Grocery Budget Tips: Tip 19 – Keep an Inventory

Welcome back to the grocery budget series I am almost done writing.  In this series, I will share the top 20 ways that I can think of that our large family uses to keep the grocery budget from getting out of line.  To learn more, visit our introduction.

Previously in our tip series I had mentioned that we like to stock up on nonperishable food.  It stores well for a long time and is affordable enough that I can buy a little extra some months and put them away for the next dip in life.  Some months we may need to put a little more money toward an unexpected expense and the first place I look to cut corners is my grocery budget.  I like to think we eat well, and when we have the money to eat with variety, we do.  We also stock up on nonperishable items that I may not always have the ingredients on hand to make (if we are in a tough spot and our chickens aren’t laying enough eggs and I don’t have enough oil on hand to make mayo, it sure is nice to have already spent a few bucks on a jar of mayo and have it available if we want it) or items that I haven’t yet perfected the recipe for.  For our family, this includes mayonnaise (I do make mayo, but there may be times that I don’t have eggs or oil on hand reliably – for those reasons, you will find mayo on my shelf), ketchup (I didn’t can enough the last time I made it, so until we have another huge crop of tomatoes – we buy it), soy sauce (haven’t perfected this recipe yet, we prefer storebought), dressing (I do make salad dressings sometimes, but I may not reliably have on hand the ingredients I need to make it from scratch), etc.  By stocking up on nonperishable food, I am left just having to worry about buying meat, milk and cheese for the most part – and even those things can be slimmed down as needed if we are in an emergency situation and need to reduce our grocery bill drastically.

When I am shopping and continually adding things to food storage, it’s helpful to know what I already have on hand and what I am running low on, so I can buy accordingly.  I don’t want to buy 10 soy sauces when I am low on lemon juice and hot sauce.   I realized recently I am low on rice.  Rice!  I had close to 500lbs at one point (we lived near a Mormom cannery and could obtain nonperishable items very affordably).  I hadn’t purchased rice in so long because I felt we were covered for quite a while.  Well, we were.  But I kept using and not replacing, and never updated my records.  I haven’t even been tracking prices on rice because it has been so long since I purchased it.  Now we will begin replacing it, but prices on rice have gone up over recent years.  If I had been paying better attention, I could have continued purchasing rice as we used it when prices were low, so that I could use our rice now in hopes that the cost would go back down by the time we were ready to stock up again.

There are many helpful forms online that you can use to track the inventory of your food stock.  I prefer making a list, organized by category, with like items listed  on a sheet of paper.  After the ingredient has been written down, I draw boxes (or make this list on graph paper or I’ve even made these forms on the computer) for each item you have on hand.  If you have different sizes, they each get their own line.  Then each time you bring one out of storage, mark it off your list.  If you are using a generic form that has a line of boxes already drawn out for you, I like to highlight how many I have on hand, then cross off a box when I bring that item out of storage.  This way I can easily add to my list by highlighting the next boxes when I buy more.  When a line has been filled and marked off, begin a new line at the bottom of the list, keeping all of your items in like categories.  This will be a work in progress that you make consult as much as daily, as keep it in a place that is easy to access.

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