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I love the idea of this, but in reality I can’t imagine the time and energy required to scan and keep everything up-to-date is offset by the benefits. Perhaps a current user can prove me wrong?



You've hit exactly the downfall.

I've always liked the idea of this sort of thing, but the benefits of using something like this almost never outweigh the costs as compared to just eyeballing the pantry and winging the meal planning on short timescales. The system starts to become the point of the effort rather than just a tool to better achieve household goals.

Unless you're dealing with a substantial household or some sort of communal living environment (lots of roommates, half-way house, dorm) or doing a lot of entertaining, the benefits vs. the effort just leave these things as interesting experiments.

And I do see value in experimenting this way. I am an implementation consultant for actual ERP systems and data entry compliance is a real problem in the corporate world, too. There tends to be benefits to the data entry problem there, but the benefits tend to accrue a few degrees of separation from where the entry work takes place... so those that do the work often don't understand the need or importance. So if you solve some of the data capture problem in a small, low risk household environment, you may be able to apply the lessons learned to larger business systems. For example the more you could capture the data "in flight", like cameras capturing the information as you're putting recently bought groceries away or pulling them out to cook, do that well enough and now the benefits start to be larger in the home... but maybe you can see avenues to reduce the data entry burden in the warehouse, or the data entry processing desks, etc.

But on it's own, using the same old data acquisition patterns as boring old corporate ERP, you're better bet is probably just pen and paper.


> I've always liked the idea of this sort of thing, but the benefits of using something like this almost never outweigh the costs as compared to just eyeballing the pantry and winging the meal planning on short timescales. The system starts to become the point of the effort rather than just a tool to better achieve household goals.

Sounds a bit like GTD and other systems :/.


I think that GTD can actually eliminate overhead, but honestly it all depends on how good the ad-hoc system you are coming from was.


Well, so do I ; it was a gentle jab to people over-thinking their GTD or todo system ^^. My choice of words was quite poor.


For household usage I think it might be helpful to separate items into categories:

- Frequent use

- Infrequent use & stock needed

- Infrequent use & stock not needed

The first category I wouldn't worry about: you know how much you have stocked due to frequently using it, so just jot it down on a simple shopping list as you feel more stock is needed. Both short and long shelf life items can be placed here, you know when you need more sugar or toilet paper, or when something you use frequently might go bad soon.

The second category would be very good to put in a system like this, complete with expiration dates. These might be emergency supplies and medications, things that are easily forgotten about but shouldn't be lacking at any time. Keeping track and being notified of expiration dates would be pretty important.

The final category is personal choice. Since you don't need a stock of it, then it's non-essential. You could place it in a system like the second category, or you could just throw it on a shopping list when it's running out like the first.


I’ve been doing this with https://www.thingybase.com/, my phone, and a wireless Brother label printer or the past few months. Once you get use to a workflow it’s not that bad, and very handy when you are out and about and need to see what’s in your deep freezer or in storage.

Edit: I noticed a few people have signed up and are kicking the tires. Please let me know what you’d like to see built for this thing and give feedback in this thread. At the top of my list is: (1) a phone app, (2) better onboarding (3) more fields for quantity, units, custom, etc. (4) attach photos to items, (5) messaging/chat/threads for each item so people can coordinate better on inventory, (6) one-click to “create a posting to sell an item on Craigslist/etc” for getting rid of a thing and, (7) a way of loaning items to friends and showing them what’s available for loan.


Is there a link with more info about thingybase? Because this takes me immediately to a login prompt, without any details?


There’s not. I’ve been iterating on it personally without any sort of landing page to get the guts of the thing in a decent place and figure out all the workflows.

In brief; with thingybase you create an account, invite family members or co-workers, then add containers and put items in them you’d like to track. You can print labels and stick them on boxes or items that you scan via QR code with your phone.


A screenshot on the homepage would be nice. It sounds interesting!

Which brother label printer do you use? Seems like all the options are pretty pricy that can manage a QR code


Brother QL-810W Ultra-Fast Label Printer with Wireless Networking

If you’re using an iPhone, make sure it has AirPrint so you can easily print labels from your phone.

To scan labels, I just use my iPhone camera, tap on the link, and the webpage for the item opens.


I think this sort of inventory system combined with automatic updates (a la Amazon Go store style OCR embedded in smart fridges, etc) would go a long way. Have always thought this would be useful, but agreed the amount of energy required to manually update everything would be unsustainable.


Agreed that this would have to be a smart vision system that can scan the barcode, and maybe the shelves are attached to a scale to determine weight of items as they are placed back in. With that information you could determine size of a jar of mayo along with its current weight to estimate amount of mayo remaining.

Meats and vegetables would still be a challenge though, but perhaps object recognition could help with that.

Fridges are already overpriced for what even the fancy ones can offer, I imagine we're not there yet to incorporate multi-camera vision systems with beefy AI processors at commodity prices yet.


I guess you don't have to actually use all the features all the time. I'm doing some of this stuff using anylist where I've got recipes / meal planning / shopping list and it works pretty well. I don't care about keeping stock, but instead every time make a full shopping list, go to the kitchen, and remove things I already have.

Other features could be useful though - The list of batteries could be nice. House tasks as well.


Agree, I love the idea and wanted to make this work for my home, but from personal experience I'd say most people would find this more trouble than it's worth.

I wrote something very similar to this a couple years ago for our household. It runs on a raspberry pi and uses a barcode scanner and when we go shopping we scan everything in and then scan things out as we use them. We live far away from town and shopping trips are rare, big all day events. It's easy to forget to scan things out and then things that don't have barcodes like vegetables are hard to track so we don't bother. Manually entering it all in and then remembering to remove it while cooking is too much trouble (we tried).


Agreed. If there was some kind of tech like Amazon's just walk out idea that could automate keeping track of everything it would be great. But having to do this stuff manually kills it. It's the same problem I have with personal money mangers; I have to manually import my bank transactions and then further manually categorize and label them (I've scripted some but can't do most) for it to properly work and give me good graphs and breakdowns.


We seem to have all of the downsides of total surveillance, none of the upsides...


"You've been buying a lot of alcohol and tobacco cyberpunk, I bet insurance companies would find this info useful."


99.999% I think this thought as well. But, if I interpreted your quote correctly, it would require one's data to be made available to the powers-that-be, right? But, since this is self-hosted, only you would have control over your data, and not them, right? (Or, perhaps I'm missing something?)


THis is a similar challenge to the widespread problem of tracking expenses for small business. None of the solutions involve manually hand-bombing all the data, so maybe there is another angle that could eb tackled?


What about a feature where you scan your receipt and it prompts you for expiry for relevant items? (Dairy etc)


Just buy some extra rolls of toilet paper!




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