Save Money with a Supply Journal

by Ivory Soap

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I’m so jealous when I watch Jane Austen-ish movies and Father furrows his brow and says something like, “We won’t have enough to buy coal through the winter.  We’ll be out by December.”  Huh? How does he know that?  And the general store managers on pioneer shows that know exactly how many bootlaces Mr. Smith buys each season.  And the farm wife of yesteryear who knew how many eggs her hens laid and how many bags of flour and salt it took to get through a year.

According to my reading, they did it through little monthly lists, kinda like this:

I couldn’t stand not to know anymore.  So, I started keeping my own supply journal.  Here’s how you do it.

1.  Get a half sized spiral notebook.  Label one page per category for May 2010:  meat/dairy, fresh/frozen produce, beverages, paper/plastic products, baking aisle, convenience foods and impulsive trash, etc. (You’ll start a new set each month.)

2.  Record the quantities and prices for the different categories.  No obsessing.  This isn’t your budget, it’s just an expense record.  Leave out the tax.  If it says 1.98, feel free to write 2.00.  K?

3.  Be shocked at the inordinate number of tiny chip bags your family goes through in a month just trying to keep the kids quiet in the store.  I had no idea Mr. Ivory did that too!  (I should break up a larger bag into serving size and keep them stashed in the back with the reusable shopping bags.)

4.  Be appalled at the number of times you and your hubby run to the store without having hydrated and attack one of those mini-fridges for an over-priced bottle of water.  (Throw some water bottles in the back too.)

5.  Be impressed at how much you could cut your spending if you wanted to…  Look at all the things I could make myself if I needed to.  Look how much of our food budget goes to laziness or impulse.  We’d save a fortune if I’d just make a bunch of freezer pizzas a month ahead of time.  And did Mr. Ivory really buy jerky?

6.  And finally, say things like “WOW, we eat a lot of almonds and walnuts! Six pounds in one month?  Seriously?  I had no idea.  We killed twelve pounds of produce in five days?  True we had company and all, but that plus the five pounds of strawberries I picked out of the yard?  We are some plant-eating people!  And olive oil.  We just bought 17 oz on Friday and it’s half gone.  CRIPES!”

Kid you not, it will change the whole way you look at your grocery list.  I expect in one year to say something to Mr. Ivory like, “We ate sixty pounds of chicken thighs last year, but only 15 pounds of beans.  We really should have a bean night every week, like we do fish.  And with the fluctuations in poultry prices…it will probably save us (fill in the blank).”  I’m so excited!!!!

So, you can do it to save money.  You can do it to reduce your carbon footprint.  You can do it because of good stewardship.  You can do it because, like me, you were born 100 years too late and it irks you to not know how often you buy socks.  Heck, you can do it to find out what a three month’s supply actually looks like so you’ll be prepared for that impending zombie apocalype my husband keeps training for on the XBox.  But, regardless, I highly recommend it.

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Myrnie May 11, 2010 at 9:00 pm

Oh YES. I did this a few years ago, before I started making everything and buying nothing (I’m really, really, really cheap.) It was shocking to see where the money went!

Mary May 11, 2010 at 11:02 pm

I think if enough folks did this with diapers alone, we’d have a lot more people switching to cloth.

Kitsune Heather May 12, 2010 at 4:38 am

You sold my husband on this idea with your final “zombie” reason! haha!

Ket May 12, 2010 at 6:18 am

Wow, what a neat idea! I’ve done price lists, but never an inventory before. Off to Craigslist to find a notebook!

Jennifer May 12, 2010 at 11:02 am

What a great idea. I think I might start one too.

Leanne Opaskar May 12, 2010 at 11:43 am

I’d actually been thinking about this for the past couple weeks, and couldn’t figure out quite how to organize it. Thanks for the tips — I’ve gotten one set up now!

I need to do an inventory of what we’ve got around the house, but that’ll take a while. O_O So, starting with baby steps and just doing supply tracking for now.

Frugal Kiwi May 12, 2010 at 12:06 pm

Sounds like such a good idea, but SCARY!

Emily May 12, 2010 at 12:17 pm

I’m glad my husband isn’t the only one training to be prepared for the zombies. I guess it’s my job to prepare all the food we’ll need when the invasion comes….

