Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

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Ivygirl
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Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by Ivygirl »

Looking for ways to shop for and inventory food in ways that mitigate inflation and provide against potential shortages of things I need. I need to solve four problems:

#1 Decision Fatigue. My job requires me to make many decisions about details, so after work I tend to wander the grocery store putting things that “look good” in the shopping basket.

#2 Buying Random Things Without a Plan to Use Them. I get home with what I need but also one or two random items that don’t fit any menu I normally use, so they clutter my pantry.

#3 Food waste. It’s in the nature of food to spoil, perfection in using it up is not possible, but good food should not be going in the garbage can.

#4 Food Price Increases and Shortages. It’s prudent to stock up, but buying things because a news story made me feel anxious is not budget-optimal. Every dollar should count here; see Points #2 and #3.

“Make a list,” Mama said. Writing down what I think I need has not delivered the level of results I want. Quick perusal of what is on hand isn’t optimal because I have more than I can see at a glance and it is stored wherever in the house there is room and appropriate storage conditions. Putting new stuff behind and pulling the old to the front is good, but expiration dates can be surprisingly random lately. I don’t want to waste a single thing. I inventoried all the food from all the freezer, cupboards, corners, and stashes in my house in an Excel spreadsheet.

Columns are: Food, Item, Container, Exp Date, Quantity, Location

A typical entry would be: Broth - Aldi Beef Bone Broth - 32 oz carton - 4/16/2023 -1 - Hall closet

When it is time to make the weekly shopping list I can sort by expiration date, pull items which should be used first out of inventory from wherever they happen to be stored, and set them on the kitchen table, then make a menu plan around them. Or sort by item to see if I already have tomato sauce in the size I need for a recipe.

The spreadsheet has four more columns: Consider Buying More, Consider Buying Less, Buy If On Sale, and Don’t Buy Again, to capture thoughts I am having as I look at my inventory. I see I have a large expired container of raisins on my spreadsheet, so Raisins go in the Consider Buying Less column. I tried a brand of shelf-stable milk and liked it, so LaLa Leche is Consider Buying More. Tomato products are always Buy If On Sale. A thing that went to waste goes in Don’t Buy Again so I don’t forget and, you know, buy it again.

Would appreciate hearing how you keep inventory of your pantry, and make the most of the foods that you buy.
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by jebmke »

We don't track anything. If you grab the last package of "X" you put it on the list for the next shop in the coming days. The OSWO system sometimes gets deployed.
When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.
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TJat
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by TJat »

This seems very complicated. We have our regular staples that are on the list every week. We have 60 or so meals we eat and rotate each week depending on mood. Those ingredients get added to the list. We don’t buy anything off list.

If you’re running out of places to store food, are you hoarding too much? In the rare event we compile random food items in the pantry, we search for a recipe they can creatively use all of them.
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AnnetteLouisan
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by AnnetteLouisan »

I get stuff delivered from a health food store and I haven’t been inside a larger grocery store in ages. When I did go in it was so stressful with those narrow aisles, enticing displays, crowds of people and that bewildering and distracting maze of choices. Of course I bought the enticing craft tiramisu and the Haagen Dazs Bourbon Vanilla chocolate covered Espresso Bean ice cream. What looks good is a faulty standard.

Lists are the thing. I run my home like a business, inventory, lists, suppliers, deliveries, etc. not running out. I have schedules for recycling, cooking etc. Frankly, it’s hard enough even if you are organized, but I’m very pleased with the convenience of delivery services. I buy what I need and a few wants, that’s it. Used to shop only every 4-6 weeks, plus some fresh salads etc.

Going around without a plan and seeing what looks good is ok for fruit and vegetables I guess. Early in life I used to run out of things etc. that’s a chaotic way to live in my opinion.

Finally, Rao’s sauce is $6.24 at Walmart. $9 or $10 in the local store. Need one say more? Arbitrage as needed.
Last edited by AnnetteLouisan on Sat Jun 18, 2022 12:01 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Jazztonight
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by Jazztonight »

Forgive me, but I think you're overplanning, overthinking, and overcharting this. (No insult intended.)

Food right now is quite expensive, particularly fresh food. It was bad enough when an apple cost $1. Now it can cost $2! (A bag of 5 grapefruit at Costco for $8-9, etc.)

I agree that you have to have a selection of items that will allow you to mix and match the types of meals you prepare, but please don't drive yourself nuts.

My suggestion would be to list the staples you use most often, and if they are non-perishable, then stock up on those. These would include:
Canned (or bagged) beans of 1-3 types.
Sauces (canned or in a jar), like tomato/spaghetti sauce.
Dry items (pastas, brown rice, farro and other grains stored safely)
Frozen foods (fish, meat, poultry and frozen vegetables) that will stay safe and can be rotated.
Liquid items that will keep for a while, like nut butters and cheese, in the refrigerator.

Then there are the perishables, like fruit and fresh vegetables. These need to be monitored more closely, of course. When we get fresh celery and carrots I take a bunch, wash them, and store 4-6" stalks/slices in a container of water in the refrigerator. We have them for snacks and appetizers, often with hummus.

If you drink fresh milk and items like that, just buy what you can use before it goes bad.

I know people who shop every day. I don't. Once a week or every 10 days is enough.

Good luck to you.
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Ivygirl
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by Ivygirl »

TJat wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 11:43 am This seems very complicated. We have our regular staples that are on the list every week. We have 60 or so meals we eat and rotate each week depending on mood. Those ingredients get added to the list. We don’t buy anything off list.

