Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Recession Ponderings #6 - Basic Pantry Items (baked goods)

Scene from my dining room table last autumn
after purchasing honey from the honey man at the farmer's market... having transferred honey from BIG jars to recycled jelly jars. :)

After a lot of questions I've received, I have come to realize there are more people who have not "stocked up" on a regular basis than I originally thought. I grew up with my mom having a pantry (some years deeper than others) and my mother-in-law's pantry usually so deep, they could have survived months without going to the store except for a few items. Both women were raised originally in rural areas of the country and both went through the Great Depression. They would have thought not having a pantry to be strange...

Remember again... recession proofing is when you purchase something today (without going into debt and on sale whenever possible) that you know you will need tomorrow when the prices will be higher. Deepening the pantry means you stock up even more than you normally would, using the foods your family always eats (with just a few exceptions, which I'll talk about later).

So... what items do you stock up on first? That is entirely up to you but here are my priorities given my limited funds. To make this simple to read (and to write), I'll share about one or two categories each day.

Basic Pantry Items (Baked Goods)

I try to have at least one extra of most of my baking goods and much more of important items. When I get extra money, I often use it to buy extras for the pantry... insurance that can be eaten or used here at home.

I always have at least one extra container of things like baking powder, baking soda, etc. I check the "use by" dates on everything to make certain they are far in the future. This is a good habit to use for everything as I've often found an item with a past due "use by" date on the same shelf as those a year or two away.

When I was in a food co-op, I would purchase flour in huge bags. Now I stock up with multiple five pound bags. I like King Arthur flour but it is now over $6.00 for five pounds in my area... not in my budget! I keep course sea salt or kosher salt, fine sea salt (for the salt shakers), ground pepper (ditto on the shakers), peppercorns for the grinder, a large Mrs. Dash original and a back up, a smaller Mrs. Dash Lemon Pepper and a back up, plenty of cinnamon, one each of all my important herbs and spices, Tony Chachere's Original Creole Seasoning (just the right amount of "kick" for these Midwestern tastes)...

Large containers of garlic powder and of onion powder, a large bag of yeast in Tupperware in the frig and another put back in the pantry, vanilla extract and back ups, one each of my other extracts, various oils, corn syrup, molasses, Crisco (butter flavored for baking), and cocoa (at least one extra, if not more).

I also keep items like powdered buttermilk and powdered milk, Milnot evaporated milk, and sweetened condensed milk, etc. for recipes. Of course, I stock up on chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, cinnamon chips, etc., especially when they are on sale. When they aren't on sale, I find Hershey's brand to be much cheaper right now.

I like to keep a couple blocks of semi-sweet chocolate and German chocolate on hand for recipes, coconut, one or two packages of caramels, chopped nuts (when I can get them on sale, they have really gotten expensive), dried cherries, dried cranberries, currents (although I haven't been able to find any for awhile), and any other items my recipes would call for. By keeping basic baking supplies on hand, one can always go to their recipe box and "whip up something" at a moment's notice and by buying them now, they will probably never be cheaper.

I make most of my cookies and cakes from scratch but I do purchase boxes of yellow cake mix when it goes on sale because I have a few recipes I use them in. Christopher likes me to make cupcakes from the confetti cake mix at times, just because they look festive. I also keep one or two boxes of angel food cake mix on hand for recipes. All of these go on sale from time to time, otherwise they are almost always less than $1.00 at Wal Mart (angel food cake mix is a little higher).

I do still order my oatmeal from the co-op (through my friend who is still in it) and I hope to purchase a couple of bags of wheat this summer. I have a wheat grinder and I like to mix half freshly ground wheat to unbleached white flour most of the time for recipes, with more ground wheat flour ratio in my breads.

I keep confectioners sugar and brown sugar in their original plastic bags and store them in a big Rubbermaid container, placing the most recent purchases on the bottom (not the easiest way of storing but the best I can do right now). Sometimes boxes of these sugars will go on a deep discount and I'll buy them instead. Regular sugar is poured into a very large Tupperware container. You can see what I do with honey in the picture above... I purchase it from the "honey man" at the farmer's market each year. I purchase a half gallon at a time and pour the honey into these recycled jelly jars.

I buy butter at the best price I can find and keep both unsalted and salted butter in the freezer. I purchase cream cheese when it is on sale and stock up. The next time I see it at $1.00 again, we're stocking up big time! I was able to buy some recently at $1.25 an 8 oz. block and that was the best price I've found since Easter. I like to use mild olive oil for my baking where oil is called for so I try to stock up on it when I have a little extra (sometimes if that is all I can afford that month, I'll just purchase one or two extra containers of the mild olive oil for stock up).

