pantry (but I'm thinking I need to pretty it up some after seeing these nifty ones). I feel it keeps me more organized and helps me make note of "what's missing" quicker.... since I inventory the pantry only slightly more frequently than the freezer.
The bottom line is I try to do this inventory at least once a month. Isn't it interesting that this coincides with the fact that I also menu plan a month at a time? Hmm. *wink*
I try to make sure I have an updated inventory of both the pantry and freezer (plus make notes about what's in the fridge) before I sit down to do four (or six) weeks of menu planning. This is an important step as it helps me stay within my budget by "shopping" from my fridge and freezer first. This also keeps me from having icky-blechy freezer burned stuff in the freezer for months... even years. (Because that soooo happened to me in the past! What a waste!)

It's a fine line between a well stocked freezer/pantry and stockpiling. I'm not into stockpiling- you won't find 15 boxes of cake mix or a dozen rolls of aluminum foil in my pantry. I just don't work that way. I know people this works for- these ladies really truly "shop" their pantries (we're talking a room in their basement totally filled with their surplus and amazing deals) and I am glad for them. Everyone has their own frugal mindset. That's not mine- I don't want to have to keep checking "use by" dates on my dry goods. I won't keep up.
Since the majority of my shopping is done at Aldi and I have now stretched my Aldi trips out to once a month, I can safely say I have about a month's worth of sundries in my pantry.

I follow this simple rule of thumb for many foodie items: One opened and one back-up. For every opened bag of flour, there's a full one for back up- same with cereal, ketchup, mustard etc. For items we go through with more regularity- such as Cream of Mushroom soup- I like to keep six on hand at the beginning of each month. [Side Note: After I make a six week menu plan I often go through and see how many of such staples I'll be using that month- for example: looking at my menu plan for the next four weeks- it looks like I'll be using 4 cans of that mushroom soup. So I'm good to go!] Since I've been doing this for a number of years I've pretty much figured out the amounts I need to be "carrying" in my pantry.

The key to a great pantry really isn't in the amounts you buy as it is in the organization. Like goes with Like. All my soups are on one shelf and all grouped by name. You'll find yourself wasting valuable time and money if you put  your pantry sundries away "willy-nilly". All flours and sugars go on one shelf (self rising, all-purpose, cake, whole wheat, bread flours and white and brown sugars). I have another two shelves for baking items, a shelf of chili supplies, breakfasty items on another etc. This is handy when cooking and baking as well as when inventorying.

If you aren't blessed with a real deal pantry (let me just say the walk-in pantry was one of the things that totally sold me on this old house I live in!) you can still be as organized with your cupboards. Or you can purchase a stand alone hutch for storage or create one frugally by purchasing a prefab bookshelf and hang a pretty coordinating curtain on a tension rod (just inside top shelf) to create a hidden pantry nook!

UPDATE: Since last fall I have been using this freezer inventory sheet from Faithful Provisions instead of the one mentioned above. The main reason for the switch was that I can personalize the inventory sheet by typing right on it and saving the personalized doc for later use. I then use a pencil to mark the amounts and locations in the freezer and update as needed.



1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the links! And the awesome freezer organization!! THat would be great!

    One extra challenge for you to think about. Ramsey challenges several months in savings... etc - you know the details I don't need to repeat. Another thing someone brought to our attention and it has worked well. A couple months edible savings. Toations and inventory is good - although I don't take regular enough ivnentory. Why? here's a couple reasons - small (something happens on a personal level - the possiblities are endless - this edible savings comes in to play to avoid savings withdrawal - or to enable a variety of other options). Remember 911 - the skies were quieted for days. What if it happened in the trucking industries and trucks were quieted - most stores have little to no stock - and often have only enough of essentials for 24 hrs - let alone if there was a raid on them. See Japan - the meltdown - food was incredibly scarce - people went crazy -could easily happen here - there are inumerable other reasons. Banks do not have that much money in them - they are waited -so even if savings is int he banks - another Depression era event in our days - could be disastrous and that savings - could be worth nothing. True - we rely on faith - and fretting won't fix it or pull us out - but put us in a bad mental state - that's not what I espouse. But God did warn Joseph in advance to set aside for the famine and so to speak - we were encouraged to prepare for the possible famine and I pass the encouragement along! :) (and we aren't mormon - although that practice they have is a good one). You already have a great start. Plenty of google searches on preparedness.etc will say more and better than I can about it. ;) Just an idea to ponder if you like! To expand your shelves so that in an event you could feed for family for a prolonged state without having to rely on normal methods. hopefully this NEVER occurs - but if it does.. better to have that extra case of beans and that bucket of rice. :)

    Blessings, Mrs. Steady! I enjoy reading your blog!!!

    WS in Ohio

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