If you’re running out of places to store food, are you hoarding too much? In the rare event we compile random food items in the pantry, we search for a recipe they can creatively use all of them.
I think having 60 meals in rotation, depending on mood, sounds complicated. :shock:

My home is 915 square feet with most of the available kitchen space occupied by the kitchen table and chairs. Food has to be stored somewhere else. Fortunately there are drawers and cupboards and closets tucked everywhere, intended for bedding and clothes, which I don't need for that purpose.

"Hoarding" has a negative connotation, like piles of old newspapers and keeping deceased pets in the deep freeze. My spreadsheet tells me I have five cans of Bush's Blackeye Peas with Snaps, the oldest expiring 12/1/2022. Two cans of Libby's Peach Slices, the oldest expiring 8/24/2022. This is the level of detail that I want.
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Ivygirl
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by Ivygirl »

Jazztonight wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 11:58 am Forgive me, but I think you're overplanning, overthinking, and overcharting this. (No insult intended.)

Food right now is quite expensive, particularly fresh food. It was bad enough when an apple cost $1. Now it can cost $2! (A bag of 5 grapefruit at Costco for $8-9, etc.)

I agree that you have to have a selection of items that will allow you to mix and match the types of meals you prepare, but please don't drive yourself nuts.

My suggestion would be to list the staples you use most often, and if they are non-perishable, then stock up on those. These would include:
Canned (or bagged) beans of 1-3 types.
Sauces (canned or in a jar), like tomato/spaghetti sauce.
Dry items (pastas, brown rice, farro and other grains stored safely)
Frozen foods (fish, meat, poultry and frozen vegetables) that will stay safe and can be rotated.
Liquid items that will keep for a while, like nut butters and cheese, in the refrigerator.

Then there are the perishables, like fruit and fresh vegetables. These need to be monitored more closely, of course. When we get fresh celery and carrots I take a bunch, wash them, and store 4-6" stalks/slices in a container of water in the refrigerator. We have them for snacks and appetizers, often with hummus.

If you drink fresh milk and items like that, just buy what you can use before it goes bad.

I know people who shop every day. I don't. Once a week or every 10 days is enough.

Good luck to you.
An apple costing $2 instead of $1 is why I want to examine whether I actually need to buy apples, or already have enough somewhere in my pantry.

Actually apples (fresh produce in general) are not something I intend to track, but applesauce on the shelf I do track.

The goal is not to drive myself nuts, the goal is to fully fund my Roth IRA with $7,000 by the end of this year despite my water bill going up by $10, electricity up by $20, natural gas up by $10, property tax up by 2%, likely increase in homeowner's insurance premium requiring additional payment to escrow, and similar. I have $6,600 to go. Grocery is just one of the budget items I am examining closely. I will have to make my own good luck.

I agree with your list of staple items, very sensible choices.
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by cheese_breath »

I go to the grocery store about once a week, give or take. Before I go, I look in the pantry and refrigerator to see what's there. Then if I need more, I buy more. If I don't need more, I don't buy more. As far as extra goodies, that depends on how well I have my weight under control.
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by mega317 »

I hear you on #1 decision fatigue is very real and I make a conscious effort to minimize it at work and at home. If I did anything approaching your system it would tap me out for the day.
In my house food is the #3 budget item after mortgage and daycare. We like to eat what we like to eat. I would not be happy if I was changing my diet because an ingredient was $1 more. Things get more expensive. I'm more concerned with becoming my grandmother who wouldn't spend more than $5 for a pair of pants because that's what it cost 100 years ago.
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by Supergrover »

jebmke wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 11:39 am We don't track anything. If you grab the last package of "X" you put it on the list for the next shop in the coming days. The OSWO system sometimes gets deployed.
OSWO method?
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by AnnetteLouisan »

Supergrover wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 1:09 pm
jebmke wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 11:39 am We don't track anything. If you grab the last package of "X" you put it on the list for the next shop in the coming days. The OSWO system sometimes gets deployed.
OSWO method?
Just googled it: oh shoot, we’re out.
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by Ivygirl »

AnnetteLouisan wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 11:51 am Finally, Rao’s sauce is $6.24 at Walmart. $9 or $10 in the local store. Need one say more? Arbitrage as needed.
Rao's is the best. The Sensitive Recipe Marinara is what I need (no onions or garlic) and it has been out of stock at both super-Walmarts for several months until I found four jars this week, yes at $6.24. Until last week it was $9 at the specialty store or nothing. Rao's goes in the Consider Buying More column, always!
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by jebmke »

Ivygirl wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 1:15 pm The Sensitive Recipe Marinara is what I need (no onions or garlic)
so, cooked tomatoes with a few herbs tossed in?
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Ivygirl
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by Ivygirl »

jebmke wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 1:18 pm
Ivygirl wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 1:15 pm The Sensitive Recipe Marinara is what I need (no onions or garlic)
so, cooked tomatoes with a few herbs tossed in?
Same way heaven is just the sky with a few angels on clouds tossed in. :wink:
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by ray.james »

My method is this:
Keep extra bags of flour, lentils, beans, rice, pasta and pasta sauces when ever Costco keeps them on sale. Same with meat when my type/ cut of meat is on sale. For veggies and fruits play as you go.

So right now, we have 3 of those 6 pack pasta that costo sells - 35 pounds, a large bag of flour, quinoa and extra bag of quinoa, pasta sauce pack, sugar, chocolate chips,
lentils of 3 kinds, 2 types of dry beans -- 10-25 lb bags
Rice - a 20 lb bag,
Nuts 3 kinds large bags.
Oil - extra pack.

