How do you keep from realizing that you're almost out of something and buying a spare . . . several times over?

Too Many Spares on Hand?

I hate to run out of my favorite spices. So when I notice I’m getting low on something, I put it on my shopping list. I buy it and tuck it away in the “galley spares” locker.

Then a week or so later, I once again notice that I’m gettting low on x, and put it on the list. And buy it. Then, when I go to put it away, it hits me that I bought it last week and now have two. Or three. Oops.

I do this with other things as well, but spices are probably the worst since they lose their flavor over time. And lose it more rapidly with heat and humidity, both of which we have in abundance on the boat.

So basically I’ve just wasted money by buying more spares than I need. I hate that.

Okay, I could always check the spares locker before putting something on the grocery list. But I just don’t do that as I’m in the middle of cooking a meal, and I totally forget it before going shopping.

But I finally did figure out a way to let myself know that I already have a spare on hand. And it’s so simple that I could kick myself for not firguring it out years ago. It’s just a simple “X”

Grocery and Provisioning Tip: How to avoid buying a spare two or three times

As I’m putting provisions away, if something is a spare I simply make an “X” on the one that’s in use. Then I know that I’ve already bought a spare and don’t need to buy a new one. For black caps, I use the white liquid chalk marker that I use for keeping track of what’s in the refrigerator (bonus as it’s already out in the galley, which means that actually I use it for other colors of lids too).

Suddenly, a don’t have two (or three or six) of anything. Less space taken up and nothing going bad before we eat it — I love it!

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  • S/V Dos Libras
    Posted at 19 October 2015 Reply

    Great idea. Share this with Frugal Female Sailor group!

  • CJ Schnier
    Posted at 19 October 2015 Reply

    I use pretty much the exact same system only electronically. I have to keep a list of what I have onboard for spices in my phone or I’ll end up buying several extras. I put an * next to whatever I’m running low on and delete it when I pick it up at the store. Since I use my phone to create my shopping lists anyways, this works great for me.

  • Allison Cordle
    Posted at 19 October 2015 Reply


  • Frances Liz Fernandez
    Posted at 19 October 2015 Reply

    Simple. great idea. I’ve had several jars of peanut butter (BOGO). I turned the unopened jars upside down to help me remember which one to use.

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 19 October 2015 Reply

      Good idea! I have multiple butane lighters for the stove and put a piece of orange tape on the one in use.

  • Jane Gammons
    Posted at 19 October 2015 Reply

    Great Idea for home too. Thanks
    the grocer list on the phone is a good idea too.
    I just haven’t gotten to that stage in the electronic age.

  • Barbara Hart
    Posted at 19 October 2015 Reply

    Great idea! When we were first married, many years ago, for some reason I kept buying cans of green beans. Now, any item I’ve overbought is “the beans of the week”.

  • susanlynn
    Posted at 19 October 2015 Reply

    This would be great for vitamins also, especially since I order them to be shipped and sometimes order two of something to make it to the free shipping total. Thanks.

  • Chrystal Lakeway Henthorne
    Posted at 19 October 2015 Reply


  • Lauren Reese Dehaan
    Posted at 20 October 2015 Reply

    Great idea!

  • Forever Living Irie
    Posted at 20 October 2015 Reply

    Great idea!! Thanks for the tip! 🙂

  • Patty Makowski
    Posted at 20 October 2015 Reply

    I also use my phone for grocery lists and every other list. Currently, my memo pad also has lists for Clothing, Hardware, Costco, Boat Stores, Walmart, Ikea, Dollar Store and Drug Store. We’re living aboard and the nearest largish town is 25 miles away, so forgetting something can be expensive. I’m never without my phone (is that a good thing or a bad thing??) so the list I need is always with me.

  • Frances Liz Fernandez
    Posted at 09 September 2016 Reply

    Clever girl

  • Dawn Read
    Posted at 22 June 2017 Reply

    I label with sharpie a number like this…

    1/2 or 2/2, meaning, one of two and two of two.

    If I get low on 2/2, I buy one or two more, and I mark them the same and put them away.

    Once the 2/2 is gone, there is another 1/2 ready in the cupboard.

  • Sherri Brenner
    Posted at 23 June 2017 Reply

    That’s pretty clever. I think I will try it

  • Kiyomi Camp
    Posted at 14 October 2017 Reply

    This is brilliant! I always do this at home. It will work with all those other things that I buy too many of, too!

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