I’ve worked in a lot of kitchens over my years and I often had to take inventory of all the food in the kitchen and prepare the next order. At first, taking inventory felt overwhelming but I quickly saw how clear it made the path forward for my next days in the kitchen. Now it’s a part of my life at home and I love it.
Taking inventory lets me know exactly what I currently have to work with. It helps me plan my next practical steps. It simplifies my decision making. It helps me move forward confidently and efficiently. And all these things help keep down mental clutter. When I remove mental clutter, it allows more space for peace. And more peace, allows more space for joy. So, I now see the task, which once seemed boring, as part of my path to clarity, peace, and joy in the kitchen.
You can dedicate a notebook to your inventory and shopping lists so you could look back and use it as a helpful reference, or you could just use scraps of recycled paper like I do.
I start by separating my inventory list into categories. I list my fruits and vegetables on one side of the page and the grains on other side of the page so I can make matches for meal planning. I put the oils, spices and sweets at the bottom because they are not the main part of a meal. However, I still list them so I know if I need anything from those areas for my next shopping list. The following is an example of my last food inventory list.
Creating Meals with What You Have
Now that I have my inventory list, I can start to see what I can make with what I already have. I always use up what I already have first, so I am eating my food as fresh as possible and nothing goes to waste. For example, if I have bananas that are browning. I could eat them as is, make a smoothie, or make banana bread. If I have asparagus that is ready to be used up, I can pair it with a that last half cup of polenta in my pantry. I like to use up my last bits and create space in my fridge for my next order, or to free up a jar in my pantry.
Since I am a visual thinker, I like to connect the ingredients I’m going to use for my next meals with lines, or color code them. Then, I can bring them together on my next menu.
The following are examples of how I match ingredients on my inventory list to create my next meals.
Creating My Next Shopping List
Like my inventory list, I also categorize my shopping list.
There are certain staple items I don’t want to run out of - like coffee, soy milk, sunflower oil, salt, maple syrup, and tamari. I look at my inventory list to see if I am low on any of these items and put them on my list if I need to.
I make sure I always have fresh fruit and a bag of frozen fruit for smoothies. In the winter I eat a lot of apples and bananas because they are always available. In the summer, I love to eat watermelon, peaches, green grapes, and strawberries.
I like to have some cucumber, carrots, and beets available for a salad and I only buy lettuce if I know I'm going to eat it right away so I don’t waste it.
Cooked Green Veggies
I like to have something green that I can cook like kale, broccoli or asparagus.
Grains and Legumes
I like to have a least one dried bean, tofu, and a couple grain options such as pasta, rice or polenta.
Additions Needed for Next Meals
I check my inventory list to see what I might need to go with something I already have. For example, I have white beans in my pantry that I’d like to use, so I will put tomatoes, basil and tortillas on my list so I can make a white bean wrap.
Foods That Last
I like to get produce that will last longer, like hard avocados, green bananas, and potatoes. I eat the foods that have a shorter shelf life like lettuce or strawberries first, and then I move into food like broccoli that stay fresh a little longer and last I will eat the ripened bananas, avocados and potatoes.