I think these will serve for an year. We are not driven mainly because of costs but for non availability too
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by ray.james »

Ivygirl wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 1:24 pm
jebmke wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 1:18 pm
Ivygirl wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 1:15 pm The Sensitive Recipe Marinara is what I need (no onions or garlic)
so, cooked tomatoes with a few herbs tossed in?
Same way heaven is just the sky with a few angels on clouds tossed in. :wink:
If you are Costco shopper they sell canned San Marzano paste and a separate chunks one which is very very good. Some water/broth, spices and garlic/onion as per ones preferences.
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by stoptothink »

TJat wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 11:43 am This seems very complicated. We have our regular staples that are on the list every week. We have 60 or so meals we eat and rotate each week depending on mood. Those ingredients get added to the list. We don’t buy anything off list.
It is so much easier (and cheaper and more time efficient) when you stick to the same basic foods. We do not cook "meals", we have different foods that can be used in various ways. I know exactly what I am going to get at the grocery store every other week, and sometimes I randomly stock up. We're never out of anything and I know exactly where the best (cheapest) place to get all these items is. Some people value variety in their eating, I value nutrition first then simplicity and efficiency (thank heavens the wife does too).
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by AnnetteLouisan »

Ivygirl wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 1:24 pm
jebmke wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 1:18 pm
Ivygirl wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 1:15 pm The Sensitive Recipe Marinara is what I need (no onions or garlic)
so, cooked tomatoes with a few herbs tossed in?
Same way heaven is just the sky with a few angels on clouds tossed in. :wink:
👍🏻

Rao’s is the pinnacle of jarred sauce. Some people turn up their noses at jarred sauce entirely, but for the rest of us Rao’s arrabbiata sauce is the next best thing to being in Naples.
Last edited by AnnetteLouisan on Mon Jun 20, 2022 5:45 pm, edited 3 times in total.
PoppyA
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by PoppyA »

I use the intelI list app as a shopping list.

I go to iHeartPublix.com every Saturday to see what is buy one get one free (BOGO). If it is something I will use, I stock up. I shop at Publix because I value convenience & cleanliness over better prices (Walmart). If I happen to be in Target I look at my Publix shopping list to see if I need anything as it is usually less expensive than Publix.

During the week I will add things to my list ie: making a recipe, Hubby wants something, pick up something for the kids, etc. I usually shop once a week.

Re: expiration dates, use by dates, etc. prior to companies putting these dates on products people used their common sense as to if it was still good. I still use my common sense.

I think over analysis makes life harder than it should be. The information era has caused a lot of over analysis in my humble opinion. People loose track of their natural abilities such as intuition, feeling of hunger & what your body craves vs. the latest diet trend, etc.
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by Ivygirl »

ray.james wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 1:25 pm My method is this:
Keep extra bags of flour, lentils, beans, rice, pasta and pasta sauces when ever Costco keeps them on sale. Same with meat when my type/ cut of meat is on sale. For veggies and fruits play as you go.

So right now, we have 3 of those 6 pack pasta that costo sells - 35 pounds, a large bag of flour, quinoa and extra bag of quinoa, pasta sauce pack, sugar, chocolate chips,
lentils of 3 kinds, 2 types of dry beans -- 10-25 lb bags
Rice - a 20 lb bag,
Nuts 3 kinds large bags.
Oil - extra pack.

I think these will serve for an year. We are not driven mainly because of costs but for non availability too
Chocolate chips is a good idea!
MathWizard
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by MathWizard »

We just keep several cans of stuff we like to eat.
Canned soup, the good stuff, cans of chicken, fruit ,beans ,tomatoes

Part of this in an emergency, we can just pull out a meal.

We also use this if we have not planned.
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by jebmke »

AnnetteLouisan wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 1:32 pm
Ivygirl wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 1:24 pm
jebmke wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 1:18 pm
Ivygirl wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 1:15 pm The Sensitive Recipe Marinara is what I need (no onions or garlic)
so, cooked tomatoes with a few herbs tossed in?
Same way heaven is just the sky with a few angels on clouds tossed in. :wink:
👍🏻

Rao’s is the pinnacle of jarred sauce. Some people turn up their noses at jarred sauce entirely, but for the rest of us Rao’s is the next best thing to Naples.
It is pretty basic
Ingredients:
Italian Whole Peeled Tomatoes, Olive Oil, Carrots, Salt, Celery, Basil.
I always prefer to start with as little transformation as possible. Once something is a sauce, it cannot be anything else. At least with a can of tomatoes (or preferably in-season fresh ones) you have options.
When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by jebmke »

AnnetteLouisan wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 1:13 pm
Supergrover wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 1:09 pm
jebmke wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 11:39 am We don't track anything. If you grab the last package of "X" you put it on the list for the next shop in the coming days. The OSWO system sometimes gets deployed.
OSWO method?
Just googled it: oh shoot, we’re out.
we also use the 2-bin system for things we use often and don't want to be out of as long as they are not perishable. So the hall closet has an unopened bottle of EVO, vinegar, jar of mustard and a can of cat food that is the only food the beast will eat.
When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by Beensabu »

Ivygirl wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 11:35 am Would appreciate hearing how you keep inventory of your pantry, and make the most of the foods that you buy.
I have enough room in the kitchen to keep everything in 3 cabinets (plus next to stored appliances/stuff in a couple other cabinets for some bulky items).

Max multiples of 3 for canned/jarred pantry items (except tuna) and frozen items.

Know which cabinet a "type of item" is in.

Take everything out of a cabinet when looking for one particular irregularly used item I can't find. Realize I ran out of that item I was looking for and put it on the list. Check expiration dates while putting stuff back. Set aside anything I need to use soon. Make something with that set aside stuff instead.

