Why do a food inventory?
A food inventory will prevent food waste due to food becoming outdated before you can use it. A food inventory will allow you to purchase items on sale rather than purchasing them full priced because you “think” you are out. It makes menu planning and cooking easier.
Sorting food and tossing expired foods
The first step is to dump your cupboards. You will need a trash can, a box and a plastic storage container with a lid. Dump everything sitting on a shelf onto the counter and separate items into like groups- spice, mixes, cans, etc. If you find something that needs to be moved to another cupboard, place it in the box. Do not get side track into putting items belonging in another cupboard back.
Now, look at the items that are left. Are the items still usable?
- According to UNL, you can test if baking powder is still good by putting 1 teaspoon baking powder in 1/3 cup of hot water. If it bubbles vigorously, it is still good.
- With baking soda, you mix 1 ½ Tsp soda and add 1 Tablespoon vinegar. Again, you are looking for bubbles. If either these fail the test, toss in the trash.
- Spices are given the whiff test. Avoid sniffing spices like chili, pepper, cayenne etc that can irritate. If you smell a strong aroma, the spice is still usable. Dried herbs need crushed and then smell.
Sorting Can Foods
Cans may have dates marked on them. Use-by Date indicates the last date that the contents will be at top quality, but are still safe to use. Most canned foods retain their best quality from 2 to 5 years. High-acid food such as grapefruit, tomatoes and pineapple it is 12 to 18 months.
Discard any cans that are rusted, leaking, bulging or seams have failed as well as old cans of questionable age. Bottles with broken seals, prior to you opening them, or bulging lids need to be thrown away.
If you have duplicates, place in the storage box. Use the first bought; first used rule. Place the newest of the two in the storage box. For more information on dry food storage please see “Storing groceries so they stay fresh.”
How do I do a food inventory?
You have your items all sorted and now are ready to do a count. I do a best-guess ounce or cup count on most items. You can do it by percent or fractions of what remains in the container. I use Living Cookbook to track my inventory, but a simple chart listing items, amounts, where extras are stored, and space to monitor inventory in and out will work. Treat your food storage as restaurants do, keep an ongoing count of food in and food out.
Time to put items back. First use the crevice tool on your vacuum cleaner and get into the crevices and the back of the shelves. This will remove lurking pests. Wash the shelf with hot water, dry and lay down new shelf paper. If you notice pests, please go to “Preventing Bugs in Kitchen Cupboards” and “Cleaning up After Pests”.
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