Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Pantry talk - organics & gourmet foods (part one)

I've had a lot of questions about how I decide what to stock up on (given a desire for a deep pantry with a small income) and if I ever buy organics. I do like organic foods but most are out of our budget. By keeping a price list and writing down what the various grocery stores charge for items, I am able to purchase a few for the pantry.

For instance, my husband likes to have few canned organic soups on the pantry shelves for days when he makes his own lunch. He buys most at Wal Mart (much cheaper!) and then what they don't carry, he purchases on his senior citizen discount day at the health food store. Some items are not expensive in season, such as organic romaine lettuce.

I read that the next best to organics (and far superior as far as freshness) are locally grown foods at the farmer's markets, even if they are not organic. From what I have read, vegetables and fruits grown by local farmers who plan to distribute only locally often have far less pesticides and chemicals than those grown by very large national and foreign distributors. Of course, it is nice to grow your own when possible.

I've found it so much better to watch for sales on the better brands rather than settle for bad products. For instance, cheap pasta and noodles usually are so inferior that the small amount required to purchase better brands add up to very little... and the new higher fiber pastas are very good.

I used cheap noodles a few weeks ago for chicken and noodle soup only because that was all I had on the shelf. They were okay at first but were so mushy when I warmed the soup the next day that it was horrible!

When it is half price and I have the money, I will buy all the various pasta shapes I use for a few months at one time. Dried pasta has a shelf life of at least one year (and I'm told when stored properly it can last a couple years). I also watch for sales on my favorite Red Gold tomatoes (which go on a buy-one get-one-free sale once every few months) and stock up when my pocket book can handle it.

Other items I prefer to buy when on sale are: real butter, King Arthur flour, good quality jams and jellies (made without the usual corn syrup), real maple syrup, olive oil (although now I buy only extra virgin for those recipes which require it and use canola oil instead of mild olive oil as I used to do for baking and frying), good quality coffee once in awhile (although I've found a decent Folgers for everyday use), and cream... when it has for some reason jumped into the grocery cart.

Some items that used to be regulars on my grocery list are now purchased only when they are on sale... like vanilla ice cream to have on hand in the deep freeze, potato chips, corn chips, and other snacks.

I must admit to rambling a bit and having trouble putting thoughts together... I need to brew some tea and think calm thoughts. It has been one of "those" days.

More later... :)

Picture: "Curtain" in the window of a restaurant we visited in Indiana Amish country last year

9 comments:

Pear tree cottage! said...

EVERYTHING!! you have said in this post is so true and when you are on a budget it is so important to work through the shopping list with care......I also like a deep pantry and try very hard to spend wise.

blessings on this wonderful spring day here in Australia. Lee-Ann

lisazahnwrites said...

Our budget is just about that tight these days too, so I appreciate all of your thoughts on foods. I find much of what you say to be true--it's worth it to buy Barilla pasta and since it's often on sale I buy it fairly cheap and stock up. We used to eat almost all organic but it's just not possible all the time these days. I try to buy fats like olive and grapeseed oil and butter organic because fats hold so much of the pesticides, but again it's not always possible.

We do stock up on local foods at Farmer's Markets, and grow our own vegetables organically, and preserve what we can for winter. I find our Farmer's Markets here in Central MN to be cheaper than the grocery stores for items like honey, real and local maple syrup, etc. Produce is generally cheaper, and of vastly superior quality, too.

I'm curious as to what Folgers you like. My husband is a coffee snob and we like to support Fair Trade, but even there we should cut back if we can. It would be nice to have Folgers on hand for parties and such. Otherwise, we just drink less coffee and continue to buy the good stuff like Peace Coffee.

I did find recently that Target-brand black tea is drinkable and I'm thrilled about that. I do love Frontier Organic English Breakfast but when the budget is low I head for Lipton, or now Target's brand which is quite a bit cheaper than Lipton even. I like the taste of all of it as long as it doesn't steep too long. I set the timer to make sure it doesn't...

scrappy quilter said...

I like purchasing organics as well although on our limited budget it's almost impossible. So instead like you I try to purchase locally as much as possible. I also have a large garden which helps. Great post Brenda.

matty said...

The curtain is precious! I have a lot of aprons and never know what to do with them. I do wear one, but that is only one of the newer ones!

There is quite a movement to eat locally. Have you read Barbara Kingsolver's book, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle"? It is lovely. We ate at their restaurant in Meadowview, VA, a while back and it was without a doubt the best food I had eaten out in a long time! Yummers!

Hope are you are feeling chipper this afternoon!

Anonymous said...

Brenda I am wondering something. Is the reason you use the canola oil instead of the light olive oil now in your baking because of price or new information that it is better? If anyone has Henry's Farners Market in their area they sell organic veggies and fruits, dairy and meats etc at very low prices when they have their sales. Their organics on sale days are often cheaper than the best sales of regular things at the bigger grocery stores. They sell both organic and not. Many times the organic is what is on sale and also the natural meats. Top quality. Ours is not that close but we are in the area off and on and sooo glad we are! On each Wednesday you can use the sale ad from the week before And the new one so it is double sale day. They are on line. Does any one know of such type stores in other areas? I have no idea if Henry's is all over the U.S. or not. Also we find organic canned goods and other things off and on at Big Lots stores. Hope this helps someone. Jody

Beth said...

On yesterday's blog, you mentioned Gene Stratton Porter and one of her books. You have led me to plan a Homeschool day with my girls to the Limberlost park. First I'm going to have them read some of her books...maybe research her life...watch the movie again (Girl of the Limberlost) and then spend the day in that area. Thanks for the idea!
Beth

Stickhorsecowgirls said...

Isn't it just amazing that we have to pay MORE to NOT have poisons such as pesticides and preservatives added to our food? My food budget is tight and I'm concerned about the diet of our youth. I work at a public high school and you cannot believe how many of these teenagers are seriously overweight. You would not believe how unhealthy the school breakfasts and lunches are. High fat biscuits and gravy, sausage patties, pizza for breakfast and lunch, honey buns, chicken nuggets, fries with chili and cheese. I truly believe it is a national health crisis. You can bet the high schools of China don't serve this terrible diet to their youth. Not that I want to live in China, mind you! lol V.

Raquel said...

This is a great post. I really agree about the Farmer's Market produce being better. It also reduces the carbon footprint of what you eat. I buy as much as possible from FM, grow what I can of my own, gladly take from anyone local that offers and if I find what I need on sale that is organic, I buy it. Otherwise, I do not worry too much about organic.

I also agree about watching for sale prices on brand names instead of buying the cheaper. I got tuna on sale the other day, brand name cheaper than wal-mart brand.

I also buy real butter - usually always at Aldi's and I go to Amish-Mennonite stores to buy my flour. It is very comparable to King ARthur - which they do not sell around here :(.

I don't care for canola oil tho - I just use olive oil. (Which I usually buy at Aldi's or if I catch it on sale elsewhere)

Thanks for sharing all of this! Much love - Raquel XO

Jonell said...

Perhaps we would call this a "Window Apron"?? luv it! After all, many of us don't us them for anything except to display treasured reminders of a time past.
Lovely!