Things that get used fairly regularly go on the list as soon as I use one up. That way, I only have to buy one at a time (unless it happens to be on a super good sale).

I will pay full price for one of something rather than buy 5 of something sort of on sale. I only need one, and the list accounted for a $2 spend on that item (not $8).

Weekly list now aims for anticipated $80 spend (instead of $100), so I have some room if something I will use eventually catches my eye and is a super good deal.

Know how long each type of fruit/vegetable will stay good in the fridge or on the counter. Either it gets eaten by then or frozen. If a banana occasionally doesn't make it, it goes to feed the orange tree or roses.

Know which items should be bought at which store. Rotate stores weekly.

Fresh herbs are cheaper to grow than to buy.

It works for me, anyway.
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by AerialWombat »

Perhaps I'm a simpleton, but I eat the exact same meals nearly every day when I'm at home. The only significant variation is which frozen vegetable blend gets eaten that day. My standard grocery list is just six items: Chicken, eggs, jasmine rice, frozen veggies, bananas, and several jars of tikka masala sauce. Yes, I buy my sauce in a jar.

Repeating the same meals over and over may get boring to some people, I guess, but the simplicity is very liberating (much like with index funds).

Every few months, I'll try something different. Like last week, I found a tortellini and spinach soup recipe I wanted to try, so I went to the store specifically to purchase the ingredients for that, and nothing else. A couple months ago, I bought a pork shoulder and some spices to try out a recipe on the pellet grill. But most weeks are just Groundhog Days, and I am totally OK with that.
This post is a work of fiction. Any similarity to real financial advice is purely coincidental.
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Ivygirl
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by Ivygirl »

stoptothink wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 1:31 pm
TJat wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 11:43 am This seems very complicated. We have our regular staples that are on the list every week. We have 60 or so meals we eat and rotate each week depending on mood. Those ingredients get added to the list. We don’t buy anything off list.
It is so much easier (and cheaper and more time efficient) when you stick to the same basic foods. We do not cook "meals", we have different foods that can be used in various ways. I know exactly what I am going to get at the grocery store every other week, and sometimes I randomly stock up. We're never out of anything and I know exactly where the best (cheapest) place to get all these items is. Some people value variety in their eating, I value nutrition first then simplicity and efficiency (thank heavens the wife does too).
Isn't variety a subset of nutrition? Eating seasonally, micronutrients, and so on.
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by ResearchMed »

AerialWombat wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 3:09 pm Perhaps I'm a simpleton, but I eat the exact same meals nearly every day when I'm at home. The only significant variation is which frozen vegetable blend gets eaten that day. My standard grocery list is just six items: Chicken, eggs, jasmine rice, frozen veggies, bananas, and several jars of tikka masala sauce. Yes, I buy my sauce in a jar.

Repeating the same meals over and over may get boring to some people, I guess, but the simplicity is very liberating (much like with index funds).

Every few months, I'll try something different. Like last week, I found a tortellini and spinach soup recipe I wanted to try, so I went to the store specifically to purchase the ingredients for that, and nothing else. A couple months ago, I bought a pork shoulder and some spices to try out a recipe on the pellet grill. But most weeks are just Groundhog Days, and I am totally OK with that.

I didn't think Groundhog was tender. Do you marinate it first?
:twisted:

RM
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by AerialWombat »

ResearchMed wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 4:02 pm I didn't think Groundhog was tender. Do you marinate it first?
:twisted:

RM
That's what the tikka masala sauce is for. Water it down a little bit and it makes a great marinade, too. :mrgreen:
This post is a work of fiction. Any similarity to real financial advice is purely coincidental.
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GerryL
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by GerryL »

Two changes I made several years ago to reduce waste in my grocery budget:

Dry erase board on the fridge: When I see that something is getting low -- or I think of something I want for a special dish -- I note it on the board so I don't forget about it.

Shallow pantry: My only pantry space used to be a deep closet in the laundry room. Items would disappear to the back only to be found months (or years) after the "best used by" date. My remodel included the addition of a shallow (12" deep) pantry in the kitchen. Easy to see if shelf-stable basics -- like canned food or pasta -- are getting low. No more surprises hidden way in the back.

I always use lists (that's what old envelopes were made for), although I will often pick up something not on the list. But at least I don't come home and realize that I forgot the milk. The notes on the dry erase board are the start of the list.

I know myself well enough to know that I would never maintain a complicated system tracking items and dates.
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by fposte »

My house isn't much bigger than yours, but there's a small chest freezer in my basement that helps. I cook a lot of soups and freeze them, and with those I'm shopping for a specific recipe so there's not really a storage issue on ingredients. I had a bad habit of oversupply on food that is technically edible when old but loses appeal (like rice or dried beans, or frozen green beans), so I cooked up the backlog and I put space-based limits on the categories. Retirement means I'd rather shop more often than unearth more ancient split peas.

I have health conditions that sometimes affect what I can eat, so there are certain soups I always want a frozen supply of. But other than that it's a lot of fruit and cheese (especially in the summer); pasta with fresh or frozen veg; or a vast variety of soups and stews (especially in the winter). I also like salad with nuts and dried fruits, so the mix-ins live right next to the fridge and it's easy to see when it's time to get more or, perhaps more importantly, when it isn't. So it's basically a balance between a controlled number of staples in a few categories, my own premade dishes, and recipes or "recipes" (slapping prosciutto and mozzarella on peaches isn't really a recipe) that I specifically shop for within the same week I use them.

