How many times have you cleaned out your fridge to find spoiled produce? Or even the pantry? The answer is probably too many. There is a huge issue of excess food waste all around the world. According to the FAO, there are exactly 1.3 billion tons of food waste per year globally. That breaks down to $390/capita/year, just simply thrown away.
Now think about that: if you are a family of five, you are losing $1,950 per year!
You can fix this by applying the techniques that businesses use to manage their inventory.
1. Regular auditing = Throwing out the old before buying the new
You can think of this as your kitchen clean out. Within that are three different types: physical, spot checking and cycle.
Physical auditing happens once a year. This process includes counting all the inventory and comparing it to your logs. It is a very long and tedious job due to the immense number of products you have to look through.
This is how the typical household handles cleaning out the fridge or pantry. Since it is such a time-consuming activity it often is pushed off until the process is completely necessary.
Spot checking does not follow an exact schedule. It is the idea that a company will randomly pick and count their most popular items. These are the most processed through so they are the most prone to discrepancies in the log.
Think of this as casually cleaning out your most used areas of the kitchen. This typically means the fridge and snack drawers. Once you clean them out you can be aware of what is about to expire and what you need to restock. This will make you be more aware of what food is about to expire and remind you to eat it.
Cycle is more of a scheduled process. A company has a rotating schedule with different products that reminds you to audit that specific product.
If you are a more scheduled person this is perfect for you! You can write a schedule out and make sure you cycle through all the different parts of your kitchen on a monthly basis. This will be the most effective but is the most time-consuming.
Once you have your kitchen cleaned out and are aware of most of your food items you are ready for your next step, is organizing your pantry to follow FIFO.
2. FIFO: first in, first out. Watch out for expiration dates!
This focuses on what is first in, is first out. This is applied to businesses of all kinds to ensure that there is a proper flow of items. It is a process that is set up so business doesn’t end up with unsellable product whether because they are out of style or simply just spoiled.
At home, you should implement this when you are doing you regular auditing or during restocks. All you have to do is check the expiration dates and move the older ones to the front to encourage you to eat them first. This will make you be more aware of what is about to spoil so it won’t go to waste.
Now that you have a better understanding of the expiration of your foods, you can start to set the par level.
3. Par level, or making sure you have the basics
Par level is the minimum amount of product a company can have at all times. They decide this by understanding how quickly different products sell and how quickly they come back in stock.
First off ask yourself how long will it take for you to go to the grocery store? Is it super convenient? Let’s say it takes one day for you to restock and go to the grocery store.
Next, you have to think about what is the simplest meals you could make to survive one day.
An example of this could be bread, peanut butter, fruit, chicken and some type of lettuce. Once you fall below one of these you know you have to go to the grocery store. That is your par level.
In the graph below you can see the inventory cycle, where the horizontal dashed line is the par level. The angled distance from that line to the x-axis is the time you have to go to the grocery store (in the example above it is one day).
Now that you are more aware of when you should go to the grocery store, let’s look into what you should be thinking when you are there.
4. Forecasting demand. How much does your family eat?
This is the last main business technique that is applicable to minimizing food waste. It has multiple aspects that one must understand in order to be used executed properly: trends, last year sales, growth rate of the year, guaranteed sales, and special events.
This means you should think about things such as what you all have been enjoying, what do you normally get, are your kids eating more now, or a coming up birthday.
These are all small questions you should be asking yourself when you do decide to restock and go to the grocery store. It may seem silly when you see it written out but being aware of all these influencers will really make you minimize the food you bring home. Thus, minimizing your waste.
By implementing these small lifestyle changes, you can keep better track of your kitchen’s inventory just like businesses. In return, you will save you close to $1,950/year and also minimize your waste by a substantial amount.
Although it might seem hard at first to completely change your lifestyle, you should make a goal to apply one new step each week. This will make the transition more slow and smooth. That will then hopefully make these steps a habit for your daily life.
Good luck and have fun trying out these new tricks!