Seasoned Advice is a question and answer site for professional and amateur chefs. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I often times find myself making decisions about what I'm going to make for myself and my fiancee at work before I go home, and then stop at the store for any needed supplies on the way. Granted this is not always the most efficient way of doing it, but it does have a couple of advantages:

  1. Our schedules are often times unpredictable, and its hard to plan meals more than a day in advance.
  2. I can always ensure the freshness of ingredients.

That small thing aside, there are certain things that are fairly standard, which I can never remember if I currently have in the pantry or refrigerator. Do I have enough fresh garlic in the house? Lemons? What spices do I have in the spice rack?

It would be really nice if I could look online somewhere to see what I have in my pantry right now. Does anyone know of a good internet site for managing your current pantry, that might also have a system for managing our favorite recipes? I'm thinking it might be worth the effort to manage my pantry online for the ability to check on it at work for this reason.

Does anyone else face a similar problem, and what have you come up with to solve it?

share|improve this question
    
I bet there's an app for that. – hobodave Jul 27 '10 at 21:41
1  
If this is a SE-appropriate question, which I'm not sure it is, it may actually be better-suited for the web apps beta unless its wording is changed. webapps.stackexchange.com – Pops Jul 27 '10 at 22:23
    
Its a little old fashioned, but... pencil & paper? – derobert Jul 28 '10 at 0:38
2  
maybe planning a weeks menu before going shopping is a good ideal – Ian Jul 28 '10 at 15:24

We are not very high tech in our kitchen, but we cook a lot. We keep a fairly standard inventory and when we use the last of an item - it goes on the "List". We buy that item at the big shopping trip once a week.

share|improve this answer
    
Right. Use alternative (more reliable) shopping behavior for your 'basics'. – Jan Doggen Apr 6 at 8:53
    
That's the system we use. Sometimes we end up buying something we didn't need right away, but it all gets used. – Escoce Apr 7 at 1:38

I keep a small DB of all my spices on a Dropbox.com account, which I can access with all my various computers and mobile devices. I tend to keep spices longer than strictly required, and its relatively easy to update when I run out of things, and with mobile access I'll always have the list handy when I'm at the spice market.

It works well for non- or semi-non-perishables -- I suppose you could make a similar system work for dry goods, as long as you made a note to mark them as "must buy" when your supply dips below some personal threshold; nothing is worse than thinking you have enough flour/sugar/molassass and finding that in fact you only have a half cup left!

Do you cook frequently? I used to have this exact issue with perishable goods when I only cooked once per week, but since going to preparing 6-8 meals per week, I have a better mental inventory.

share|improve this answer
    
I'm cooking more and more frequently. Used to be a couple times a week, and now its more often. Part of my issue to is that I'd like something that both myself and my fiancee can update, since we often times drain the fridge/pantry independently, without telling the other. That's one of the unfortunate parts of having weird schedules. – Nick Jul 28 '10 at 14:02

Anytime you're running low on something that is a staple - put it on your shopping list.Keep your list online somewhere.

share|improve this answer
1  
Online? hell, my mom used to just keep note paper on the fridge, and as we ran low on stuff, it'd get written down. My neighbor does the same thing. (I foolishly rely on my memory, which is why I probably have a dozen some bottles of hot sauce right now) – Joe Jul 28 '10 at 11:41
    
@Joe Yeah but he wants it online because then if his fiancee eats up something he was planning on making then the list on the fridge at home isn't going to help him in knowing that he should go buy the item. This way his fiance can update the online list and he would know before he leaves work – Kyra Jul 28 '10 at 14:10
    
@Kyra : this is the reason I call my housemate when I'm heading to the store. Of course, as he doesn't tend to work from home that often, it's not a problem. (past roommates, who didn't work all weekdays, and would raid the fridge and eat something I was planning for cooking dinner ... yeah, that got annoying quickly. I might've spiked some things with significant amounts of sambal so he'd pay attention to when I labeled things) – Joe Jul 28 '10 at 14:38

My husband and I use an iphone app called "Grocery Gadget" that allows us each to add things to the (same) shopping list. Then, if either of us goes to the supermarket, we can see what we need. This is particularly good for knowing when to buy standard items like spices, flour and oil (provided we remember to put it on the app when we are low or run out).