I love a spreadsheet and an inventory, so I can see the appeal, but I just use spatial rules in the kitchen, the wonderful Eat Your Books database to consolidate my cookbooks, and an old grocery app, Grocery IQ, that allows me to keep favorites preset at different stores. It's a satisfying blend of reliable favorites and creative opportunity.
OpenMinded1
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by OpenMinded1 »

ResearchMed wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 4:02 pm
AerialWombat wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 3:09 pm Perhaps I'm a simpleton, but I eat the exact same meals nearly every day when I'm at home. The only significant variation is which frozen vegetable blend gets eaten that day. My standard grocery list is just six items: Chicken, eggs, jasmine rice, frozen veggies, bananas, and several jars of tikka masala sauce. Yes, I buy my sauce in a jar.

Repeating the same meals over and over may get boring to some people, I guess, but the simplicity is very liberating (much like with index funds).

Every few months, I'll try something different. Like last week, I found a tortellini and spinach soup recipe I wanted to try, so I went to the store specifically to purchase the ingredients for that, and nothing else. A couple months ago, I bought a pork shoulder and some spices to try out a recipe on the pellet grill. But most weeks are just Groundhog Days, and I am totally OK with that.

I didn't think Groundhog was tender. Do you marinate it first?
:twisted:

RM
It's quite tender after being run over a few times. :) :)
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by jebmke »

OpenMinded1 wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 4:48 pm
ResearchMed wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 4:02 pm
AerialWombat wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 3:09 pm Perhaps I'm a simpleton, but I eat the exact same meals nearly every day when I'm at home. The only significant variation is which frozen vegetable blend gets eaten that day. My standard grocery list is just six items: Chicken, eggs, jasmine rice, frozen veggies, bananas, and several jars of tikka masala sauce. Yes, I buy my sauce in a jar.

Repeating the same meals over and over may get boring to some people, I guess, but the simplicity is very liberating (much like with index funds).

Every few months, I'll try something different. Like last week, I found a tortellini and spinach soup recipe I wanted to try, so I went to the store specifically to purchase the ingredients for that, and nothing else. A couple months ago, I bought a pork shoulder and some spices to try out a recipe on the pellet grill. But most weeks are just Groundhog Days, and I am totally OK with that.

I didn't think Groundhog was tender. Do you marinate it first?
:twisted:

RM
It's quite tender after being run over a few times. :) :)
Pizza ready. All you need is a decent marinara sauce.
When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.
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celia
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by celia »

I store dehydrated canned food (saved for an earthquake) in a cupboard under the stairs and in a bedroom closet. (This is the only food I’ve inventoried in a spreadsheet.)

All the day-to-day food is stored in the kitchen or adjacent pantry. It sounds like you need to re-arrange the kitchen/panty likewise so you can see what you have on a daily basis. When you run out of storage space, that is a cue to not buy more until you’ve freed up more space. :happy

For example, when I go shopping and the freezer is already full, it makes no sense to walk down the frozen food aisles.
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by corgilady2011 »

Walmart plus has been really helpful to us lately. I've made the decision to just "stop buying" when it comes to pantry items unless, as an example, we're down to the last one or two of something canned food wise and we know how we'd use it. Then I just add it to the cart for our next delivery. It's gotten us to be more creative to figure out to use what we have. Delivery only for the majority of our items have gotten us more in that mindset of only buying what we need, when we need it. It also has helped us be more mindful of what our meal planning will look like roughly over the course of the following week or two and has limited the impulse purchases while being physically at the store. The only exception of going into a store is if there is a type of meat on sale that we need to stock up on, and even then I stick to the "outside aisles" of the store (meat, dairy, vegetables, etc).

With that said, we do have a deep-freezer in our garage. Our meat is primarily purchased from a combination of Costco and then store sales. We have invested in a meat grinder attachment for our Kitchenaid mixer and a vacuum sealer and both have been really quite helpful. For example, we purchased 2 briskets during a memorial day sale for $1.97/lb and turned them into ground beef, packaged into what we typically use for a meal and vacuum sealed. We have found it helpful to keep a spreadsheet of the freezer though, to keep in check how much we have of a particular meat, frozen vegetable, bread, etc. and have done the "stop buying" too until we get toward the end of that portion of the meat supply before it gets added to a list.
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by johnegonpdx »

Our methodology is very straightforward.

1. Plan and cook a handful of simple recipes in large batches for the week.

2. Select recipes for the week based on the best deals for protein & vegetables available.

3. For protein, if there is an extremely good deal, buy enough to freeze some and cook some.

4. For carbs, stick to brown rice or pasta, and buy in bulk whenever a deal pops up.

5. Bake at home more than buy pastries or breads (unless you happen upon a really good sale item).

6. Stock up opportunistically on long shelf life oils, spices, condiments, canned tomato pastes, etc.

In other words, we try to be as flexible as possible and move with the market.

Sidenote 1: For emergency preparedness, we also maintain a 2-week stock of canned, jarred and dry food that we eat through / replenish periodically as they expire. This is pretty easy to do as we look for overstock clearance deals at places like Walmart & Winco while checking on their expiration dates, obviously.

Sidenote 2: When I go shopping, I often stumble upon "manager clearance" items in the produce, meat and deli departments. I'll grab them and adjust our cooking plans only if I have known recipes that can use them. The one time I violated that rule I discovered ricotta works pretty well on homemade pizza.
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by celia »

Sometimes we follow a recipe consisting of cut up raw chicken, potatoes, and carrots (can add other veggies). We stack these bite sized pieces on a piece of foil, cover the food with a tablespoon or so of condensed mushroom soup and a sprinkle of powdered onion soup mix, then fold the foil into a pouch and bake it 1/2 hour in the oven or BBQ. When we have unopened cooked pouches, we then freeze them.