Joan May 12, 2010 at 4:28 pm

I started doing this a few years ago. It’s hard to see what is at the bottom of the freezer or back of the pantry.

It can also help with planning for future sales. If you have ten chicken breasts that you have twice a month, you know to start looking for a sale at month four.

Adica May 12, 2010 at 4:36 pm

I always thought it was really cool when historical movies and books would talk about rations and things because I thought calculating it was some sort of skill I don’t have. This is really neat. I’ll have to start doing this when I get my own place to live. I also showed this to my boyfriend because I thought he’d find the zombie reference amusing, and he did.

Handful May 12, 2010 at 7:12 pm

Hmmm… can I REALLY do it? I am fairly frugal but I am sure there are some “extras” we can trim. Like my Main Man’s $1.50 bottle of Mt. Dew at work because he forgot to grab one from home we purchased at the 4 for $10 sale?

Dammit, man, drink some water!

Tammy May 12, 2010 at 7:17 pm

I think this is a great idea and will be starting right away. I’m curious (and yes, a little frightened) to see where the extras sneak in. But I think I will also be able to use it to make changes as we go.

brandi May 12, 2010 at 7:42 pm

My hubby is training for that “impending zombie apocalype” too!!!!!!

This is a GREAT idea! I feel inspired. Thanks.

Ginger May 12, 2010 at 8:18 pm

I love this idea!!! I will try this since I will be greatly expanding what I can and store this year! Thanks!

Ariana May 12, 2010 at 8:40 pm

I read the last paragraph to my (video game playing) husband and he cracked up! This is a quote: (Clap, clap, clap)”Bravo! She geeked out and blamed it on her husband!” I love when blogs appeal to the both of us.

JavaLady May 12, 2010 at 10:33 pm

Awesome !! I just don’t know where to start with my List. I’ll let the notion start bubbling arund in my head… and get a note book this weekend. Give us more tips on your List of topics ?

LeMah May 13, 2010 at 12:44 am

Great Idea! I kinda do this already but its mixed in with my notebook thats become a larger version of how I keep track of what I spend my money on. One Idea I also want to add……is when I buy something (food) I write the date I bought it on it. This way I’m able to see how long I’ve had the item- its a quick visual reference. If I had it for a while then I know its not a really favorite item it makes keeping “inventory” easier. BTW LOVE This Site!!!! I keep telling my friends about it whenever possible!!! Thank You for the excellent Ideas!

Valerie Johnson May 13, 2010 at 7:02 am

Cool! I always knew I should do this, but had no idea how to set it up! Thanks!

Lacy from Montana May 13, 2010 at 9:10 am

Vetty interestink. I want to do this, but fear my total lack of organizational skills. Hmmmmm….

Kathy May 13, 2010 at 10:54 am

I think you could use an excel spreadsheet, then you can sort it by item or date. Sounds like a lot of time and maintenance though.

BrownThumbMama May 13, 2010 at 12:36 pm

What a great idea! I’m imaging Laura Ingalls Wilder rather than Jane Austen, but totally get your drift. My hubby is preparing for the zombies too–by playing Xbox. What is up with those guys?!?

Tanya May 13, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Every year I can/bottle and preserve. Every year its a little more as my equipment grows. Every year my husband says that should get us through winter….we usually run out though. I’ve put up about 100kg (200lb) of food in the cupboard. The inventory journal will be a great help to record exactly how many bottles of tomatoes we go through and in which month. Its the self discipline that challenges me! So I might also expand your idea and have a chalkboard for tally marks on the cupboard so as I’m grabbing a jar of beans for dinner I can mark it and write it up at the end of the month.

Susan May 14, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Wonderful idea!

If only I weren’t already drowning in work…inventory is my weak point in a BIG way. Guess it goes on the ‘to do’ list…that list DOES get done, eventually, it just takes a while.

susan December 31, 2010 at 7:27 pm

Great idea!

I only started my meal planning and a strict shopping list last year. Trying to keep within the tight budget is tough especially when you need to buy oil and rice. And i dont know when to start budgetting for them.

Will start tracking my supplies and then i know how fast i am using them.


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