Friday, October 15, 2010

Why I believe in deepening the pantry

My original online experience was in emergency preparedness so I must admit to having quite strong opinions on the subject.  Which is why I dislike lists which tell you to purchase "this" one week and then "that" the following.  I know people who stocked up in such a way for Y2k and ended up tossing out or giving away expensive food because they stocked what other people ate and not what their family used.

(Speaking of Y2k, I have never understood why people mock those who stocked up for the possible problems when even the experts were uncertain if the original computer codes were corrected in time.  One buys insurance, hoping they never have to use it and deepening the pantry is simply insurance one can eat, if done correctly.)

I personally believe it is very important to deepen our pantry as much as we feel "led" to do so, understanding we all have limitations of available money, space, time, etc.  But not being able to do all we want should never stop us from doing what we can... speaking as one who is very limited in funds to spend as well as space.

But there is a difference between simply deepening our pantry, stocking more than we need for our immediate needs, then what would be termed food storage (ugh... which rarely works).  I learned that lesson from listening to people on my former website as they stocked up with food and supplies from the various lists going around online and in books and not from the most important list... that being their grocery list.

We do not store food just for an emergency, with the exception of some items one may want to buy for long term storage "just in case".  For instance, regular powdered milk has a very limited shelf life but the same powdered milk especially packed for long term storage will last for five to twenty years (often guaranteed for five years but some have opened after twenty year to find it useable).

The only "commercial" buttons I have on the sidebar are the Amazon widget and one that says Preparedness Pantry which is located immediately above my Deepening the Pantry links.  If you click on that "button" (which changes now and then to advertise specials), it takes you to Emergency Essentials, a company I always found a good place to order specially prepared food and emergency supplies.  I make no money from them, nor do I receive any credit... the button is simply there as a recommendation to those who want to order preparedness items.

I haven't ordered from them for years but they were then (and are now) known for exceptional customer service and quality (and there have been a lot of companies in the food storage business whom one could not trust).  If you are at all interested in some form of being prepared for any emergency, they offer not only food prepared for long term storage but various supplies which would be very welcome at such a time.

Another great company which offers unique items is Lehmans (link... here).  I have purchased oil lamps and lamp oil from them.  They just recently published a new catalog.  Lehmans sells to the Amish community as well as we "English".  :)

As I've written quite often, when you deepen your pantry with at least one "extra" item that you use all the time... you save money and time.  You are not running to the store in the middle of a recipe or at night when you find you are out of toilet paper or cold medicine!  Shudder...

When one decides to deepen the pantry so the family has enough in case of a job loss, natural disaster, man made disaster, etc., one simply continues to purchase more of the essential items until they have enough... and then they rotate by using the oldest first and the newest goes to the back of the shelves or whatever space has been allotted.

When I was able to deepen the pantry as I liked (having enough budgeted money and space), I would often have a year's worth of wheat since I purchased it only once or twice a year (and I do grind wheat for bread).  I would have a few months worth of oats for oatmeal and cooking, purchased from my food co-op in bulk.  I may have three months worth of canned tomatoes, pasta, flour, baking items, etc. which are the basis for my menus.  Then there may be a couple of weeks worth of some items which would be considered luxuries.

Before Y2k, I deepened my pantry more than usual and learned from the few mistakes I made at the time.  For instance, I stocked up on some processed foods which my family never eats and ended up giving some of them away while others worked just fine.  (My son and I actually like Spam... no, really... we do.) ;)

One of the recommendations in many books about stocking up is to purchase in bulk, which works fine for some but when one has a smaller family... it is not always the best.  I found out storing dried beans purchased wholesale did not work for my family but I used all of my beans purchased in meal size bags... go figure. 

While the power never went out, we did end up being unemployed and used just about everything on the shelves.  Having the pantry so deep meant we did not have to apply for food stamps, which at the time one had to go through Social Services who were not always the most favorable to homeschooling.  I don't know if they would have given us any problems but I was quite happy not to have an additional concern on top of unemployment.

I've developed a pantry lifestyle (having been raised with such a mindset from childhood) so it comes easily, even on an extremely limited budget.  I have my own list of priorities for the pantry, beginning with staples such as oil, butter (slipped inside zip-lock bags and frozen), baking supplies, coffee, coffee, coffee, tea, etc. through nonfood items such as paper goods, medicine, cleaning products, etc.  I do like to read lists on other people's websites, blogs, books, etc. for ideas I may have overlooked.

I've talked before about my friend in New Mexico whose grocery store shelves were nearly empty when trucks were rerouted to the Gulf after Katrina hit.  One would not expect to live in the desert and feel the affects of a Gulf Coast hurricane.  Fortunately, she is one who keeps a deep pantry and ran out of only a few essentials... and even then was quite upset she let their pantry get so low on those items.

I personally believe with our economy and so many other sections of our culture being rather unstable, everything we spend to deepen the pantry and prepare for any emergency will a good thing.  No one can do it all... but everyone can prepare even a little if we try to work around store sales.

Just this week, I was at Kroger and they had cream cheese on their 10 for $10.00 sale (mix and match with other foods) as well as Progresso soups 10 for $10.00.  So I stocked up on those two items even though it meant having less money for other grocery items I didn't need as much right then.  Except Edie's peppermint ice cream... I had to have some of that... really... it jumped in my cart.