As the week goes on, we put other left-over “meal servings” (not one dish—except for casseroles) in foil pouches in the freezer.

Then when we are lazy, we have a “surprise” menu where we just warm up the pouches. No-one knows what they will get until they open it up. Good entertainment/ planning project for kids during the summer.
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Ivygirl
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by Ivygirl »

celia wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 5:04 pm I store dehydrated canned food (saved for an earthquake) in a cupboard under the stairs and in a bedroom closet. (This is the only food I’ve inventoried in a spreadsheet.)

All the day-to-day food is stored in the kitchen or adjacent pantry. It sounds like you need to re-arrange the kitchen/panty likewise so you can see what you have on a daily basis. When you run out of storage space, that is a cue to not buy more until you’ve freed up more space. :happy

For example, when I go shopping and the freezer is already full, it makes no sense to walk down the frozen food aisles.
I'm not even close to running out of storage space, it's just that my house has practically none in the kitchen. The "pantry" is in closets and drawers and cupboards all over the house. It wouldn't be possible to quickly see what I have on a daily basis, thus the spreadsheet.

I just came back from my Saturday grocery shop. Canned peaches and gravy mix were on my Consider Buying More list so I picked those up. Bread and hamburger will be used soon and don't need to be inventoried; the pint of Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia didn't make it to the fridge. :wink: The peaches and the gravy mix will go into inventory on a shelf in a bedroom closet.
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celia
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by celia »

Ivygirl wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 5:42 pm I'm not even close to running out of storage space, it's just that my house has practically none in the kitchen. The "pantry" is in closets and drawers and cupboards all over the house. It wouldn't be possible to quickly see what I have on a daily basis, thus the spreadsheet.
Would it make sense for you to move some of your cooking utensils that aren’t used very often to another place, so you have more room in the kitchen for food? For example, maybe the toaster, waffle iron, and baking supplies can be moved.

We sometimes also store left-overs that don’t need refrigeration (usually baked goods) in the microwave or oven. This is more of a “out of sight, out of mind” reason than a storage issue for us.
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by GenawithanE »

i just started using the free app Pantry Check. it’s free for something like 200 items. you can designate locations so you know where things are. it scans the bar code on the item and also tracks the expiration date. it took me like 15 minutes to scan in the contents of my pantry cabinets, and i am adding fridge things more gradually. my goal is to keep up with expiring stuff and know if i have the components of a recipe i’m considering making. i keep a google doc if what is in the freezers mostly so we know what easy choices we have for meals (from big batch cooking where i make a lot of, say, pulled pork and freeze most of it), and what protein options we have in.

we also use Alexa to keep a grocery list, so if my husband or i notice we are out of something, we add it to the list. then when i’m at the store, i can check the list in the app and he can’t complain if i didn’t get something he didn’t put on the list!

As Jacques Pepin says, happy cooking!
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by momvesting »

You are definitely overthinking this and making it too complicated. A few things to get you started:

1. Have 2-4 "go to" meals that are fairly easy to make and you almost always have the ingredients on hand. For example, ours are tikka masala (with jarred sauce), some kind of taco/burrito, fried rice (very flexible with whatever veggies are handy), chili (almost all ingredients are canned), and pasta.

2. Make sure that you do have an adequate supply of items that you use over and over again, and when these particular items are on sale, stock up. Some of ours are canned tomatoes, canned beans, rice, pasta, pasta sauces, salsa, tortillas, cream of chicken and cream of mushroom soups, chicken breasts, ground beef, pot roast, and frozen veggies.

3. Buy and freeze some of your "ingredient" veggies for when you don't have fresh on hand. I have sliced up and placed in Ziploc bags in my freezer: white onion, purple onion, bell pepper, jalapeno, and lemon slices. They don't thaw well to straight out eat, but are just fine as ingredients.

4. You don't need to go through ALL your stuff or inventory it, but do rifle around your fridge and pantry and see if you have a few things that you need to use up ASAP and plan a few meals around those items so they don't go to waste.

5. Now sit in your kitchen and make a meal plan for the next 7-10 days. Do this at home, that way you can check on what you have to make the plan, you don't have to remember everything, just be able to look, like, "Do I have any frozen broccoli to make Asian Beef and Broccoli?" As you make the meal plan, also make a list of the fresh ingredients you will need as well as any other ingredients you are running low on and need for each meal.

6. Don't forget spices, seasonings, dressings, and sauces. Keep a decent-sized supply of anything you normally use.
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by stoptothink »

Ivygirl wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 3:18 pm
stoptothink wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 1:31 pm
TJat wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 11:43 am This seems very complicated. We have our regular staples that are on the list every week. We have 60 or so meals we eat and rotate each week depending on mood. Those ingredients get added to the list. We don’t buy anything off list.
It is so much easier (and cheaper and more time efficient) when you stick to the same basic foods. We do not cook "meals", we have different foods that can be used in various ways. I know exactly what I am going to get at the grocery store every other week, and sometimes I randomly stock up. We're never out of anything and I know exactly where the best (cheapest) place to get all these items is. Some people value variety in their eating, I value nutrition first then simplicity and efficiency (thank heavens the wife does too).
Isn't variety a subset of nutrition? Eating seasonally, micronutrients, and so on.
Sort of, but it's also kind of irrelevant in this context (your talking about food storage and stocking up, so you are talking non-perishable items). The fresh produce we eat is whatever is in season, but it doesn't actually change what we are eating (it's just one thing slightly different on the plate). The large bulk of of what we eat (lean proteins, eggs, various frozen veggies and dried legumes, greens, etc.) doesn't change. Making different "meals" does not necessarily mean you are getting more variety in what you eat (the macro and micronutrient profile). Completely agree with others, you are way overcomplicating this, for no obvious benefit.
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Ivygirl
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by Ivygirl »

