Years ago, while in the throughs of raising children and cooking dinner and running errands and keeping up with all the laundry, it became a real liability to suddenly discover we had run out of something vital like toilet paper or sandwich baggies or milk. A trip to the store for one item with four small children is not my idea of fun.
Determined to find a method to ensure our basics were always fully stocked and to create peace of mind while also reducing the number of grocery runs required in a given week, I developed our household inventory system.
We all have a list of staple ingredients that we use regularly. My list of staples is probably different than yours, but the list exists, if only in our minds. A household inventory takes the items out of your brain, deposits them into a document, and creates a master list of the items you use regularly.
I print out my inventory and use the list as my guide when it is time to grocery shop. I look at each item on the list, check the quantity we have on hand, and determine whether or not we have enough of the item to last a week. If we have a week’s worth of an item, then I cross it out on my list because I do not need to buy more. After I have checked our supply of all the items, I am left with a list of items we do need, and essentially my grocery list creates itself.
I like my household inventory to be exhaustive. I include everything we use for breakfasts, lunches, and snacks as well as basics like toilet paper, laundry detergent, and shampoo. You can use this system without being exhaustive and hone your list to a smaller collection of items that are high priority. Maybe this is milk, toilet paper, and dog food. The point? This list gets to include whatever you’d like it to include.
The beauty of this system is you can customize it according to how you like to think about supplies and how regularly you use items. When my children were all in school, we would pack twenty school lunches every week. So, if everyone was going to pack a juice box, we would need 40 juice boxes per week. When I took the inventory, if we only had 10, then I knew I needed to purchase at least 30 juice boxes to make sure we didn’t run out.
My favorite aspect of the system is how it keeps me from mentally starting from scratch every week with my grocery list. Instead of, “Let’s see…what do we need this week?” and aimlessly looking around, I have in front of me a detailed list of every possible item we could ever need. It takes a little bit of time to formulate the list, but once the work is done, this system saves so much time and mental energy.
In an effort to spur your imagination and help put some real context to this idea, I am going to share my inventory categories with you below. This is not meant to be prescriptive! Your life and my life may be vastly different. The idea is to think through all areas of your home and life to create a list that covers all of your bases.
Here are my categories, with subcategories where needed…
FRIDGE: dairy, produce
PANTRY: sticky things, condiments, snacks, staples, breads + grains, mom’s stash
PAPER: kitchen, bathroom
HYGIENE: kids, adults
CLEANERS: laundry, kitchen, miscellaneous
My top piece of advice when developing your household inventory is to remember it is a living document. It will fluctuate depending on many factors including seasons (our summer inventory looks very different from our school year inventory), ages of your family members, and preferences. Allow space for your inventory to change, and edit as you go.
I hope this idea provides a method for you to keep tabs on what your family uses and needs each week!
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