What’s in your pantry? Rice, beans, canned tuna, muesli, a jar of mixed nuts, a marmalade for sure. But not sure if it’s strawberry or blueberry and definitely not sure if it has been there since last spring or since 2013. Keeping tabs on everything that is in our cupboards, fridge and freezer is arguably something we all have to do. It is there because we’ve bought it with the good intention to use it. But when we don’t use it right away, it stays buried, sad and forgotten. And we will never use it because we just don’t remember it is there. That is unless we have a complete groceries and pantry inventory to keep track of our household consumables. By inventory, we mean a list of all items, plus their expiry dates.
Sounds great to have one, doesn’t it? But even if we think we are conscientious housekeepers, we can never remember all the items in our fridge and pantry. It’s not because of a lack of cognitive powers, there’s just a lot of stuff in those cupboards and fridge shelves. We made a quick survey among friends and asked them to guess the number of all groceries in their kitchen. Then they made an inventory to check the actual number. The result – the real figure was between double and triple their initial assumption.
To buy or not to buy?
When you don’t have a complete groceries and pantry inventory, you buy either too much or not enough. Both of these result in throwing food away. When you forget to buy something, you would not be able to cook exactly what you had planned. Until you go to the store again, it’s very likely that some of the other ingredients for the recipe will go bad or best case scenario – get buried in the back of the fridge or pantry until completely forgotten. The same applies for overbuying. That extra bottle of soy sauce or bag of frozen berries – yes, they do have a long shelf life. But is it long enough until you decide to go for a home-made sushi or blueberry pie again?
How other people do it?
If we are to pick a role model for keeping track of groceries, these would be restaurant professionals. First, their job depends on it and second, when it’s business, you want to be efficient. At home, we are much more negligent. We can make last minute changes to our cooking plans if we are missing an ingredient. Or just order in. Plus a pack of pasta short or extra doesn’t kill anybody. For restaurant professionals, improvisation is no option and they rely on custom-made systems to keep their inventory. These are expensive and complex database solutions that are not suitable for family use.
Very true, sir!
Some decades ago the household solution for keeping track of all items at home was relatively simple. They called it a butler, a live-in maid or a stay-at-home mom. Their full-time job was to manage everything in the house, including the amount of the never-ending need for ice-cream and microwave popcorn. But since the Bertie Woosters of the 21st century do not have their own personal Jeeves’, they have to find another way of knowing what’s in the fridge and what’s not. Memorising all the brands, quantities and expiry dates? We don’t think so. Constantly adding and crossing out items on a sheet of paper or a board – doable, but inefficient.
What to do then?
Well, technology can make our lives a lot easier in many ways and making a digital list of everything that’s inside your fridge and pantry is one of them. There are plenty of general-purpose list apps out there. Some of them are excellent at putting stuff in a list and if you are using one already, that’s great! But we do not recommend any of them if you are serious about doing groceries and pantry inventory. What you need is a tool that is tailored for this type of lists. It will assist in every step – from creation with food-specific properties to single swipe updates, impossible with a generic app.
We designed CogZum app so that it meets all household needs in one – we paired your searchable inventory of groceries and household essentials with a smart shopping list. You can update anything with a few taps on your smartphone. The app lets you know everything that you have at home and tells you when it is going to expire. Why this matters? Because by keeping a well-organised essentials inventory and a daily updated shopping list you will be able to reduce your food waste to a minimum.
Once you have the inventory, it’s easy
Unfortunately, there is no magic wand that can do the first step for you. Unless you are Raymond from “Rain Man” or Mike Ross from “Suits”, you just have to go through your fridge and pantry with an iPhone in hand and enter all the items in your “Home” inventory list. We won’t pretend that you’ll have the time of your life, but we do believe the long-term results are worth the effort. Besides it’s January and we are all making plans how to make our lives better and more organised, right? ‘Shop smarter’ and ‘throw away less food’ are legit New Year’s resolutions. To achieve them we need a bit of preparation.
You still think making an inventory is too much work?
OK, here’s the next best thing to a magic wand – make your groceries and pantry inventory on the go. Once you start using CogZum app for your daily shopping, all items that you cross off from the shopping list as bought will automatically go into your “Home” list. Thus your essentials inventory will fill itself over time and in about 2-3 months you will have your complete groceries and pantry inventory.
Tidy kitchen=Tidy mind
If you decide to have yet another fresh start of the year, we suggest you make a thorough inspection of your kitchen. It will take some time, but here’s the good news – when you go through your cupboard,s you will surely free up some shelf space. You’ll throw away stuff that has expired, that’s too sticky, too dry, too suspicious. You will discover some exotic spices and get inspired to finally challenge yourself with that Moroccan recipe you saw on Jamie Oliver’s Instagram.
Making a list of all those jars, bottles, packs, boxes and bags may not make you a better person, but it will make you a more confident chef. Once you do your inventory and start updating it, you will get a clearer idea of what you have and what you need for a delicious home-made dinner. Since we mentioned Jamie Oliver, here’s his complete pantry essentials shopping list. Take your New Year’s resolutions to the next level, make your own inventory, compare it with his and go shopping for what you are missing. We can guarantee that after this initial step, using CogZum will become intuitive and turn into a daily routine.
You will never ever have three types of marmalade but no flour for your Sunday morning pancakes. And those spices in Michael McIntyre‘s story would not feel as useless as they have been for the last seven years 😉