I’ve been a freelance writer for ages, but I also spent a few years running an online retail business. I learned a lot of things including basic accounting, that cash-flow was king, and stock control. It occurred to me recently that I should approach running my household in the same way.
To be fair, I’ve always kept pretty good household accounts. I met my husband when we were both penniless students and we got married and had children soon after university; money has always been tight. I regularly check my budget (incomings minus outgoings), but it never occurred to me to practice stock control, too.
Well, I do cast a casual glance around the kitchen before going shopping, and I’m getting better at making a shopping list and planning meals, but I don’t keep a proper tally of what I have. If I forget to make a list before I go out, or make a spontaneous supermarket visit, I’m quite likely to buy a bag of pasta or a carton of orange juice ‘just in case’ only to find I have several at home.
I realised that I wouldn’t be able to accurately answer the question ‘what is in your cupboards?’ let alone ‘what’s the best before date on that bag of quinoa you bought on a whim?’ and that doesn’t seem very efficient.
I don’t know whether this is an entirely normal thing that you are all already doing and I’m late to the party, or whether it’s my control-freak Capricorn tendencies revealing themselves in all their goaty-glory. Whichever, I’m giving it a go.
I’ve decided on a spreadsheet as I’m never far from my netbook and my handwriting is messy, but you could use paper and a pen just as easily. If you prefer, you could even print out your stock sheets and laminate them so they can be re-used.
Making the inventory was a bit of an eye-opener. As I said, I do (mostly) make a list when I go shopping, but I still managed to have rather more pasta than I expected, as well as a variety of half-finished random items; ingredients that I’d bought for one particular recipe and then forgotten about. I’m determined to use everything before it goes out of date and – hopefully – reduce my food shopping bill in the short term, too.
My freezer list was the most alarming. I found chicken satay ‘party nibbles’ that I’d bought for last Christmas, more portions of soup than I remember making, and several unidentified bags of homemade ‘stuff’ . I foresee a number of surprising and inventive meals coming up.
My aim is to eat everything (or near enough) in the freezer and cupboards before buying new. I’ll have to shop for fresh food (veg, fruit, cheese, milk) but it should be a bargainous – and adventurous – few weeks. Wish me luck!
[Image credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net]