I think the part of simpler living I've found both enjoyable and the most difficult (depending on the day) is staying at home a lot more. By staying home, I have more time to keep the house better organized, to get the maintenance work done so I still have time and energy to get creative, to plant and keep an eye on flowers and a few veggies in the garden. I even have time to cook a stew and bake a cake from scratch once in awhile.
At the same time, if I don't have what I need at home and the car won't be available until much later, life becomes far more complicated. I've found from keeping a pantry most of my married life that some items are essential, these become the most important items to purchase when I have the ability to stock up.
Learning what is essential didn't happen overnight. It has been over years of trying recipes, deepening the pantry, and trying what worked and didn't that knowledge was gained so that I usually know what to prioritize and have on hand.
Each family will be unique in their pantry needs according to personal taste, health issues, space available, number of people in the family, if they grow their own produce or purchase everything, etc. Our own pantry needs have changed over the years.
I do use basic ingredients the most... those which go together to make baked goods or a meal. I've tweaked that over the years. For instance, before I developed a chronic illness I made my own "cream of" soups but now I use the canned soup to save time and effort. However, to be a frugal cook the best knowledge we can have is how to make items "from scratch" so we can do so when necessary.
It is always good when we can plan ahead with our own convenience foods prepared and in the freezer or pantry. However, there are times we may have to purchase convenience items. It is a good idea to try any convenience product to see if we like it before stocking up. A few convenience items I keep on hand... instant potatoes, canned soups, canned pork and beans, cold cereal, cake and brownie mixes, the occasional Stouffer's meal in the freezer (purchased on sale)... and lemonade mix for the Hospitality Pantry.
How valuable, though, to be able to put together a soup or stew, using leftovers in a casserole, checking what is available in the garden and planning a big stir fry dinner, experimenting with using a variety of leftover cheeses to form a cheese sauce for mac and cheese... those areas where creativity can be frugal... are all important skills which lead to saving money and stretching what is in the pantry.
Each month I also peruse the latest coupons available in the newspaper and online which put favorite food and toiletry items within my budget. I also keep a note tablet on my refrigerator (the kind that has a magnet on the back) where I not only write down needed grocery items but those pantry foods I'm out of... or I think should be added for a particular recipe.
Like anything else, the more we work at something, the better we become. Keeping a pantry is no different. We gain experience to fall back on and new skills in shopping, cooking, creating, perhaps gardening and canning what we grow, making our own jelly and jam... generally become more proficient at whatever skill we need for the life we have chosen.
Such skills and knowledge are as good as gold for us and for our children.
Here are two blog posts that led to these lines of thought...
Falling Like Rain:
Questions ... a great post about deepening the pantry. Click here.
Simple living - getting started... lots to think about and learn from. Click here.
I always find something interesting at both these wonderful blogs. :)
Picture: Housewife- Price Administration posters: allposters.com