How to make a pantry inventory

How to make an EASY pantry inventory

How do you keep track of food inventory?

Keeping a pantry inventory is extremely helpful, and one of the biggest ways we’ve been able to save money on groceries!

Keeping track of your food inventory may not be something you’ve considered until now (after all, you’re here aren’t you?). Or maybe the title of this just intrigued you to take a look and see if it’s something you’d like to implement.

It’s really pretty easy to have a food inventory, using either an app or a spreadsheet, and I’m going to give you all the details!

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How to make a pantry inventory

Why you need a pantry inventory

You don’t really NEED one, but it’s definitely a good idea to have one. Basically, it not only keeps you organized, but it helps you save money.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at work thinking about what I’m going to make for dinner. Then, I start searching for recipes and when I land on something I like, I look at the ingredients.

Sounds pretty standard so far, right?

Well, how it USED to be is like this:

I would make a list of the ingredients I need to buy at the store on my way home. Some things I knew for sure that I had already, some things I knew for sure I didn’t have, and some things I wasn’t sure about.

I go to the store, buy everything I know I don’t have, and the things I wasn’t sure if we had or not.

Flash forward to getting home, and realizing I just bought ANOTHER bottle of paprika and when I go to put it away I have 1.5 bottles of paprika already. Now I have TWO AND A HALF bottles of paprika.

This also happens to me when I’m making Christmas cookies. I didn’t realize until I started making the pantry inventory that I had such a surplus of cinnamon it is truly ridiculous.

Seriously. I have so much cinnamon.

What a waste of money! I might not be able to use all of this before it expires!

This exact problem was the main reason I decided to take an inventory of the pantry.

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Benefits of having a pantry inventory

As stated above, one of the biggest benefits is that a pantry inventory saves money.

You’ll always have quick access to the things you have in your pantry if you use an app or a spreadsheet you can access on your phone.

A pantry inventory will also help you IMMENSELY with meal planning.

If you don’t meal plan, you should! Meal planning can also help you save money on groceries. Planning everything ahead of time keeps you from overbuying when you get to the store.

Meal planning also saves you any last minute trips during the week. I used to do this ALL the time. I would have to go to the store multiple times per week because I forgot an item or two for a recipe.

Meal planning doesn’t have to be complex. You don’t have to get on a rigid schedule of Monday you’re eating this, Tuesday that (unless you want to, of course!).

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Meal planning can be as easy as these are the recipes I’m going to make this week. These are the ingredients needed for each.

Now, with your pantry inventory, you don’t have to go through every single item in your pantry or refrigerator or freezer to check these things.

All you do is pull up your app (we’ll talk about this below) or spreadsheet and you’ll have everything right in front of you!

Another benefit of having a pantry inventory is knowing what you have and when it will expire.

Last year, before I made an inventory, I was planning on making s’mores only to grab the marshmallows and they were long expired.

Having a pantry inventory I can go through the list quickly, either alphabetically or by expiration date, and make sure what I have is good to go BEFORE presenting the idea of s’mores to the family.

How to make a pantry inventory

And last, you’ll just feel more organized and accomplished.

The potential downsides

It can feel like it takes a lot of initial work to set up, but it really isn’t that bad because you’ll be saving yourself time and money in the future! Future You will be thankful!

You have to make it a habit to maintain it and add items to your list when you add items to the pantry. The same goes for when you use up items.

The best app for pantry inventory

There are two apps I am going to recommend for pantry inventory. Aside from these apps, there are plenty of other ways to organize, but these are my preferred methods. I’ll go into more detail on each below.

The downsides of using a notebook

I’d also like to note that you can use the paper and pen method. I’ve seen a lot of printables floating around that are for pantry and freezer inventory. While this is great, it’s not always the most efficient.

It’ll take much more time to set up by writing everything down, and if you don’t like how it’s organized there isn’t much room for adjustment.

With apps, you can sort the items by date or in alphabetical order, which is a HUGE reason to do this instead of using a printable or a notebook.

Just something to keep in mind!

Why you should use Google Sheets

One of the main benefits of using Google Sheets for your pantry inventory is that you can download the Sheets app on your phone, and you can use it on your computer.

If you already have a gmail account, you should have access to Google Drive, where your sheets will be stored.

If not, you will have to create an account on Google, which is super quick!

With Google Sheets you can create a tab for different areas, and you can sort everything by date or alphabetically. Here’s how a Google Sheets setup might look:

Pantry inventory using Google Sheets

I would say the most important things to include would be your item and the expiration date.

Keeping track of the amount you have of each item is certainly helpful, but it can get difficult to maintain or to remember to update it after using it.

I titled the sheet “Kitchen Inventory” and included two tabs at the bottom. One for the pantry, and one for the freezer. You could also keep an inventory of your refrigerator items if you’d like!

