One of the listeners to the podcast, Melissa I., sent me this great review on a software app for the Mac, called Home Inventory. In her email, she stated:
“I found a fantastic app for Mac users that allows you to organize your food storage and preps, among (many) other things. I think you and your listeners might really find this useful, and I wanted to share. I was listening to some older episodes a few weeks ago, and came across one on food storage inventory & organization. You mentioned how you use Evernote, but I never liked the monthly subscription aspect of it. So I went on a search for an alternative app, and came across one for Mac users, called Home Inventory ($40 one time fee). I wanted to spend a bit of time messing around with it before I mentioned it to you, and so far, I really like it. It was created for insurance purposes, as a way to provide a record of your home and it’s contents in case of a fire or other disaster, but it has many other uses as well.”
Since I made that podcast, I have all but stopped using Evernote, as the usability and features never really got better. Additionally, you’re fairly locked into their file format, making it difficult to move your notes into another app.
Like many of you I like to keep a track of my food storage and preps. Over the years I’ve looked for a suitable application for organizing everything, but I always turned back to my faithful spreadsheet. Recently I discovered an app for Mac Users that pretty much fits the bill in almost every way. The app is called Home Inventory from the company Binary Formations, and it is for Apple computer users. While Windows users will not be able to use this particular app, I hope this article will show you that a “home inventory” style app may be a great solution for organizing your preps.
The Home Inventory app is available on the Apple computer’s app store, and it comes with a large price tag at $40 (Ed, Note: keep reading before you purchase). But compared to most others I’ve looked at, this one time fee was a welcome change. While many apps are free to start, they usually require a monthly subscription in order to be useful. The computer application also has two free helper apps for mobile use on the iPhone, but the primary application will be on your apple computer. The app was created for insurance purposes, as a way to provide a record of your home and it’s contents, in case of a fire or other disaster. While I’ve only used the app for two areas of organization so far, food storage & baby items, it’s helpful across all areas of your home.
The app allows you to import spreadsheets, which will save a lot of time, and keep you from having to start from scratch. Even though I did import my spreadsheet, I also ended up digging everything out to take photos and add more detail. I’m glad I took the extra time, because I found two cans of pancake mix that were bulging/spoiled. I figured if I’m going take the time to do something, I might as well do it right. Something my mom beat into my head growing up, and I’m glad it stuck!
If you are importing a spreadsheet, I do recommend you create custom “fields” to match before you import. Meaning, look at your spreadsheet column headers, and create those same categories or “fields” in the app. The first time I imported my spreadsheet, the app had no idea what to do with things like calories, servings and expiration dates.
The picture “Item Field Layout” (Photo #1) is an example of my custom layout for organizing my food storage. The app is laid out for home inventory, so the fields come set up for inventorying things like books, dvds, furniture ect. Since it is fully customizable, I erased some of the pre-loaded fields and added my own for food storage organization. The fields I added are Container, Box number, #10 can quantity, Bucket quantity, Calories, Servings, and Expiration date.
One great feature of this app is the search function, available on the main app or on the mobile back up app. I organized all my #10 cans into boxes, just plain unmarked cardboard boxes, with a number on the side. When I entered the items into the app, I created a “field” for the box number. That way when I search for something, say pancake mix, it tells me which box it’s in. It will also tell me exactly where it is in my house and show me any pictures I took. No more rummaging through boxes or storage closets just to read the back of the can & get nutrition info or expiration dates.
I’ll attach a photo of one of my entries as an example (Photo #2). I even took pictures of the insides of most of the boxes. This is especially useful if you have random things sharing the same box. For some of my non food preps, I laid out the contents of the box on the floor, and took a picture before packing up the box. I organized my food preps by item, and entered each in separately. But you can also organize by bin or box instead. As long as you create a “note” listing all its contents, or a “tag”, the search function will pick it up. You can add as many “tags” or “notes” on each item as you want.
For instance, I have several bins full of baby clothes, organized by size. Some of the bins contain random things like socks, hair ribbons or winter gear. Instead of itemizing everything in each bin, I just added a few tags for those random items. That’s one of the greatest things about the app… I can be as thorough as I want, or not.
The least amount of info you need to enter in an item, is a name. And the sky is the limit as far as how detailed you want to be. Unlike some of the other apps I looked at, there are no restrictions on the amount of photos or data you can input each month. That’s because, for security purposes, the info is stored on your computer, not on a server somewhere.
One thing I like to keep track of is the total amount of calories, that way I can estimate how long the food will last my family. So far as I can tell, the program is lacking in this department, but I found another way. If you count the calories for each item and enter them in the “Value or Price” section, the program will auto tally across all of your categories. You will just need to ignore the fact that the calories are represented in US dollars.
This section was created to show the total value of all the items in your home or in a specific collection, like jewelry, coins, guitars, ect. Or in my case, Grains, Entrees, Vegetables, Fruit, Dairy & Meat. The program also generates pie charts using this data, and will give you a nice visual of your food stores in calories or number of items. (See photo #3).
One of the most useful things I’ve found, so far, is the “Remote Entry” free helper app. It’s not perfect, but it works well enough. The features are pretty basic, I suppose it was made that way because the primary computer app is supposed to be the place you do most of the fine tuning. The app lets you enter in items with your iPhone using wifi, or gives you the ability to do it offline. So now I can be downstairs in the basement, entering in all the info and pics, as I’m physically organizing the space. Pretty great!
There is even an option of making quick entries. You can walk around the house snapping photos, one after the other, and all you need to do is add a name to each. When you have the time, you can go back into the computer or mobile app, and add more details about each item. If you have an off site storage unit or another house, you can still take inventory with the iPhone app offline, and transfer it over wifi when you get back.
There is also another free helper app called “Mobile Backup” for backing up to your iPhone or ipad. That way you will always have the information with you if you need to do a quick search. (See photos 4 & 5). You can also restore to that iPhone back up if your computer loses the info for whatever reason, i.e.. house fire.
I like the concept of an iPhone back up, because I generally have my phone on or near me, and can grab it if I need to leave the house quick. But the company does recommend backing up to some sort of cloud or storing the info off site, so that you have it available if your home is destroyed. There is also a section to auto generate reports of varying detail to save as PDFs or print out a hard copy. I was hoping to see some sort of security measure on the back up app, but I didn’t. I don’t like the idea of a stranger seeing what my home and its contents are worth, if my phone is stolen.
In my opinion, there are many other aspects of this app that make it worth the money, even if you don’t use it for organizing and inventorying your preps. For example, you can enter in book & dvd collections just by scanning the bar code. The program will use the internet to gather the info automatically for you. You can keep track of your home’s insurance policies & property assessments, create alerts on home maintenance and keep records of those maintenances. It will also hold digital manuals, receipts & warranties for appliances.
Since so much purchasing is done online these days, there is a new feature that allows you to import receipts directly from emails or web pages. And though I haven’t used this feature, you can organize your estate, and assign heirs to specific items in your house. I’m really just scratching the surface of this app, but I’m pretty excited about the possibilities.
If you are interested in buying the app, there are a few things you can do first to make sure it will fit your needs. I just found out (after buying) that the Binary Formations website allows you to download a full free trial of the app. I recommend doing a few test runs to make sure your stuff is organized in a way that works best for you. They also let you download a copy of the Home Inventory manual, so you can see it all in detail before you buy. There are also some youtube videos showing how the program works.
There aren’t too many good computer/phone apps created with preparedness in mind. Even though this app technically isn’t one of those, it’s so customizable, that it works.