Organizing my stockpile: creating a food inventory list

Earlier this month, I shared how I took inventory of my first aid and medications items. Through this helpful exercise I found duplicate items, expired items, and gaps in my stockpile. I’ve decided to carry that same process to encompass my entire stockpile, tackling one new section at a time. And of course, I thought I’d bring you along for the ride.

Last week, I decided to go for the gizzard and tackle my pantry.

Scary, I know.

Before I got to work, I put a little thought into this. I’ve been wanting to inventory my items for years, but why? Was there a real reason for doing this beyond a making a pretty list? There was. Here’s what I came up with.

  1. Saving money. This year one goal I’ve set for myself is to become more of a conscious spender. I’m not just talking about reducing impulse buys (though that’s always a great goal). I’m talking about working to ensure the things that I’m picking up at the store are things that will serve a purpose in my stockpile.
  2. Saving time. One discovery I made when I took inventory of my first aid stockpile is that I really had more than I thought I did! A couple weeks ago, I was happy to find Visine on sale at Rite Aid. This was something I had just identified on my list as needing! As I hone my inventory list I can quickly determine which deals are worth chasing and which I can sit out.
  3. Better management of expiration dates. Wasted food is no good. I never want a stockpile so big that stuff goes bad! So I wanted a way I could easily manage when things are coming up on expired dates for rotation and/or meal planning.
  4. Better household management. The purpose of stockpiling is having the things on hand my family needs before they need them, right? So what good does it do me if I don’t entirely even know what I have? One thing I’ve come to consider is how beneficial it would be to have a regular checklist and method of monitoring my stockpile.

With these goals in mind, I started by thoroughly cleaning out my pantry and freezer. (The fridge wasn’t terrible, but it might need my Martha Stewart’s touch soon.)

AH! Much better!

I’ve also spent some time in cleaning up the bulk foods section of my pantry. If you’re new to my site, you should know I have a big heart love for bulk food shopping. The pretty bins I was able to snag at One King’s Lane when they had a sale awhile ago. I’ve improvised for some of the other items with canning and used (and rinsed!) food jars.

The completed pantry:

I was able to find some stuff to take to the food donation, which was awesome. Plus, I can actually see what I have to work with now. So much better.

With things in place, I was then able to work on my inventory list. Of course, I built it on Excel. I’ll show you why in a minute:

I started by making broad categories such as canned, breakfast, and freezer. Then, I put in descriptions of items. Here are a few decisions I made before doing this that made the process much simpler:

  1. I only counted UNOPENED boxes. If something was halfway gone (i.e., partially eaten box of cereal), I did not count it. I see a stockpile as items you have at the ready, and I didn’t want to have to wonder about how to count items that we’re in the process of using.
  2. I only included items I want to have at all times. Sure, the deal on the Nutri-Grain bars we got was a great one last year. But if we don’t have Nutri-Grain bars (or any cereal bars, for that matter), my family doesn’t care. It’s not an essential item around here. Cereal, oatmeal, pasta sauce, and soup on the other hand? Yes, we use those items regularly!
  3. I included items I want to have, but don’t have currently. For instance I like having canned tomato sauce on hand. We’re out. I just added it to my inventory list with a quantity of “0.”

To ensure that this is a functioning list of something I will actually use, I decided to include a frequency column. For each item, I noted if it’s something I should check on the status on every week or month. Since my list is in Excel, I can easily sort the list to help do my weekly or monthly grocery shopping!

Remember that one of my initial goals with this exercise was to help encourage me to be a conscious spender. So I decided to build into my inventory list two sets of prices – one for what I feel would be a stock-up price for each, and the other as a top-end price.

This list is still very much a work in progress, but I’m happy to share it with you today as an Excel Download so you can get started with your own list: Food Inventory List (Excel Only)  For those of you without access to Excel, or who would prefer just a worksheet version, here’s the pdf: Inventory List Worksheet (pdf)

I have two more areas in my house I plan on continuing this process for: household (laundry & cleaning supplies, paper products, lightbulbs, batteries, toys, gift supplies, etc) and health & beauty (personal care items, cosmetics, body wash, toothcare, etc). While this has definitely taken some time to put together, I’m feeling like my stockpile will serve a better purpose and that I’ll save some time and money in the long run!

