Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Pantry Talk: The Holiday Pantry - Part 1

As I realized my thoughts about living a pantry lifestyle during the Holidays were buzzing around in my head and not landing, I figured it was because there were too many for one post (or my brain is too small, which is entirely a possibility). Here is... Part One.

When my husband was still able to work and bringing home an income, he almost always was paid every two weeks. So... instead of my countdown to Thanksgiving and Christmas being in days... it was in paychecks. That makes a huge difference in one's thinking and planning (especially if you are determined not to go into debt). Here are some ideas for the pantry lifestyle for early November.

Go through all your baking supplies and check the "use by" date. Throw away what is past the date, make certain to use those close to "use by" dates first, and add any items you need to this week's grocery list.

Check to make certain all your herbs, spices, and other needed items are fresh. I've found spices last quite awhile, I just add a little more than called for if they are not completely fresh. Herbs are another matter, they don't last as long (whether store bought or dried at home). Of course, whole spices last a very long time (I had coriander seeds last for years).

Make a list of recipes you know you will be making for the Holiday season. Include important meals, entertaining, baked gifts, other gifts using baking supplies (such as "cookies in a jar"), etc. This list may be ongoing as new recipes are found... This is also the time to call a family member or friends for a particular recipe.

Make another list, this time of all the ingredients needed for your Holiday meals. Start buying a little each week now... obviously with the items needed soon taking priority. The assumption is made that you have already gone through your pantry to see what you have and what you need.

Check not only the food items but those purchases which are not so obvious. For instance, if you are going to assemble "cookies in a jar" for gifts, you may need wide mouth canning jars and a small amount of Christmas (or vintage look) fabric for the lid.

Each week, take a close look at the sales flyers for each grocery store and watch for the seasonal loss leaders. When I had a regular income, I bought months worth of chocolate chips each Christmas season when they were the cheapest. This is the time of year when flour, sugars, and other baking supplies become very cheap... stock your pantry! By starting now, it will be possible to do so without adding a lot to your weekly grocery bill.

I would often start in October buying extra butter (I used to do a lot of baking!). I would put two or three in a gallon size Ziplock bag to offer extra protection. What I didn't use for the Holidays, I could use the rest of the year.

Also, stock items you use but are only available this time of year. For instance, I love cranberry bread but in my part of the country, cranberries are only available around Thanksgiving and Christmas (not even frozen!). I would buy one or two bags a week (more when they are on sale), stuff these two or three bags directly into a gallon size Ziplock bag... and have them ready for the rest of the year.

As you look through the recipes you plan to make over the Holidays, also note if there are any baking dishes (or serving dishes), tablecloths, etc. that you need to purchase or borrow. Some baking pans are available now which are not the rest of the year. I stored any dishes and baking pans I used only during the Holidays with the decorations in boxes.

While not a pantry object, this is also the time to watch sales for any clothing, shoes, etc. the family will need for an event. It is far better to check thrift stores or the preseason sales at the department stores than to be forced to pay full price later.

Having said that... if you can afford it, this is the time of year to pay full price if that is your only option. Even if it is only the purchase of brand new jammies for the kids each year... how special that makes it all. I love stories from the days when women wore hats. Christmas or Easter would be the time they would enjoy a new fashion.

I always looked for baskets and serving plates at thrift stores, garage sales, and Goodwill all year round to be used with gift giving. I was always amazed at the lovely linens, needlework items, doilies, etc. that I could purchase for very little money at the same time... which could be used to make a gift special. Lining a basket with a vintage linen or fabric makes everything look special.

I also always added one or more Christmas decorations each year. When we could afford it, I usually paid full price for one ornament or object that would be special and then always check the after Christmas sales for wonderful bargains.

It was like a Christmas present for myself the next Christmas season when I would rediscover my bargain (but beautiful) after Christmas sales decorations, to be used for the first time that year. :)

More later... I must ponder.

Picture: Apple Pie Harvest;


Lynn said...

Wonderful ideas, Brenda. I love the wisdom of planning for Christmas by paycheck period. Buying ingredients ahead of time, like butter and chocolate chips, is a great way to minimize the impact on the December budget. Thanks for sharing your thoughts; I can't wait to read the rest of those buzzing ideas :)

freddie said...

Hi Brenda, great posts and ideas; I remember when I worked in England I always had to plan what to buy, how when and why spend so much... now luckily enough I've given up most of this process... I just can't resist not to buy anything for my little nephews...
God Bless you
PS: ... sorry I forgot what I meant to say...

Beth said...

Hi Brenda! I used to buy Christmas ornaments the day after Christmas each year!
I also buy Christmas presents for the next year (Lord Willing) that are kind of "seasonal". For instance, I buy those wonderful yet terribly expensive Yankee jar candles for half price or less the week after Christmas. Yes, they may be "last year's scent" by the time I give them for Christmas the following year, but I can actually afford to give all the ladies in the family a nice gift at half the cost that way. They stay nice and they just get packed away in my "Christmas stash" for next year!

We also give many many plates of cookies and fudge so we buy lots of containers for gift giving. I am also planning to give from the cabinets this year since we are trying to get rid of some clutter. Now, when I give a dessert or some homemade bread, I always say, "Don't worry about giving the plate back, just pass it along to someone else when YOU give some goodies!" I have received happy responses to that...since they don't have to remember to give it back...and that they can pass it on!
Thanks for your posts!

Stickhorsecowgirls said...

This will be a leaner year for me, too, and with company staying over at that! I have already started stocking the deep freeze so that when my company arrives (simultaneously with Christmas!) I will have all of it but the fresh stuff in. It's the only way I am going to be able to afford it. That said, I think this is really a healthier way to think and plan anyway! Will be looking for more of your hints.C

Connie said...

Some really good ideas. I also plan ahead and watch for sales.
Baskets from Goodwill - also this year I plan on using some crocheted doilies that my Mom made for me to put under the cookies/bars etc.

Anonymous said...

Dee from Tennessee

Just a great practical..just what I needed to try to get started (esp.the seasonal food items).

Brenda Leyland said...

I like to prepare ahead too, so I enjoyed your ideas. It's fun to hear how other people prepare for the holidays.

We'll watch for episode 2!

scrappy quilter said...

What a wonderful post. Lots of wisdom here and good sound advice.
Can't wait to read part #2. Hugs..

Glenda/MidSouth said...

Great post. I just started my menu/grocery list for Thanksgiving, and in the process of checking to see what I have. It is not hard to do around here, as my family want certain things each year. Enjoy the holidays.

mamajuliana said...

Thank you for both of your Pantry posts! I am almost ready to start my holiday gift baking.

In the past my husband and I always felt a bit guilty for giving 'homemade' presents...he has choirs and employees at work and 'store' gifts were just not an option because of the price.

But over the years, it has become a tradition...everyone loves, (and looks forward to,) the baked goods we give!

Again, thank you for both of your posts!

Mrs. Staggs said...

Brenda, I sure do hope you will be feeling much better soon. We've had a lot of illness in our family this fall too. Earlier than usual it seems. I'm hopeful that we'll all be better before the holiday season is really upon us.

Thank you for these lovely and inspiring posts. I've been thinking many of the same thoughts, and I too search for those lovely vintage treasures to give my gift baskets a bit more character. That's the part I love the best. Wouldn't we have fun creating baskets together?