Friday, July 31, 2009

Pantry Talk - Thoughts on how I stock up Part 2

Okay, you want to start a pantry but what do you do first? Other then starting a list like we chatted about yesterday? Decide what is most important to you. Do you want to begin putting back extra basic items for cooking or baking? Do you want to start a hospitality pantry... keeping extra items for last minute guests?

Perhaps a "cold and flu" pantry which contains canned chicken noodle soup, a few boxes of organic chicken stock if you prefer, packets of oyster crackers should nausea hit, perhaps extra tissues and cold-flu medicine... each will prefer their own.

Find a place to put your items. Mine is simply shelves in the garage and I keep paper and toiletry items in the shower we never used in the tiny bathroom (Manuela's brilliant idea... see link below). There are all kinds of creative ideas online for finding storage space if you want to deepen the pantry.

Then start purchasing one extra of a few items each week. I like to make certain I have basic cooking and baking items like butter (which is so cheap here right now, I wonder how the dairy farmers are surviving)... I place three one pound packages in a gallon Zip Loc bag and then put in the freezer, baking supplies, milk, oil (I prefer mild olive oil for baking but I've long ago had to switch to canola), etc.

Of course, coffee and tea are important in this household. For more specifics, I've written volumes in past Pantry Talks... the link to all of them (should anyone be interested) is on the sidebar.

If I have no extra money at all, I'll purchase only a couple of the most important items. That which I don't want to run out of if I can help it. Should I go to the grocery store and find an unexpected sale, that may change my priority. For instance, I now have five or six bags of my favorite King Arthur flour because I hit a great sale a few months ago.

By the way, did you know unbleached King Arthur flour has enough gluten that it makes a good loaf of bread... should you not have room to store both unbleached and bread flour? Since I have limited shelf space, I stopped buying separate bread flour when I found out about that fact.

Just this past week, on my birthday, we stopped by Target for Sasha's kibble (on sale) and one coffee. We noticed our favorite Viva paper towels were on an amazing sale... put the coffee back... and bought the paper towels.

When finances allow, I go through all the stores sales fliers and check for their loss leaders. Sometimes I'll purchase one or two of the most important items I find on sale. Other times, when I can spare the cash, I use these great sales to really deepen the pantry.

For instance, when I find a buy-one-get-one-free sale on my favorite canned tomatoes, I'll use $20.00 of my grocery money just for the tomatoes. I use them quite often and they are a priority when deepening the pantry is possible. This is how one can start to deepen their pantry even more. I'll write more about it next time.

There are some items I will only purchase on deep discount... like ice cream, sugar free Sierra Mist, Christopher's favorite Nutra Grain or granola bars, etc. (and I watch for coupons to combine with sales).

I also watch for seasonal deep discounted items. For instance, in the fall one can often find canned veggies at their cheapest, especially stores which have their own brand of canned goods. The new crop is being processed and the stores need the shelf space for them.

I used to purchase green beans at 4 for $1.00 around September. Last year they were 3 for $1.00 but still a good price when one's son mainly eats canned green beans for his veggies. You may want to write a reminder on your calendar around the time you want to start looking for seasonal sales.

There are some items available only at certain times of the year. I can only find cranberries during the Holidays so I buy them then, drop three bags at a time in a gallon size Zip Loc bag, and have them for recipes through the year. I even made room for about six bags of cranberries (in two gallon size Zip Loc bags) in my freezer when I didn't have a deep freeze.

Many homemakers already know that the best time to stock up on baking items is during the Holidays. I'll start buying extra as soon as they go on sale and purchase a little at a time throughout the season. Sometimes all I can afford is a couple bags of chocolate chips or an extra bottle of vanilla... but it adds up if I am consistent.

Oh, someone had asked what vanilla I use? It's Watkins that I wrote about before that I like and I used to purchase the large bottle of it once in awhile (I no longer can do that). Although I find even store brands are good as long as they are real and (ugh) not imitation. I would leave vanilla out rather than use the imitation.