GenawithanE wrote: Sun Jun 19, 2022 3:44 pm i just started using the free app Pantry Check. it’s free for something like 200 items. you can designate locations so you know where things are. it scans the bar code on the item and also tracks the expiration date. it took me like 15 minutes to scan in the contents of my pantry cabinets, and i am adding fridge things more gradually. my goal is to keep up with expiring stuff and know if i have the components of a recipe i’m considering making. i keep a google doc if what is in the freezers mostly so we know what easy choices we have for meals (from big batch cooking where i make a lot of, say, pulled pork and freeze most of it), and what protein options we have in.

we also use Alexa to keep a grocery list, so if my husband or i notice we are out of something, we add it to the list. then when i’m at the store, i can check the list in the app and he can’t complain if i didn’t get something he didn’t put on the list!

As Jacques Pepin says, happy cooking!
The Pantry Check app sounds very cool, I did not know about this.
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by Turbo29 »

Just a note: Canned and jarred foods meant for ambient temperature storage do not "expire." If you look at the dates they usually say "Best by" or something similar; the dates are quality dates. These foods are not unsafe to consume after the date.

-- "Best if Used By/Before" date indicates when a product will be of best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
-- "Sell-By" date tells the store how long to display the product for sale for inventory management. It is not a safety date.
-- “Use-By" date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. It is not a safety date except for when used on infant formula as described below.
-- “Freeze-By” date indicates when a product should be frozen to maintain peak quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.

USDA -- Food Product Dating
Last edited by Turbo29 on Sun Jun 19, 2022 11:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Ivygirl
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by Ivygirl »

Thank you to everyone who commented, I appreciate hearing how other people manage this.

Just finished my inventory and am pretty pleased with what I have on hand. Fruits, Vegetables, Condiments, Oils, Tomatoes, Broths, Sauces, Pasta, Seasonings, Fish, Milk, Meats. Two, or maybe three, months' supply.

It's pleasant, and practical, to physically handle things, check the seals, look for insects getting into the rice or any signs of mice, clean under and behind the shelves, check the ceilings of closets for any spot that might mean a water leak. Just good home economics. All is orderly, labels front, ready to eat.
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Ivygirl
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by Ivygirl »

stoptothink wrote: Sun Jun 19, 2022 9:05 pm
Ivygirl wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 3:18 pm
stoptothink wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 1:31 pm
TJat wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 11:43 am This seems very complicated. We have our regular staples that are on the list every week. We have 60 or so meals we eat and rotate each week depending on mood. Those ingredients get added to the list. We don’t buy anything off list.
It is so much easier (and cheaper and more time efficient) when you stick to the same basic foods. We do not cook "meals", we have different foods that can be used in various ways. I know exactly what I am going to get at the grocery store every other week, and sometimes I randomly stock up. We're never out of anything and I know exactly where the best (cheapest) place to get all these items is. Some people value variety in their eating, I value nutrition first then simplicity and efficiency (thank heavens the wife does too).
Isn't variety a subset of nutrition? Eating seasonally, micronutrients, and so on.
Sort of, but it's also kind of irrelevant in this context (your talking about food storage and stocking up, so you are talking non-perishable items). The fresh produce we eat is whatever is in season, but it doesn't actually change what we are eating (it's just one thing slightly different on the plate). The large bulk of of what we eat (lean proteins, eggs, various frozen veggies and dried legumes, greens, etc.) doesn't change. Making different "meals" does not necessarily mean you are getting more variety in what you eat (the macro and micronutrient profile). Completely agree with others, you are way overcomplicating this, for no obvious benefit.
Canned beets would be an example of what I mean. Their deep color means antioxidants, lycopene and betacarotene. I read that they are rich in natural nitrates that improve blood oxygenation and can lower systolic blood pressure. I don't eat beets every day but I do think they add value.
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by goaties »

I'm in agreement with the many wise folks who've already noted some great ideas--the pantry app, wow! gotta try that.

I would add a couple things. First, I only make a list for a very few must-have staples, like onions or eggs. Otherwise, I buy what's on sale. And, if it's something that will keep and I use a lot of it, like canned tomatoes, I will buy a LOT of what's on sale.

This means that I don't cook from recipes. Instead, I look at what I have on hand that's about to go bad or expire. I make meals including those things. No food ever goes to waste. Recipe-only cooks end up with odds and ends of food which often get thrown out. I simply don't have that problem.

Finally, I have begun ordering 5 pound bags of nuts from online suppliers such as ifsbulk.com. Twenty-five pound bags of millet. Usually much cheaper than buying that stuff in the store, although with shipping charges, you need to do the math to make sure. I freeze all grains and flours for at least a week before storage to kill any eggs which would otherwise hatch in our hot humid summers. I repackage big bags into smaller gallon ziploc bags before freezing, obviously! My freezer isn't huge.
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by stoptothink »

