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