My Imaginary Local Interview, Part 2:  About Organized Occasions Concierge

Microphone and notebook on desk for an imaginary interview

Today’s Topic:  Customizable Grocery Sheet

Reporter:  Welcome back Gretchen.  I am very interested in hearing about this customizable tool you have created.  What did you call it?

Gretchen:  I wish I had a really catchy name for it or an acronym I could use, maybe you can help me come up with one.  Unfortunately, for now, I just call the 2 versions either Grocery Sheet or Vacation Shopping Sheet.  It was built in Google Sheets which is basically an Excel Spreadsheet but is available to anyone and is also free.

Reporter:  And what does it do for me?

Gretchen:  Hopefully it will save you time and money!  Two things we all seem to want more of these days.  Let me explain how I came up with this and why I think everyone needs to use it.

As I said in our last interview, I have experience in food service, both school nutrition, and restaurant catering services.  When organizations like these are planning their menus and placing their orders, they work off a PAR system—its an acronym for Periodic Automatic Replenishment. In other words, a system to get the items they need when they need them.  The major advantage of a system like this is that you can adjust your PAR levels depending on factors like storage, budget, menu changes, and purchase frequency while still having all the ingredients you need on hand.

I started with the idea that “If I had everything I need in my pantry, freezer, and refrigerator to cook all the meals, what would that look like?”

Reporter:  I guess the first thing you would need to know is what do you like to cook?

Gretchen:  Exactly and I know that most families have 7 to 10 “go-to meals”.  We don’t eat as much variety as you might think!  So we buy the same things over and over to use.  Going back to the restaurant example, the chef knows which menu items are most popular and orders more of the ingredients needed for those and less for the others.  Chefs are also trying to maintain an acceptable food cost by not having inventory sitting on the shelves or throwing away produce that goes bad because they bought too much and did not use.

My customizable Grocery Sheet allows you to create your own Home Kitchen PAR system.  And since each family creates their own Sheet, factors like storage space, number, and age of family members, any food allergies and even frequency of shopping can all go into the numbers.  A family in New York city that shops every couple of days because they have a small kitchen with limited storage and a family on a farm in Kansas with a basement and extra freezers can both use this tool.

Reporter:  This isn’t a meal plan or a diet that you are giving to the family.  This is their own menus, recipes, and such but you are helping them organize and manage the ingredients or items.  Is that what you are saying?

Gretchen:  Yes, that is what I am saying!  You can be a lifelong member of Weight Watchers and use this tool.  Or you can be a mom with 2 high school varsity football boys who only stop eating when they are sleeping and use this tool.

Reporter:  How does this tool make a Shopping List?  I understand you have different food items and you have an amount that you need of those items, but how is the Shopping List created?

Gretchen:  The Google Sheet was built with macro formulas to compare Quantity Needed to Quantity on Hand and the difference is what becomes your Shopping List.

Quantity Needed is the amount of any food item you need on hand to cook your meals.  This number will not usually change—holidays and guests can cause this number to change but typically we can determine this number and it will remain the same.

Quantity on Hand will fluctuate as you use items.

The Shopping List is a summary of items in which you currently have less on hand than you need.  If you say that you need 5 cans of tuna and you have 5 cans, your shopping list will not include tuna.  If you say you need 4 sticks of butter and you have 2, then your shopping list will say you need 2 sticks.  This is where you can save money—now you can buy only 2 sticks instead of a box of 4.  And you can see that you have plenty of tuna so maybe it’s time to take tuna for lunch a couple of days this next week instead of buying lunch meat.  Below is a screenshot of a shopping list—you can see all the items on the list, but only ones that need to be purchased have a quantity to buy.

Most of the time when I am hired to do a kitchen pantry organizing project, we end up finding items that are out of date and must be thrown away.  A total waste of money!  Or I find they have unopened multiples of things like ketchup, relish, or herbal tea.

We’ve all done it.  Gone to the store and picked up a can of corn thinking we are going to make a black bean & corn salsa to get home and find we have 4 cans of corn, what we needed was a can of black beans!