I know I'm probably forgetting something quite obvious but these are all I can think of right now. At the least, I try to keep one extra of everything (except most spices). However, I feel much better when I have "deepened" the pantry at the level I can afford. It seems like a lot but I've been doing this for years now, just a little at a time, and it can add up. If I can do it on my small grocery budget, it can be done.

The deeper we stock up, the more it is necessary to watch for "use by" dates and keep track of items. For the most part, the easiest way for me to keep track of items is simply to put the last purchased in the back of a row and use what is in the front of a row next. If I purchase a case of anything at a time (I'll talk about that later), then I make certain to mark each can or item with the month/year purchased.

I'm amazed at how many places I'm hearing that people should "stock up" on food and basic items. A couple of weeks ago, one of the Bible teachers I listen to strongly warned people they should start adding 5% extra each week when they buy groceries just for "stocking up" for the future.

I still need to catch up on my sleep and my brain is still fuzzy. I hope you can understand what has been written. Will return with more recession/pantry ponderings ...

ADDED NOTE: If you have any stock up suggestions, do leave them in Comments. They will be appreciated as I'm certain I've forgotten some important bread and baking item (like I said, my brain is fuzzy today... yawn).


Sibyl said...


I am really enjoying your rece ssion proofing your pantry. I also try to keep a good quanity of items we use on a regular basis.

As far as cream cheese--i don't know if you know it---you can freeze it. it might not be good to eat on bagels or such, but for cooking it works fine. I purchased some late last year with coupons came out to be 10¢ for each 8 ounce block.

Sibyl in Houston

Anonymous said...

One of my strategies that helps to stock up is to look for items I know we will use that I can find a coupon for. I love being able to go to the store and get something for free or nearly free for my pantry.

During this time of year things like mustard, relish, ketchup are at great prices to stock up on.

We're on a tight budget also but even using a small amount of money each time I shop helps to build the pantry up. Planning ahead is so important I find.

Abounding Treasures said...

I try to stock up my pantry with items we use regularly too and find in the long run, it *saves* us money!

Thanks for the tips you've shared :o)

Have a great week,

nanatrish said...

Brenda, what wonderful suggestions. My mother always kept lots of extras just in case we got some company. Do you keep lots of meat in your freezer? Frozen vegetables? I just can't seem to remember you mentioning them. Where do you store all the paper goods? I always think that is something you will definitely need in the future and that doesn't expire. As always, you have such helpful hints. Thanks

cheri said...

What you have posted is similar to what I do, but I love reading it in your posts: it assures me that I am not alone in this venture.

The Proverbs 31 woman 'looks well to the ways of her household' - thanks Brenda for setting such a good example!

Anonymous said...

< So... what items do you stock up on first? >

Thank you for this post-I've been meaning to ask just this question for a long time but kept putting it off.

Anonymous said...

I'm not doing any baking these days...can you write a post on just basic items to begin stocking up on? My dh does the grocery shopping and I know I'll have to go with him if I ever hope to stock up on anything. The whole idea of it makes my adrenal fatigue even worse. :)

Heather said...


Thanks for sharing all of your wisdom! It has been a blessing to me. Having been raised in a mormon home (I am christian now), I grew up being taught how to have a pantry and how to stock up, but it always so nice to see how others do it.

Love, Heather

Maggie Ann said...

My husband does all the grocery shopping so I'm trusting we won't be going hungry in the future....smile.

lady jane said...

Thank you for sharing more about how you pad your pantry. It's encouraging and helps so many of us.

Bless you.

Beth said...

Add me to the ones thanking you for these pantry posts! I have always had a fairly full pantry, and had considered adding to it as the prices started to go up. But after reading how you actually had to use your pantry and these other preparation techniques made me get serious about it.

Sadly, what I'm finding right now is that when I look at the grocery ads for our area very few *practical* things are on sale. There are discount prices on sodas, chips, frozen dinners, things like that. What I was hoping for was a good sale on things like tuna and canned vegetables. Oh well, I can get them at Costco and Aldi and they will not be terribly costly there...but I wish now I had stashed some of these things a few months ago when they were still going on sale!

Manuela said...

Thanks for sharing your pantry ideas. Can't think of anything to add. I totally forgot about spices!! Thanks Sibyl for the tip about freezing cream cheese - I didn't know that.

