Meal planning tips

Meal Planning Tips: Taking Inventory

Looking to eat healthier without breaking the bank? The answer to more budget-friendly meals lies behind your cupboards and refrigerator doors. By taking inventory of what you already have at home, you can save time and money when planning meals and snacks for the week.

Well, we officially have just 4 weeks left in Boston! I don’t know if I feel more like crying happy tears or sad tears, but either way I’ve been trying to slowly get things ready for the move as we’ll have less than 24 hours between my last day at work and needing to be out of the apartment. Over the past 8 years I have moved apartments every year but one. That’s a lot of moving. But since it was always just down a street or across the river into Cambridge, I never worried about having food to move. Now that we’re moving cross-country, however, the fact that we have a kitchen full of food and no room to bring it with us is a problem I have become acutely aware of.

My solution: inventorying our pantry, fridge, and freezer. And I’m kicking myself that I didn’t do this sooner as it’s made me realize how many staple ingredients I’ve had at home and all the dollars I could have saved by simply using what I already had on hand. Plus, meal planning isn’t always the easiest thing, but with a list of ingredients to base recipes off of, it becomes much less daunting.

The first step is making yourself an organized chart (it’s nerdy how much I enjoyed this part). The key is having sections for food-type: proteins, carbs, vegetables, ready to go meals (such as frozen meals or soups that already have protein and veggies in them), sweets, and condiments/spices. By having these categories you essentially have a mix-and-match list for a balanced meal.

Other important categories to have are: the food item, how many servings you have left, and expiration date. The expiration date, especially for proteins, can help you prioritize which items to base that week’s meal plan off of. Plus, it will save you the painful experience of throwing away forgotten food.

Looking at my current inventory, there’s a good chance we still won’t get through all the food we have before we leave, but I’m sure there are plenty of friends who will be willing to take some of it off our hands 😉 And of course any unopened non-perishable goods are perfect for donating to food drives. But hopefully for those of you reading this, taking inventory will simply be a useful tool for eating healthier on a budget!

So here’s a toast to keeping organized!

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