Have any of you done something similar? Any other thoughts or ideas for how to best inventory your stockpile?

Want to chat stockpiling some more? Here are some posts for ya!

How Sassy is Your Stockpile?
Reader Stockpile Photos (and more, more, more, and more reader stockpiles!)

10 Stockpile Items I always Keep on Hand
Common Sense Stockpiling (recorded webcast)

And a short video of me sharing ideas for how to build a stockpile:


Comments

  1. says

    I wish there was an android app that I could just scan the barcode of an item when I put it in my pantry and then scan it again when I used it. I found a couple apps that will track whats in your pantry but they require you to type in the items.

    • Holly A says

      Try the free app called Out of Milk. You can create categories, scan in items using the bar code and adjust the quantity. It’s very easy to use and I’ve only scanned a few items that weren’t found in their database. Hope this helps!

  2. Andrea Dulaney says

    I am so glad you showed this. I have been trying to figure out how to count the half filled items. Never would have thought to not count. Great idea!

    • arussell says

      Yeah, it just didn’t make sense to me! Or items that were half eaten and that I didn’t care about having at all times (like fruit snacks, crackers, etc).

      Thanks!

  3. Brenda says

    I have a similar verison of your stockpile list. I managed to type up a basic list of stockpile items, but, since I’m not excel savvy like you, I just handwrite the numbers in each month. First, I tried to keep an updated list ongoing, but it was too frustrating when other family members would forget to mark when they took something out of the pantry. Now I do a quick count one a month. It really only takes me 15-20 minutes to do it and worth the extra work and helps ensure that it stays organized. I always worry about expiration dates, but by doing a quick check monthly I can pull the items that are getting close and make plans to use or donate them. It also helps to determine how quickly we go through items. For example, before I started this I couldn’t figure out how we were always running out of Peanut Butter. I quickly discovered that we easily go through 3 or 4 jars a month, crazy I know! Now when I find a stockup price on Peanut Butter I know I better be buying as many as I can.
    Good tips, Angela!

    • arussell says

      One thing that surprised me was how even non-perishables really don’t last that long. I noticed most of my canned items are set to expire sometime in 2013. This may not sound like a long time, but it’s definitely something I will want to be mindful of!

      Thanks, Brenda.

  4. Emilie says

    I am wondering how long it took you to count/organize all the items.
    I see real value in this and I am hoping for a ball park figure so I can maybe fit it in some night after my kids have gone to bed. I know the times will vary depending on the stock pile but I can see yours (thank you for the picture) and compare that to mine (which is much smaller).

    Thank you for setting up the spread sheet for us too! Any time saver is great as I work full time and have three children.

    • arussell says

      You know what took the longest? Just getting it cleaned out & organized! Once that was in the place, the counting really didn’t take me that long. Of course, it will depend on how big your stockpile is and what you intend to include on your list. I would say the entire project of cleaning out, organizing, writing the list, and then building the spreadsheet took somewhere between 2-3 hours. Does that help?

  5. Jennifer Stiko says

    I love this!! This helps me out a lot! I’ve been searching but haven’t been able to find it; have you made stockpile lists for health and beauty and household items yet? Thanks!

  6. Rehan says

    Hi there
    i was wondering if any one can help me with restaurant inventory
    for example, food inventory ,general items like chairs,tables,glass,spoons and thing ,i would be greatful if any one can help
    Regards
    Rehan.

  7. Heidi says

    Thanks so much for sharing your Excel spreadsheet. My coupon group has been talking about creating an inventory of our stockpile and we weren’t sure how to start it! I really appreciate you sharing!

  8. Deborah says

    This was very helpful, and thank you for sharing your excell. I have been looking for something like this, my expired stuff is getting out of hand, and this will def save money when I get it under control!!!

  9. Heather says

    Do you have a list of merchandise and the prices to stockpile on, like TP and laundry soap?

  10. Heather says

    How cool is this?! So glad I’m not the only one who inventories foods at my house. We have been so much more efficient since I started and much less wasteful! Thanks for the excel file! A great help!

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