Why use Trello

I use Trello for pretty much EVERYTHING I want to keep organized. I love Trello. It’s honestly my favorite organization app and tool.

So, for Trello the pros are:

It’s easy to sort.

You can put in expiration dates and get reminders when things expire (you put them in as a “due date”).

You can sort by due date or alphabetically.

It’s visually appealing.

It has a mobile app AND desktop version, just like Google Sheets.

It’s FREE!

Honestly. I love Trello, click here to create an account.

Here’s what a pantry inventory using Trello might look like:

Pantry Inventory using Trello

How do I inventory my kitchen?

Alright, so let’s get right into how to inventory your kitchen.

We’ll be talking about the pantry here, but the instructions apply to the freezer and the refrigerator as well, depending how many places you’d like to take an inventory.

Step 1:

Remove EVERYTHING from the pantry.

Step 2:

Wipe down all the shelves. I like to use a damp cloth for this, or any all-purpose cleaner should do.

I like to wipe the shelves with a dry cloth as well, to help them dry quicker.

Step 3:

Decide if you’d like to group your items into categories (more ideas of categories listed in the next section) such as canned goods, baking items, etc.

Step 4:

Grab each item, one at a time and add it to your list. Note the item, the expiration date, and how full it is or the quantity (if desired).

Step 5:

Place the items back on the shelf as you take the inventory. Throw away anything that has expired. If you have too many of something that you will likely not use before it expires, consider donating it to a food bank.

That’s it! That’s all there is to taking an inventory of your kitchen! Keep reading for more tips on using your pantry inventory!

Related:

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Pantry inventory categories & how to group items in the pantry

You can go even more detailed than just the items in your pantry in one list if you’d like. You can separate the items into different categories such as:

  • Spices
  • Canned goods
  • Dry mixes
  • Baking items
  • Soups
  • Snacks
  • Condiments
  • Pastas
  • Beans
  • Oils & vinegars
  • Candies

And so on!

It’s really up to you if you want to get this detailed. I personally keep the spices separate on their own list, and then everything else in the pantry is on a list.

As far as how to group items in the pantry, it has to make sense for you and your family.

For example, I like to group all canned goods together when I put things back into the pantry.  That may not make sense for you, and that’s ok!  

I also keep all the oils together, and the baking mixes together.

Keep your most commonly used items in the most easily accessible place.  You don’t want to accidentally create a mess and knock things over when you are searching for something you use frequently. 

Make sure to check out this post about Cheap Storage Baskets to find something you can use in your pantry to keep it organized!

As someone who also likes things to be visually appealing, I’ve had to rethink that – based on the fact that maybe just because something looks better organized tallest to shortest, that doesn’t mean it makes sense when I’m going through grabbing ingredients!

How to use your pantry inventory

So, let’s paint a picture:

You’re working on making your grocery list (um, hi, if you don’t have a list you definitely should…it’s an easy way to save money because it’ll help you not overspend at the store).

You are maybe doing this at the coffee shop, on your lunch break, or you just simply don’t feel like digging through the pantry to see if you have the ingredients you need. If that last one is you, I totally get it and I’m the same.

You have all your recipes and the ingredients figured out, because you’re also saving money by meal planning, right?!

Simply pull up your app and scroll through to see if you have the items you need. Sort the items alphabetically so you can find them quicker.

That’s it! That’s how you use the pantry inventory BEFORE grocery shopping.

Now, you got home from shopping and you simply add the items to your app as you’re putting the groceries away.

As soon as you finish using an item and need to buy more, make sure to delete it from your list. You can make a separate tab or list for things to buy, so you can take note throughout the week if you use something up.

I used to clear expired things out of the pantry monthly. Now, I just check my list on Trello before shopping and if anything is expired I only have to go through to find those items to toss.

How to keep track of freezer inventory

Keeping track of the freezer inventory is the exact same as keeping track of the pantry!

Take everything out, wipe down the shelves, and document everything as you put it back in.

You can make your own separate list for this or keep it on the same list with a different tab. However helps you stay organized and consistent is always the best way to do something!

Let me know in the comments how you keep track of items in your pantry and freezer! What’s your favorite app or method?

Want more cleaning & organizing ideas? Checkout my Ultimate Guide to Deep Cleaning Your Home Workbook! It has 49 pages of printable schedules in different colors and formats, along with sample schedules AND checklists! Use code INTRO20 to get it for 20% off…only for a limited time! GET IT HERE!

Related:

17 Things You’re Forgetting To Clean

The Ultimate Guide to Deep Cleaning Your Home

How to Save Money On Groceries

Cleaning Supplies Checklist

How to Find Motivation to Clean

7 Day Declutter Challenge

The Ultimate Guide to Deep Cleaning Your Home
How to make a pantry inventory

Pantry Inventory

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