Ivygirl wrote: Mon Jun 20, 2022 12:57 am
stoptothink wrote: Sun Jun 19, 2022 9:05 pm
Ivygirl wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 3:18 pm
stoptothink wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 1:31 pm
TJat wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 11:43 am This seems very complicated. We have our regular staples that are on the list every week. We have 60 or so meals we eat and rotate each week depending on mood. Those ingredients get added to the list. We don’t buy anything off list.
It is so much easier (and cheaper and more time efficient) when you stick to the same basic foods. We do not cook "meals", we have different foods that can be used in various ways. I know exactly what I am going to get at the grocery store every other week, and sometimes I randomly stock up. We're never out of anything and I know exactly where the best (cheapest) place to get all these items is. Some people value variety in their eating, I value nutrition first then simplicity and efficiency (thank heavens the wife does too).
Isn't variety a subset of nutrition? Eating seasonally, micronutrients, and so on.
Sort of, but it's also kind of irrelevant in this context (your talking about food storage and stocking up, so you are talking non-perishable items). The fresh produce we eat is whatever is in season, but it doesn't actually change what we are eating (it's just one thing slightly different on the plate). The large bulk of of what we eat (lean proteins, eggs, various frozen veggies and dried legumes, greens, etc.) doesn't change. Making different "meals" does not necessarily mean you are getting more variety in what you eat (the macro and micronutrient profile). Completely agree with others, you are way overcomplicating this, for no obvious benefit.
Canned beets would be an example of what I mean. Their deep color means antioxidants, lycopene and betacarotene. I read that they are rich in natural nitrates that improve blood oxygenation and can lower systolic blood pressure. I don't eat beets every day but I do think they add value.
I'm well aware of the nutrition aspect, it's pretty much what I do for a living. I'm still unclear as to how it is relevant to food storage and your specific situation. The most effective way to simplify this is not some app, it's to simplify your eating habits; certainly no harm in valuing variety, but it'll just be more difficult to solve this issue.
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Ivygirl
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by Ivygirl »

goaties wrote: Mon Jun 20, 2022 4:36 am Finally, I have begun ordering 5 pound bags of nuts from online suppliers such as ifsbulk.com. Twenty-five pound bags of millet. Usually much cheaper than buying that stuff in the store, although with shipping charges, you need to do the math to make sure. I freeze all grains and flours for at least a week before storage to kill any eggs which would otherwise hatch in our hot humid summers. I repackage big bags into smaller gallon ziploc bags before freezing, obviously! My freezer isn't huge.
Can you tell me some ways you cook with millet? I can't eat wheat, rye, or barley at all, and would be interested in adding a non-gluten grain to my meals.
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Ivygirl
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by Ivygirl »

stoptothink wrote: Mon Jun 20, 2022 6:38 am
Ivygirl wrote: Mon Jun 20, 2022 12:57 am
stoptothink wrote: Sun Jun 19, 2022 9:05 pm
Ivygirl wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 3:18 pm
stoptothink wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 1:31 pm

It is so much easier (and cheaper and more time efficient) when you stick to the same basic foods. We do not cook "meals", we have different foods that can be used in various ways. I know exactly what I am going to get at the grocery store every other week, and sometimes I randomly stock up. We're never out of anything and I know exactly where the best (cheapest) place to get all these items is. Some people value variety in their eating, I value nutrition first then simplicity and efficiency (thank heavens the wife does too).
Isn't variety a subset of nutrition? Eating seasonally, micronutrients, and so on.
Sort of, but it's also kind of irrelevant in this context (your talking about food storage and stocking up, so you are talking non-perishable items). The fresh produce we eat is whatever is in season, but it doesn't actually change what we are eating (it's just one thing slightly different on the plate). The large bulk of of what we eat (lean proteins, eggs, various frozen veggies and dried legumes, greens, etc.) doesn't change. Making different "meals" does not necessarily mean you are getting more variety in what you eat (the macro and micronutrient profile). Completely agree with others, you are way overcomplicating this, for no obvious benefit.
Canned beets would be an example of what I mean. Their deep color means antioxidants, lycopene and betacarotene. I read that they are rich in natural nitrates that improve blood oxygenation and can lower systolic blood pressure. I don't eat beets every day but I do think they add value.
I'm well aware of the nutrition aspect, it's pretty much what I do for a living. I'm still unclear as to how it is relevant to food storage and your specific situation. The most effective way to simplify this is not some app, it's to simplify your eating habits; certainly no harm in valuing variety, but it'll just be more difficult to solve this issue.
But I'm not seeking an effective way to simplify. Simplification is your value stoptothink, and you arrange your pantry and grocery shopping around it as it suits your family. Mine is to know what I have, where I have it, and that it is stored and used practically. I definitely prefer variety, and think it has nutritional value, and is relevant to food storage. You don't seem to get appetite fatigue but I do.

Some tasty beets from the pantry will hit the spot someday, and give me nutrients I may not have known I needed.

From a practicality standpoint, canned greens like spinach and mustard are in my pantry too. I don't need the quantity I would get from the giant bunches at the grocery store and I don't want to spend several hours cooking collards. But I do need to eat these things.
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Re: Pantry Inventory and Grocery Shopping in Time of Inflation

Post by getthatmarshmallow »

Re: #4. Some perspective.If you're a typical American, you spend about 9% of your household income on groceries. This is world-historically low. Inflation like we're seeing now moves that to...10%. Still world historically low!! As a Boglehead, with a high income, that's likely not enough to move the needle noticeably in your life. Keep to your budget if you desire, but there's no need to *stress.*

I value variety a lot, but our pantry tends to have the same things all the time (tomatoes, rice, all-purpose flour, various beans) and so does the freezer (most veggies/chicken.) We also have much less variety at breakfast/lunch. So shopping turns into a) buy the usual same things b) see what's on sale in the meat/produce aisle c) buy those things d) cook those things. Less waste, because the fresh stuff gets used up and the canned goods aren't going anywhere, and they're all things that will get used up eventually.
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