I've been waiting for MONTHS for canned fruit to go down to at least $1 a can and finally this week Publix has Del Monte on sale. Canned fruit (good for winter & making quick cobblers) has been around $1.35 here in the ATL. Even generic has been over a $1. So I took advantage and bought alot since who knows when it'll be this "cheap" again!


Jan & Tom's Place said...

Very good strategy. Although I don't have a "Pantry"...I do have enough cupboard space and do many of the things you've suggested, to stock up! I always like having things on hand, in case someone unexpected shows up...or I get a "taste" for something special!!

Thanks for visiting our blog and leaving the nice comment and I hope to see you back again!


Carrot Top said...

Thanks so much, Brenda! I'm looking forward to learning more.

What a blessing to learn that you can freeze cream cheese! It goes on sale here for about 99 cents every few months. Now I can't wait! :)

Buying cheddar or mozzarella in bulk and freezing them is helpful too.

Anonymous said...


For confetti cupcakes, I just buy the sprinkles in the bulk section (or those cheap bottles of sprinkles in the generic spice section) and just stir them into a regular cake mix. They turn out just the same!

Susan B said...

Brenda, thank you for sharing your tips for the pantry. It is very much appreciated! I look forward to reading more.

Anonymous said...

Dear Brenda,

I am truly enjoying these posts. I too am stocking my pantry. I grew up in South America where we did not keep items on hand like here. We took everything from the garden as needed it.

I also purchase baking necessaties when they go on sale. I purcahse pretty much everything from the dry goods store in town. I have been able to get pretty much everything I need for a decent price.

I also stock up on pasta and rice. My family loves italian dishes and they are so easy to keep without worrying about expiration dates. I am so looking forward to more of these posts.

have a blessed day!


Laura said...

I like to stock up on cake mixes when they're on sale...I do most of my baking from scratch, with the exception of cake. After having to throw out a couple expired boxes, I started keeping a "cake mix inventory" on a little clipboard and whenever I buy cake mixes I add the type, quantity and expiration date to my list, and then cross them off as we use them. The children like to look on the list and tell me "We need to make such-and-such flavor cake this month because it's going to expire first!" (grin)

I use the same clipboard to keep an inventory of meat in the freezer, so I can plan meals without rummaging in the freezer, and I keep my meal plans for the week on that clipboard, so it's all in one handy place.

Best wishes,

Andrea said...

Gosh, two years ago, I'd have laughed at anyone who suggested 'stocking up'. I kept an extra bag of flour, sugar, chocolate and butterscotch chips, a ketchup, a few boxes of cereal, and a few Hamburger helpers in my cabinets. That was it.

Then, I got married. And got pregnant. And became unemployed when I announced the pregnancy (librarians are funny that way, I guess...). And I HAD to save money somewhere once I got laid off after finding another job.

I started clipping coupons in earnest, not just using them when I remembered my coupon box.

Now, my 'pantry' is the kitchen closet, as well as two full cupboards in my 900 square foot apartment. I have 4 bags of flour, 3 bags of sugar, molasses, brown sugar, powdered sugar, dry milk, dried buttermilk, dry whole milk for the baby (he's almost a year now! Wow...), canned tomatoes up the wazoo, Hamburger helper, snacks, cereal enough to get us through to Christmas, spices, juice, oil, salad dressings, BBQ sauce, ketchup, jams (homemade), and I know there is more...

I figure, this way, not only can I whip something up last minute, I can assure myself that my family is protected from a run on the grocery store in my area. I'm not too worried about a recession overall - I was born during the recession in the early 80s and my folks survived, but I am concerned about making good monetary choices in terms of the household budget.

God bless everyone, don't panic...He knows our ways, and already has a plan for all of us!

Now to just find someone who sells honey locally...our last honey man passed last summer. :( He was 96!

Linda said...

The photo reminds me of when I was little and the honey man brought my Mum honey in a large square tin and she had to get it out of the tin.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Brenda. I put the date I bought the canned and boxed goods on the top of the item...but in bigger print I put Ex. {Expires} and this date. That way for Sure the oldest item gets used first. Many times I have bought an item and noted the one I already had in stock actually had an earlier expiration date than the one I bought a week before etc. Both are way off dates..but still. Now it is 2012 and things have not changed...we are still worried about ever rising food prices and the world economy etc! :) It is always a good idea for so many reasons to protect your loved ones by having food back. Sarah