Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Pantry Inventory

It has been brought to my attention that I have been 'slacking' on my blog updates… so lemme just tell ya what I'm up to today!

Ted and I are on a budget now that I'm not working full time, and man, have I been stressing about the cost of groceries! I watch those couponing shows on TV and read tips about saving money at the grocery store, but the reality is that most of the cheap food is not the kind of food I want to eat. I'd rather spend some extra bucks on organic produce than get 10 boxes of Fruit Loops for $2.

Additionally, I like to support our local co-op, because I don't want our only source of local produce and health foods to disappear! Of course, things are going to cost a little more there than at Walmart.

So the grocery bills have been adding up, and today I decided to go through the pantry to take inventory. My goal is to use up ALL of the stuff in the cupboards and fridge, not letting anything go to waste. Basically, I want to avoid this scenario:  I buy a bunch of rice* for a recipe, only to discover later that I already have, like, four half-used bags of rice in the back of my pantry.
*Replace 'rice' with anything here: Canned beans, parsley, bread crumbs, whatever!*

Admit it, this has happened to you, too.

Our cupboards have gotten a little out of control, anyway, so this project was a chance to get things back in order. Just look at my spice shelf:

Every time I need cumin, for example, I have to take everything in front out, stand on my tippy-toes, and rifle around in the back of the cabinet until I find what I'm looking for. This is usually happening at the exact point in the recipe that I need the spice, so imagine that I'm also sweating and frantic as the chopped onions are beginning to burn in the pan. This typically results in everything being tossed madly onto the counter as I try to locate the one elusive spice jar before dinner is ruined:

No more! Today everything came out of the food cabinets, got regrouped, organized, and inventoried, then put neatly in its new place.

Let's start with the tea shelf, which was always tumbling out when I opened the cabinet. I pulled everything off the shelf, and this is what I had:

 Quite a nice collection, you might think. Yes, but which of these teas/powdered drinks do I actually drink?

Then I remembered that I have even more tea in a cute little tea box on my kitchen cart!

The painting was done my talented brother, in case you were wondering.

Can you tell I'm more of a coffee drinker? No? Well, then maybe it's time to get rid of some of that tea.

Then there was the issue of all my bulk products:

Some of this stuff had to be consolidated, which was not exactly easy since I wasn't always good about marking the contents of those bags.

Along the way, I discovered some interesting food clutter in the cabinet...

There is literally less than 1 tsp of granola in this bag.  Seriously?!

My favorite find:  one pita chip in its own little baggie.

SIX open bags of dried chiles (I found one more after this photo was taken)… Recipe suggestions welcome.
And at least a gazillion empty plastic bags waiting to be reused for bulk food purchases.
Except I always forget to take them to the store with me…

In the end, after much consolidation, everything was able to fit back into the cupboards in an organized fashion.

Only the tea I actually drink was put back. All the bulk foods were moved from a tiny, hard-to-get-to cabinet at floor-level to a more visible, easier to access shelf above the counter. And I put my rarely used spices in the back and my most commonly used spices in the front of the cabinet. (Seriously, what is the point of deep cabinets??? They just get filled with old food and it becomes impossible to know what you actually have!)

I did not take BEFORE photos of the cabinets (too embarrassing), but I feel so much better now that they're organized and I know what's in them!

Even Ted will be able to find things now….

Before everything was put back, I made a list of what we have to use up. My focus for the next couple of weeks will be to plan our dinners and lunches around the items on the list.

First order of business, use up those sliced almonds, couscous, parsley, old lemons, sun dried tomatoes, and frozen tilapia (not on the list because I had already planned this meal before making the list and knew I would use this stuff up).

Tonight will be baked tilapia and couscous with lemon slices**, and I don't even have to go to the store. In my mind, that makes the cost of tonight's dinner:  FREE!  Huzzah!

**Recipe to follow in a future blog post.

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