Last week I purchased four cans of pumpkin for the pantry.  Next week I may notice flour is on sale and as I'm getting low on my supply, I may purchase two or three bags for the pantry. When there was more money available, I would notice my favorite King Arthur flour was on sale and purchase at least six bags (rotating for freshness, of course).

By having a priority list for the pantry and purchasing on sale whenever possible, it works so much better than seeing on a list that I am to buy veggies this week when none are on sale.  It also means I am prioritizing limited funds for what we need the most (I use a lot of cream cheese and I like to have chicken noodle soup on the shelf for when we have cold or flu symptoms and I don't feel like making soup from scratch). 

There are lots and lots of resources on the sidebar for anyone wanting to read more about deepening the pantry.  There are sites one can visit as well as links to articles by people who have stocked up for years on a budget.

I don't know anyone who has deepend their pantry with items their family eats (and products used) who was not very happy to have extra when it was needed.  Don't forget your furry friends when stocking up!

Added Note:  Of course, a wonderful frugal way to deepen our pantry is to garden and do our own canning and freezing and drying and smoking (ummm... that being smoking meat and fish and not other things one would grow at home).  ;)


Donnie said...

I hope things work out on your bloggie break. With as hard as you work on it I'm sure a vacation will be great. Because of you I have prepared some in the foods that we eat and we also love Spam too. Take care.

Anonymous said...

Hi Brenda,
I too believe in stocking the pantry and have had many occasions (including the last 2 months) where it has made it possible for us to eat healthy when there was very little money to buy food with. I am a substitute teacher and in this district our pay is delayed by a month. All the money that I made last month, I will not see until the last day of this month. I tutored this summer to be able to buy groceries for us and even then, I spent way less than we would usually due to other bills that needed to be paid and could not wait. We also help our grown children out too and have them "shop the pantry" when they come out for a visit. We all pool together and it one of us finds a great deal we try to get some for the others too.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Brenda. Your pantry posts always offer practical advice on stocking up without being overwhelming.

Brenda Leyland said...

Brenda, I wanted to thank you for sharing your views and thoughts about what deepening the pantry means to you. And I appreciated your take on how to prepare for emergencies. They make sense!

(I never did like those Y2K lists that went around.)

Anonymous said...

Excellent advice, Brenda, thanks!! Brought home to us so strong tonight. Upon leaving the cheap-o buffet from supper we were approached by some people in desperate straits. Of course, we took them to the grocery store and the gas station. Did what we could. In our community I guess they could have been arrested for asking. I wonder WHO DO YOU ask for help, in such situations, in a strange town where they knew no one. A man told them to meet him at Lowe's and never showed up. They came from a small town about 45 minutes away and came with way too little gas. They WERE hungry. The man who approached us probably weighed not much more than 100 pounds. It was so sad. But they may have duped us too...but I do not think so. I have written a man who writes often in the paper about such things and asked him what can be done. It might be any one of us in the future, as there are no quarantees in life.

Mrs.Rabe said...

Wise words, Brenda.

We have a pantry that is deep at the moment. You are right to say that we should stock up things that our family will eat.

Enjoy your break.


Anonymous said...

We have always kept a pantry. We buy like you do trying to buy what we need as it is on sale. How long is the shelf life of store bought powdered milk? I'd always seen it mentioned but haden't known till you said that there is a difference. I keep some on hand at all times for gravy making and mashed potatoe and puddings etc. At times it has tasted "off". Maybe I am getting too much ahead. Sarah

Anonymous said...

We had our pantry supplies many different places in the house. Lately we redid things and got one big shelf unit. When we put it all on shelfs we noted we had too much of some things and not enough of another. We tried to keep lists of what we had and where but evidentually did not do it very wel! Now with things in one area and same things together on the shelfs is is so much easier to figure out what we have and do not have! :) Sarah

Vicki in UT said...

I love your pantry posts. I also have a problem with those "food storage on $5 a week lists", as do several of my friends. Like you said, they don't have any relationship to when things are on sale. And the ones I have seen, I can't imagine what kind of menus you would actually eat using only what they tell you to buy, and they don't ever tell you how to use that food. So I just can like crazy when my garden is producing, and buy extras of what we eat regularly when it is on sale. My husband has been out of work for almost 9 months now, and we are getting along very nicely. I had to halve my grocery budget, so I am more careful about what I do buy, but I am able to replace some of the staples we use. I will be eternally grateful we had those supplies before DH lost his job.

Enjoy your break. Best wishes.

Anonymous said...


I have a message for the webmaster/admin here at

May I use some of the information from this blog post right above if I provide a backlink back to this site?


Nanna said...

my old faithful stand bys are peanut butter & tuna, not the two together lol but if all else fails I can grab a PB sandwich or make up a tuna salad sandwich

Sharon Lovejoy said...

I love the thought of "deepening the pantry." Yes, I try to stock up on things I use often and I always buy an extra or two. Saves trips and also ensures that we can help our family if need be.

All joys to you dear Brenda,

Sharon Lovejoy Writes from Sunflower House and a Little Green Island

Love the Decor! said...

Wonderful information as usual!!
Thank you and have a great weekend

matty said...

We are eating from our pantry these days; it is to clear out things that are going out of date in the next few months. Thank goodness we have it!