How often do you or your family look in the cupboard/freezer/fridge and declare ‘there’s nothing to eat’?
It used to happen in our house a LOT and I’ll admit I was probably one of the main culprits (mainly because I really don’t like cooking, it’s not one of my skills and I would be happy eating beans on toast for days on end if it was up to me), the thing is there always was food in the house but I just wasn’t organised enough to know what to do with it. We’d end up going out shopping to get more food or do random top-up shops on the way home from work and wonder why our food budget was so high each month.
Luckily I found a way to solve this issue really easily and it’s saved us a ton of money on our food shopping!
Meal planning to save money
The easiest way to save money on groceries is to just not go food shopping – I know, revolutionary right 😂 It’s true though, how often do we pop to the shops to grab some extra bits for dinner that night when we could actually probably make a perfectly fine meal with the stuff we have at home, it just takes a bit of pre-planning.
‘We have food at home’
The 5 words no-one wants to hear when they are hungry but it’s almost always true. The easiest way to save money on anything is to use up what you already have and the easiest way to do that with food is to go through and take a full inventory of what you have in the freezer, fridge, pantry and cupboards. It might sound a bit overwhelming and it can be a bit of a job at first but the great thing about taking a food inventory is that once you’ve done it, it gets easier each time as you’d only adding on to your previous list and not having to do the whole inventory again.
How to do a food inventory
Firstly you’re going to need something to write with and something to write on, why not print out one of our free food inventory and meal planning printable packs from the link below. You’ll also need a bit of space (I clear off one of our worktops usually) and it’s also a good idea to have some cleaning products on hand – if you’re emptying out a cupboard to check what’s in there then it’s a good time to give it a quick clean too.
Then it’s simply a case of taking everything out of the cupboard/fridge/freezer/whatever area your working on and making a list of what you actually have. Be sure to check expiration dates on tins and packets and also check freezer items for freezer burn. If there is anything that is past its best – chuck it in the bin, and if there are things that are still in date but you know you really won’t use consider putting a post up on Facebook or a food recycling app to see if anyone locally might want it!
If you’re going through the fridge and find some bits that you might not be able to use before they go bad have a look at out ‘Foods you didn’t know you could freeze‘ series to see if any of it can be saved for later.
How to meal plan efficiently
Now that we have a list of everything we have in the house foodwise we can go through and start to plan out some meals to use it up. I tend to work from the fridge list first as that’s the items that will likely need using up first, so say I have some chicken in the fridge – I’d then look down my cupboard list and see if we have any sauces ‘in stock’ that we could use to turn it into an easy dinner, maybe some rice and then I’d also check down the freezer list to make sure we have some frozen veg to go with it to.
If you try to make a meal up and find you’re missing one vital ingredient then you add just that ingredient to your shopping list. I also make a note of that meal and leave it on a sticky note on the front of my meal planning sheets so that I know we have another meal all ready to go once we have the missing ingredient (it just saves time having to go through the list again)
Updating your Inventory
Here’s a life hack that will save you a ton of time with your food inventory and I’m a bit embarrassed to admit I only worked this out for myself a few weeks ago! When you do a food shop you get a receipt, whether that be in person and in the form of a till receipt or online and in the form of a printout or email receipt – I always used to have a bit of a meltdown once the shopping arrived and I was putting it away because I didn’t have time to add it to my inventory there and then (I always end up having shopping delivered at awkward times!) and then it dawned on me…they literally give you an inventory of what you’ve bought with your shopping 😮 so you can either just stick your latest food shopping receipt to the front of your food inventory list and work form that or you can find 5 mins later in the day to write it out under the right headings on your list!
Food Inventory and Meal Planning Free Printables
I’ve created a set of free printables to help you get started with doing your food inventory and weekly meal planning – to get your copy all you have to do is enter your details below (don’t worry we won’t spam you!) and the download link will be sent straight to your inbox!