Reporter:    I can see where it could save money by not buying as much or the wrong things, but it sounds like I am going to be taking inventory of my pantry and freezer and refrigerator.  I’m not a chef and that sounds like work!

Gretchen:  I understand your concern, some of us are planners and some are not.  I have a friend that said to me “I don’t like meal planning because I don’t know what I am going to want to eat on Thursday night.  I just figure it out on Thursday”.

The reality is her pantry contains about 20% of what mine contains.  And as long as she keeps a good supply of spices, oils, dry pasta & rice she can pick up meat, dairy, and produce daily.

Also, remember since it is a Google Sheet you can update it from your phone or your computer at any time.  The biggest time commitment is at the beginning to make the initial inventory and plug in your items and quantities.

Reporter:  You mentioned kitchen organizing projects.  What happens during one of those?

Gretchen:  It’s one of my favorite areas to organize.  Sometimes I get to come in when the family is first moving in and set up the kitchen for them.  I try to use the space in the best possible way for the family.  Other times I may be hired to help them “clean out” their pantry.  Here are a couple of pictures from a pantry clean out I did in Texas:





Reporter:  Wow, if I didn’t see the brick wall I wouldn’t believe it was the same pantry.  Could I hire you to clean out my pantry and set up my Google Sheet?

Gretchen:  Yes!  I would love to.  It is what I call a Nutritional Coaching Session and it only costs $99.  I will be onsite for 2 hours to help you organize your space and create your Google Sheet.  If you are not in the area but would like to talk by phone to get your Sheet set up, we can arrange that as well.  The Sheet cost $19.95 to download.  And there are instructions online as well.

Reporter:  You said when we started this interview that you have a Vacation Shopping Sheet.  How and Why would someone on vacation use this?

Gretchen:  Great memory and question!  The why is also to save money and time but the how is a little different.

Let’s say you have 5 couples renting a beach house for a week together.  They decide that each couple is responsible for 1 night’s dinner.  Everyone is on their own for breakfast and lunch.  So they all head to the store.  A lot of the items on each of their lists are the same:  Milk, Bread, Butter, Lunch Meat, Chips, etc.  If they all buy those items there is not going to be enough room in the refrigerator and at the end of the week, there is going to be half empty jars of stuff to throw away.

If instead a “master list” of items and quantities could be created and plugged into the Vacation Shopping List then instead of using half of 5 jars of mayo and throwing the rest away, 2 jars are actually used up.  Plus if this is something you do every year then you can start to track what you use and adjust your quantities.  Maybe the first year you buy 6 bottles of prosecco for mimosas.  But by Wednesday someone has to go to the store to get more.  The next year you know to plan to buy more upfront and not have to go back to the store mid-week.

Reporter:  How did you know we made mimosas every morning?  Just kidding!  It’s a vacation, right.  But someone has to step up to be the keeper of the master list.  Hopefully, you have a planner in your group.

Gretchen:  Yes, hopefully, you can find someone willing to get the individual lists and put them together into the master list.  But since Grocery Shopping is listed as one of the least favorite things to do, I hope the time spent pre-vacation with these tools will make it easier to shop for the items.

Reporter:  Or if they are in Navarre, they can get you to deliver!!!

Gretchen:  YES THEY CAN!  And then no one has to spend time shopping so they can spend more time relaxing and reconnecting.

As you can tell, I believe this tool can be used by everyone.  And I am passionate about getting families out of the drive-thru and back in the kitchen to eat together, to talk and to even help cook and clean up the kitchen together.   I feel it would improve both our physical health and our mental health and possibly our family’s financial health as well.

And just so you know the difference between the full version Grocery Sheet and the Vacation Shopping Sheet is that I intentionally omitted items in the Vacation version that I knew families would not need while on vacation.  It is just a smaller list of items.

You can download the Full Grocery Sheet and create a HOME copy and a VACATION copy or even a HOLIDAY copy for those items you only buy once a year!  I have Blog posts about vacation meal planning and holiday meal planning if you want to read them on my website.

Reporter:  Thank you.  This has been very informative.  It does sound like a tool that can help us shop smarter.  Good luck with your business in Florida.

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