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; allposters.com