Kitchen Inventory, never run out of ingredients when its time to cook using Push/Pull

Can’t make the meal you wanted to? Ever run out of an ingredient and you only discovered it while cooking?

Industrial Engineers have solved this problem because shutting down the production line costs somewhere in the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars per minute. Running out of inventory is preventable. This application will prevent you from kitchen inventory mistakes, saving you time, money, and frustration.


There are two types of systems. A push system is when you plan ahead, predicting how much inventory(groceries) you need. A pull system is when you buy more inventory(groceries) as you are running out.

In our kitchen, we will use a hybrid system as most factories implement. Bulk items use a pull system, only buying more of an item when it gets low. Ingredients that are used in only a specific recipe will use a push system, and will be planned before going to the grocery store.

You likely already do this to some extent, but occasionally mistakes happen. Suddenly run out of a spice and you have another recipe containing it later this week? Industrial Engineers have found ways to error proof this.

Push System: Make the meals you want to eat

This may be obvious, but according to some anecdotes, some people buy groceries based on feeling.

Decide what meals you will eat until your next grocery trip, we write ours down on a physical calendar. At this point, go through the recipes and write what ingredients you need for these meals.

Some possible ways to make this faster are to create weekly templates. Suppose you have 4 weeks of ideas, you can type/write the ingredients for each week, and print/scan a copy. We did this in the original Efficiency Is Everything – In Cooking cookbook, click here.

Pull System: Never run out of ingredients mid-week

How often do you check to see if you are running low on a bulk item like Sugar/Rice/Flour/Spices? If you check weekly, you are wasting time. If you never check, you are going to run out of inventory.

For a pull system to work, you need to figure out how much is the maximum quantity you will need of the ingredient between grocery trips. For instance, I will not need more than 20 cups of rice per week, so I will make sure the systems will cue/trigger me to add the ingredient to my list when we go below 20 cups of rice in the inventory.

Here are some pull systems:

0 effort, possible spoilage, 2 bin system: You buy 2 containers of this bulk food. When one container runs out, buy another. Simple, no effort. You run the risk of spoilage, and the inventory takes up some extra space. In the example, the two bags of rice must have at least 20 cups of rice. If you want to save time, this is the best system.

Some effort, draw a line: Take a pen/marker, draw on the container a line that will visually remind you to buy more of the product. You could also do this with storage containers and mark a line that indicates when to re-buy. This doesn’t take up extra space but does take a moment to draw a line.

More effort, save 1 week worth of food in a backup container: Figure out the maximum need between grocery sessions. Put that amount in a backup container separate from your bulk container. When you run out of your bulk container, put it on your grocery list. You now can go into your separate container to last the rest of the week

Next Steps

If you aren’t already using a push system, its a good habit to begin. I especially recommend the premade weeks. The pull system is easy enough that you shouldn’t have trouble implementing it.

If you have a partner, make sure they understand the two systems, they might have further ideas on how to improve it.

The goal is to continuously improve your home processes, if something doesn’t work, change it.