Jan 122011

Step two of the $60 a Week Grocery Challenge is cleaning, organizing, and taking inventory of your current food stock. I find that this is a step that many people avoid, because it seems like such a huge undertaking, but it’s necessary and important. You’ve heard me preach to you, over and over, about how using what you have will save you money, and it’s especially true where food is concerned.

Look at your pantry, freezer, and fridge as your own, mini grocery store, and manage your inventory accordingly. Here are some tips:

1. Empty the pantry completely. Keep a large garbage bag in hand, so you can toss any food that is stale, or past its prime. Also, take this opportunity to weed out anything that you purchased, but didn’t like. An example from my own life – 99-cent clearanced spaghetti sauce. We ate 5 of the 6 jars, but the last one is going to the food bank because my homemade sauce is just so much better. Also the TVP (barf!) I bought to “stretch” ground meat. 6 years ago. We don’t like it, I will never use it, so why do I hang on to it?

2. Wipe down shelves, and sweep or vacuum the floor. I like to use hot, soapy water with a very small amount of bleach to clean and disinfect.

3. Store food properly. Repackage foods, if needed. Half-empty boxes and bags create a cluttered mess, and I prefer to transfer opened dry goods, such as pasta, rice, and cereal to glass storage jars, such as these from Dollar General:

The screw-top lid makes a nice, airtight seal, and keeps the food fresh longer.

4. Organize shelves. Group foods by type. For example, baking supplies on one shelf, canned goods on another. I actually have a separate cabinet for canned goods, and I keep my baking supplies in the cabinet under my kitchen island.

For more information about how I store food, please see Frugal Food Storage.

Apply these cleaning and organizing tips to your fridge and freezer as well. This post can help you get your chest freezer in order:

Organizing Your Chest Freezer for Maximum Benefit

When you’ve finished cleaning and organizing, it will be much easier to inventory your food supply. Here’s a sample freezer inventory sheet, which you’re welcome to use. It can also be adapted for your pantry.

Freezer Inventory Sheet

The idea is to put an X in one of the blanks on the inventory sheet whenever you use a particular item. This helps with menu planning and grocery list making, and ensures that you eat a variety of foods.

Don’t forget to clean, organize, and inventory any food storage areas outside of the kitchen (example – my surplus pantry in the laundry room). This kind of organization saves money, and knowing what you have will help you during Step Three – The Frugal Pantry Stock-Up.