Another seasonal item I purchase is honey from the "honey man" at the farmer's market toward the middle or end of the summer. I like to purchase a couple of the two quart sizes and pour them into recycled jelly jars... which is what I had a picture of in Part 1. I couldn't afford to purchase any honey at all last year so we used up all our supply for the first time I could remember. Normally I have some left before purchasing more each summer.

I mention our reduced ability to make purchases from time to time only to remind people... if I can keep a pantry... you can. :)

More later... now, you must read about Manuela's shower pantry... wait until you read this.

Picture: Three Hens With Coop;


Anonymous said...

Love the Pantry talk, Thank You.
Here's a great link if you want to make your own vanilla.

Amber in Kentucky

Anonymous said...

I like the pantry talk too....I decided to pick several meals, and start deepening my pantry with those items. In my case, what I need for chili, soups, a couple favorite casseroles, and baking items. It seemed a little overwhelming thinking about deepening every item already in my pantry...and I have begun keeping several months of cleaning supplies on hand too. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I think many people these days are in a similar position and find it more challenging to stock a pantry. It's a good reminder that even a little bit at a time makes a real difference.

I use the same philosophy as that's how we can afford to stock up. I look for brands that are frugal, not usually high-end, but somewhere in between. I love Trader Joe's for example, because I can get very good quality without the brand name prices.


Vee said...

I do make my own vanilla and swear by it. It's so much more economical in the long wrong and one can get two distillings from the vanilla beans. That's a lot of vanilla extract. My current bottle of vodka has lasted over a year, but I am now thinking that it's time to get another bottle. I so agree that imitation vanilla is the pits.

We also agree on King Arthur flour. I have to have that stuff. I am writing a big list and praying that the pantry gets restocked this week. Pancakes for supper? Gheesh.

Anonymous said...

I found that the plastic under the bed boxes can hold a lot of canned goods and still slide out very easily without any pulling even full. Ours are high enough for all the regular size cans..if we had tall ones they would have to lie down. I got the ones without the wheels and they work perfectly and since they have a lid everything stays clean. I know it sounds weird having food under a bed but that is about the only place we have for extras and it works for us. We keep certain things in each box so it is easy to find and mark the top of each can with the expiration date and or date bought. We have the folding clothes drying rack up in the shower instead! :) Clothes can dry in there but be out of site. If we have clothes drying on hangers{and don't mind being able to see the rack in there :)} we can also hang the hangers on the shower rod or throw things over the rod to day. We can use another dryer rack out in the bedroom cause one is off the floor in the shower!! Our house is tiny. We too only use one bathroom so this works for us too. Manuela is so creative isen't she!! :) Jody

Pom Pom said...

I thought of you yesterday when I was at the grocery store. We live near a fancy neighborhood and the check out clerks asked me if I was shopping for a month. I was only shopping for a week, but I guess they get used to the yoga class-takers rushing in every day for a dinner from the deli! Our kids like to bring their families over to our house often so we are buying a freezer and growing the pantry. I am enjoying your posts!

Anonymous said...

Do you have advice as to where to find good coupons? I have ordered a few newspapers from time to time and sometimes they have good ones, but mostly it seems they offer many cleaning products, makeup, etc. You can only use so many of those!! Staple food item coupons seem few and far between. Perhaps you can post something about this in the near future. I am interested anyway!! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Dee from Tennessee

Wonderful comments...thanks to everyone.

I didn't know to drain the zuke....only frozen it one time and had a TON of ice crystals in it....will know to drain next time. thanks!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for all your tips! We're feeling the tight finances lately, and worried because fall and winter will mean higher expenses and my teacher husband will certainly not be getting a raise this year from the school district. (Being a music teacher, we feel fortunate he still has a job at all!) I've been stocking up for a couple of years now but any new ideas are appreciated. I think I'll use your idea for a cold and flu pantry section--some chicken stock, crackers, ginger ale and tissues would be great to have around.