I think it also comes on other mobile devices and has a web version as well.

See http://www.grocerygadgets.com/ for more details

share|improve this answer

I installed a notepad app on my smartphone. It allows me to do notes or checklists. I use the checklists to make shopping lists, and to keep a running inventory of my pantry. If I use something or buy more of it, I just change the number in front of the item to reflect how many I have, and I make the app sort the lists alphabetically to make items easily findable. This way, I can access my lists even when the store I'm in doesn't have enough bars for me to go online, or if I'm out of data allowance.

share|improve this answer

The closest thing I can think of to meet your needs is Cook'n. It allows you to enter your own recipes, search those recipes, adjust recipe serving sizes, create menus, generate shopping lists based on the menus (you can add your own pantry items for this purpose, including their prices), and analyze recipes' nutritonal values. It's a handy program to have, especially once you've input all your own pantry items and recipes.

share|improve this answer
    
This doesn't help track whether the pantry ingredients are currently "in stock", though, which I think is the OP's actual dilemma. – Erica Apr 7 at 0:52

Pretty much any database or spreadsheet can do this, subject to a problem that might be a problem if you can't keep track of it now - garbage in, garbage out - meaning that if you don't both keep the database up to date, what it tells you won't be true. Dropbox or google drive (etc) can take care of the "multi-update/access ability" if the database you choose does not do that itself, or for a spreadsheet.

As for what I actually do, for anything shelf-stable I put it on the list when I use/open the last or next to last item on the shelf (i.e. lemon juice - when the last bottle on the shelf is opened and put in the fridge, it's on the list. It will have been on the "look for a sale on this stuff" list before that, as I usually keep two bottles on the shelf and one open in the fridge.) Perishables are more of a problem in that light.

share|improve this answer

Our schedules are often times unpredictable, and its hard to plan meals more than a day in advance.

Does anyone else face a similar problem, and what have you come up with to solve it?

I had similar issues due to a lifestyle that involved lots of commute (to work, to friends place) and friends that insisted I stay with them more than I stay at my space. I would often come home to open a refrigerator that would have wilted herbs and spoiling raw food. To top it, I had parents that visited me intermittently and stayed at my place, filling the refrigerator with fresh raw foods to cook meals they wanted and thus the refrigerator had a lot of raw food when they left. No amount of telling them worked. I also compost all my wet waste and am super conscious about wasting foods and in addition, I don't earn as much so I can't afford to eat out all the time.

To work around these life constraints, I started dehydrating raw foods that were left over. From garlic to herbs like parsley/coriander, mint to tomatoes, french beans, peas to fruits like pineapples and apples.

I would turn on my dehydrator before I left home for an overnight stay at my friends' place and come back to find all my fruits/vegetables dehydrated. Of course, there was a small amount of prep time involved but that saved so much food from going to waste.

Once I had dried food, I stored them away and made yummy meals like pastas, fried rice, soups, stews and ate dried fruit for snacks anytime. There was no more grocery shopping involved before making a meal.

which I can never remember if I currently have in the pantry or refrigerator.

Do I have enough fresh garlic in the house? Lemons? What spices do I have in the spice rack?

I am quite forgetful myself and get overwhelmed when there are too many things involved. Cooking is one such activity, there are dry ingredients to consider (those in pantry), wet ingredients (think those items in your refrigerator), the process of cooking itself and the cleaning up after it, wew!

To make cooking effortless, I started with storing all my dry goods in a clear plastic storage box where I could see them all in one shot. I definitely would have essentials like salt, pepper and oil. I only started buying spices that work with everything like turmeric and garam masala. This way when I was prepping for a meal, all I had to do was look in the box, gather my dry ingredients and wet ingredients from the fridge and cook in the kitchen.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.