My New Favorite Bullet Journal Tracker

Food waste is a pet peeve of mine. In a world where hunger is a problem millions of people face every day, it’s criminal to allow food to go uneaten, to spoil, to be thrown out. It really annoys me when I end up wasting money not only on uneaten leftover, but containers that are just too frightening to clean. That’s why I have a new favorite bullet journal tracker.

I do want to say that I have tried many things in an attempt to manage my pantry and refrigerator. Things as simple as putting a piece of masking tape with the date on a container of leftovers. The problem is, that requires me to look through the fridge at those dates. The most success I’ve had is in cooking smaller portions so we don’t have leftovers. Around the holidays, though, that can be unavoidable. And let’s face it, sometimes leftovers are desirable.

While I plan meals and shopping lists pretty tightly, I do make what I call “opportunity buys”. Not impulse buys. See, while we have great grocery stores here in Finland, it isn’t the same as in the United States. In America you can buy anything you want, any time you want, because consumers demand it. Here, quality beats quantity. Seasonality rules. You can get great strawberries during strawberry season, for example. Out of season, though? Probably not.

An opportunity buy is when I’m walking through the store and see something that might not be there next time. So I buy it. Because it’s usually produce, we eat it that day or the next. The problem is, because it’s not part of the shopping list or the meal plan, I forget about it. At least, I forget about it until a few days later when it’s gone bad.

My New Favorite Bullet Journal Tracker

So I added a spread to my bullet journal, and I just labelled it “Food”. On each page I have two columns. One is for the things that need to be made into something. The other is for leftovers. Everything gets the date listed next to it. I already do the meal planning for the day in the morning, because things are subject to change. I’m not going to cook something new for lunch if I know there are leftover from last night that need to be eaten. The problem is, I don’t always remember these things when I’m still sipping my first cup of coffee.

Because I start my day in my weekly spread, I have a mini-index there. It lists current projects and trackers, along with the page numbers. This is so I remember to touch those things. I simply added the “Food” page to that mini-index. Now I can look and see that, oh yeah, we need to eat those strawberries. We can have the leftover stuffing and green beans for lunch.

When those things get eaten, they get checked off. Even without the dates, I can see when something closer to the top is still an “open loop”. Maybe it was skipped over because it’s less perishable than other things below it on the list. It suddenly becomes a priority.

So Far, So Good

This has been working for me. It’s allowed me to make more accurate grocery lists, because I can see what I still have before buying more. Things still go bad sometimes — we’ve all had the experience of buying berries one day, only to discover they’ve sprouted mold by the next morning, haven’t we? It’s a lot less food waste, though. My fridge looks empty, but it’s because I’m better able to gauge how fast we eat things, and can adjust the amount that I buy.

6 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I have started putting a leftovers day in my meal plan. Every Sunday it’s all the week’s leftovers or risotto. I love it, because it’s a bit like having tapas or mezze.

  2. Due to problems going shopping (disability & I work far from home) we use home shopping deliveries. That’s a good way of managing food, as we order to a plan and I know what will be for dinner each day – thai chicken on Thursday, risotto on Saturday and so on.

  3. I’m moving toward that. In the new year we’ll probably have “Monday is this, Tuesday is that”. We often go out on Friday or Saturday, so the day we stay in might become leftover day. Sunday dinner will be the wild card, for variety and experiments.

  4. I struggle with this at home for various reasons, both in the food wastage aspect you describe, but also by not wanting to let things go to waste so I sometimes eat very questionable things that I shouldn’t be eating. There’s some behavioral habits from having grown up on a very tight budget that I haven’t quite shaken yet, not sure I ever will.

  5. Katie and I were both raised by people who lived through the Great Depression. Neither of us was the poorest of the poor, but we have certain values drilled into our heads that include being grateful we have food, and don’t waste it.

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