Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Pantry talk: why keep a pantry?

I probably wrote about this before, perhaps a couple of times in my stocking up or pantry talk posts... but this time I'm living out of the pantry so perhaps it is from a different perspective.

We've ended up in an uncomfortable financial position due to rising prices and unexpected costs. This month we began paying off the doctors and hospital for Christopher's surgery. He didn't even spend the night in the hospital (since they knew we were uninsured) but it ended up costing around $24,000. Everyone cut what we owed them by about 60% but only if we started paying them off starting in June... a total of almost $200.00 a month. That was our grocery budget. Yikes!

Of course, not everyone will find themselves on a fixed income combined with unexpected major expenses but there are so many reasons to start and deepen a pantry. It is truly insurance you can eat.

I know you must invest time as well as whatever money you can afford but the benefits are great. If nothing else, you can stock the pantry during sales and save a great deal of money in the long run (not to mention how many less last minute trips to the store you will make).

It becomes easier as one develops a pantry mentality. For instance, even though I had little money for food this month I purchased enough french lentils to last a year. I like them much better than the brown lentils I can buy at the grocery store and they are far to expensive at the health food store.

My friend who belongs to a food co-op was able to split the bag between a few people so I could purchase plenty for a fraction of the regular retail price. That's the pantry mentality... buy cheap and stock up when available to have on hand when needed. Oh, why did I buy lentils now? Her family may be leaving for the mission field within a few months and this was my last opportunity to order through the co-op where she belongs (she added a small bag of wheat as a gift). :)

Another very (very) important reason for having your own pantry and deepening it when possible has come to light once again in my own life as we went to a couple extra government and church run food pantries this past month (in addition to the one pantry I go to each month).

The foods are mostly processed and high carb as they are often the most inexpensive for them to purchase. I find only one or two grocery sacks of food are items I can eat (and even then most are not the healthiest). When you build up your own pantry, you have available foods you already use and your family is familiar with... and may be much more nutritious.

There are also some items I have to throw away when I get home. I have no problem with slightly dented cans or packages (I buy them myself on clearance racks) but we've received some items so dented and so crushed that I throw them away for safety reasons.

The food pantry I went to this week is one that often has meat and milk (we were able to take home a package of lunch meat, sausage, and they even had a bunch of bananas along with canned goods) but it often runs out of many foods before the line is half way along. I got such a chuckle as there was one orphan box of orzo set aside from the packages of noodles and spaghetti. Not the usual pantry food. It came home with me. :)

I do still have food in my own pantry having stocked up on items essential to putting together at least a few menus... canned tomatoes and tomato sauces which add a lot of nutrition, good quality pastas (better for diabetics), canned tuna and chicken, canned green beans, peanut butter and good quality jelly (without corn syrup), and most items necessary for baking (although I've running out of some things), etc.

I also still have a little meat and frozen veggies in the freezer. I had frozen an extra Easter ham when they were so cheap and it is defrosting in my refrigerator to drop by Bonnie's house later this week. That along with some canned veggies and one or two baked goodies will help stretch her small grocery budget (they get less Social Security then we do but they also qualify for food stamps... which we don't) when Jean arrives.

That's something else about keeping a pantry... it's not to hoard for just our family out of fear... it is there to bless others whether to share with others or to have the ingredients on hand to make a meal and/or baked goods for others who need a meal. I truly believe that God gives seed for the sower (and bread for the giver) and there is always someone more needy than us. We are truly blessed in many ways.

I'll write a little more tomorrow about why a pantry is a good thing...


Linda said...

I love your pantry posts. I'm trying to deepen my pantry and am looking at why I want to do this. I think it will help me to know what kinds of foods to buy. I'm also doing emergency prep, so I'm finding there are a lot of different reasons to have a pantry and I agree I don't want to do it out of fear. You have been an inspiration to me as I find myself suddenly with a very limited budget this year. Thanks and blessings.

Diane said...

It sounds like you are being extremely wise and God will get you all through this season.

Marie said...

I always love your pantry posts. I did not use to stock our pantry, but since my husband retired and we are on a fixed income, it makes a difference. I use coupons and watch for sales to help in stocking the pantry and the freezer.
Thanks for your thoughtful and inspiring posts.

matty said...


As always, you state what should be obvious common sense, but isn't always. My parents raised us on a very limited income, often feeding us only what came from our garden and what the milkman would let us have on credit. The year Mother had cancer and my younger brother was born with multi-birth defects and only lived three days, our family income was only $5200. Our medical bills were $5600. (Of course this was in 1959, but the relevance is still there.) For this reason, Mother taught us to preserve everything we could and to be frugal with food, yet eat healthfully. To quote her: "Spend it on food or on the doctor!"

I have mentioned before in your comments section about Angel Food Ministries. I encourage everyone to check it out. We purchase a box for us, but also purchase a box for the church to donate to someone in need. The food is very fresh, good quality, and, at $30 a box, will feed a family of four three meals a day for a week.

You continue to teach me gratitude and plenty. Thanks. Matty

Anonymous said...

I only have a minute just now to comment...but what are French lentils? Are they known by any other name? I haven't heard of French ones. Are they any better for you? Sooo good of you to write more about the pantry project. Jody

Anonymous said...

I was wondering how you prepare your lentils? I made a lentil soup and also have a good Indian (sort of) recipe for lentils and rice that we eat with carmelized onions.
We love the French lentils too--they are the best!
I will be praying that the Lord will continue to provide abundantly and to meet your needs during these lean times. Your writing blesses many people and I'm sure many people are praying for you and your family.

scrappy quilter said...

I too love your pantry posts. So much wisdom. Hugs..