How to Save Money With a Pantry Inventory

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans waste one pound of food per day (225 to 290 pounds per year).

That’s a lot of food needlessly wasted because, in reality, you’re throwing your money in the garbage or compost bin.

Who wants to do that?

Benefits of a Pantry Inventory

To keep your fruits and vegetables from getting shoved to the back of the fridge only to be discovered weeks later, covered in a soft green fuzz, create a pantry inventory to stay on top of what you have in your kitchen.

⬥ You’ll save money because you:

    • ⬦ Plan your meals around what you’ve got on hand
    • ⬦ Know what you’re running low on so you can buy when on sale
    • ⬦ Can eat at home instead of ordering out because you know what you have on hand that needs to be eaten (a/k/a leftovers)
    • ⬦ Use up the food you have before it expires or goes to waste


You’ll save time because you:

    • ⬦ Don’t have to run to the store as often – you’ll know what you have on hand to make dinner
    • ⬦ Don’t have to dig through your pantry to figure out what’s for dinner…you’ll know by looking at your inventory


⬥ You’ll save space because you:

    • ⬦ Can eat what you have on hand, won’t store unnecessary duplicates and can clear out food that is close to or has expired.
    • ⬦ Can make good use of your storage space by storing food in the back of the pantry or fridge without worrying about it getting lost and forgotten

Getting started

Since you’ll be eating every day, the inventory list will change, so make it easy on yourself and set aside some time to be able to complete the process at one time.

  1. Gather your tools; a printed inventory sheet (there are tons of them on the ‘net) a smartphone app, inventory website or a simple blank piece of paper and a pen.
  2. Remove everything from your freezer, refrigerator and pantry.
  3. Write down each item on your list, including how many of each item you have and the expiration date (if applicable).
  4. Get in the habit of checking off each item as you use it, and adding it to a separate shopping list when you’re running low
  5. When you buy new items, add them, their quantities and expiration dates to your inventory list.

The size of your storage space will determine how long this process should take, but remember that once you’ve completed your initial list it will be much easier and faster to keep track as you go.

Hint: A good time to do this would be when your pantry and fridge are at their lowest point, right before you plan to shop.

Do a pantry challenge

Once you’ve created your pantry inventory, think about doing a pantry challenge.

Put simply, a pantry challenge is when you choose to eat only those items you’ve got on hand for a set period of time, such as 30 days.

The idea is simple…you don’t go to the store for those 30 days, only eating what you’ve got stored in your freezer, refrigerator and pantry.

Why do this?

Several reasons…

  • you save money because you’re not going to the store
  • you realize that you’ve been buying things that nobody wants to eat (do people really like to eat wax beans?)
  • andyou won’t waste food because you’re eating what you have on hand instead of buying more

Now if this seems crazy, especially when you think about fresh foods such as milk, fruit and vegetables, you can choose to modify your pantry challenge.

For example, you can:

  • Only spend $10 per week buying fresh items to supplement your pantry
  • And only spend any money you get that’s outside of your normal income
  • Do the challenge for two or three weeks

It’s your challenge, so you can decide.

Give yourself goals

Choose a goal that will motivate you to stick to your guns in doing the pantry challenge.

Do you need to save up money to buy a house? Slash your debts?

Common goals that individuals have for doing a pantry challenge include:


How much do you want to save? Divide your monthly budget by 30 days to get a daily budget that you can use to decide how long to make your challenge.

Time goal

Figure out how long you want your pantry challenge to last and set your goal. Make it long enough to challenge yourself in the kitchen, but short enough to keep the family from staging a revolt!

Food goal

Do you want to clean out the entire kitchen or just half of it? Or do you want to see the bottom of your deep freeze?

Decide what you want the pantry challenge to look like, then begin.

Whether you decide to do a pantry challenge or not, a pantry inventory is one of the smartest things you can do for yourself, your family and your budget.