Friday, February 25, 2011

Q & A from deepening the pantry posts

Okay, I'll see how many questions I can answer from the last few posts.  ;)

I've found stocking up a little at a time is the best way I've been able to do it, too.  These days the only time I do a big "stock up" (and even that is not a lot) is when a great stock up sale meets a week I have extra money to spend.  I'm always surprised how quickly the weeks go by and I'm stocked up on essentials, just by adding a little to the cart for the pantry when I shop.

I no longer can afford a very deep pantry overall but I try to have at least one or two of basic items on hand... and more of essentials. I keep a grocery list on the frig just for those items I need for the pantry.  It's also a good idea to have a list (written or typed out) of those essentials you want to keep on hand in the pantry, as well as the "extras" you want to purchase when on sale.  The older I get, the more I  need to write it down... ;)

I do use coupons but I'm not what you would call a real coupon shopper.  My husband cuts out the coupons in the Sunday Supplement (those he knows I'd want) and then gives both the cut out coupons and the Supplements to me (just in case there is a coupon there he didn't know I'd want).  It's something he has done for years. It makes him happy.  What can I say... engineers are a different breed of humanity.

I also subscribe to a couple coupon sites online (like but I've found the very best coupons are available when you sign up through a product's website.  Seventh Generation is one of the websites where you can sign up to print their monthly coupon offers, quite often $1.00 off coupons!  Kashi is also good, they send out samples of their products which also contains coupons.  Their last cereal sample had one $3.00 coupon and a few $1.00 coupon off of that particular cereal (which was also GOOD!). 

I'd say I use the cut out coupons less than half the time because the store brands are often just as good and at a better price than many coupons.  Also, I don't use many prepared and prepackaged items... which is what so many of the coupons are for in the Supplement and online coupon subscriptions.

I often find great coupons for paper items and coffee.  Millstone has a $2.00 off coupon once in awhile which can be used on their K-cups if you have a store nearby that sells them (I think it is at Target where I can get Millstone K-cups).  I also look for McDonald's coupons and other restaurants... very often a buy-one-get-one-free offer.

If I can save substantially on a prepackaged item with a coupon, I will purchase that item to keep on the pantry shelves... especially if they are also on sale... so we cut out coupons that are what we call "maybes".  I store the cut out coupons in an accordion file folder which was originally to be used for greeting cards.

Since it is just the three of us (and two of the three are guys), we don't use a lot of toiletry items so I don't utilize anything like the CVS specials.  One thing I have learned from experience... some of these do save money and I've also bought things I didn't need in the long run.  But others have really saved money on much needed items.

This happened so often in my food co-op (we'd all order things we hadn't planned on ordering to make minimum order requirements) that when we went on Disability, my good friend just let me order what I needed through her and I wasn't tempted to order extra.   Unfortunately, she moved to Europe.

Wheat Grinding
I originally started grinding my own wheat in the 1990s when it was recommended by a doctor for building the immune system.  My first wheat grinder was a hand held device that took a muscle man to work.  We ended up doing some research and ordered an electric wheat grinder although I kept the hand grinder (it's someplace on my shelves) in case it was The End of The World As We Know It and someone could still grind wheat without electricity.  Laugh if you will...  :)

There are now hand held wheat grinders that are much easier to use but if you are going to grind wheat often, the electric grinders may be worth the price.  They cost about the same as a good food processor. 

The very best place to find information and to purchase any such items is The Urban Homemaker... here.  Marilyn is an expert in all things bread making but she also offers many products that are of highest quality.

Our budget has been so tight, I haven't ordered for years (since before her hubby suddenly passed away) but it is still owned by the same family and they are good people.  Her husband once called my daughter to talk her out of a wheat order because she could purchase the same wheat much cheaper closer to her home!  That is character...

I expect she may know about Vita Mix although if anyone reading grinds wheat with one, leave a comment if it works well.   Yes... there were at one time electric grinders that ground the wheat too hot but I'm not sure if they are still sold.  Once again... I would contact The Urban Homemaker (link above).

Regarding King Arthur flour... I just found out from a friend of mine that flour which contains bromine leaches iodine from the body.  Since I already have thyroid illness, that was good to know!  King Arthur says on the package that it does not contain bromine.

I always use King Arthur flour for everyday home use but I have used other flour (good quality) for when I'm making large amounts of Christmas cookies, etc.  Also... regular King Arthur flour can be used nicely for making bread if you don't have room to store both all-purpose and bread flour.

My old posts and other sites
The links to my older Coffee Tea Books and Me posts regarding Recession Ponderings, Stocking Up, etc. are located on the side bar under Deepening the Pantry links... you have to scroll down awhile. Clicking on each Label title will bring up all the past posts under that name.

After those links are listed, there are links to other blogs and then articles... all having to do with stocking up, simpler living lifestyle, etc.  If you are interested in learning more, there is great information there.

Alas, I'm certain my old 1990s posts from the emergency preparedness website are long gone.  But I've learned even more since then so that is okay.

Grocery Stores
We do have an Aldi nearby and I love that store.  Just like any other "store brands", there are some items I like and some I don't.  They are especially good for dairy and produce and I like to check out their specials (you can sign up to receive a weekly Aldi e-mail each week, too).

Perhaps the most import practice I do to save money and find sales is to look through the grocery sales supplements in the newspaper where they advertise their sales and loss leaders.  I also shop about four different stores... three fairly close to me and one (Target) is in a nearby town.  We usually plan a stop at Target when we are near that area.

I don't keep a written price list (suggested in the Tightwad Gazette books as well as in Laine's Letters website) because I purchase a rather limited grocery list and I know which grocery stores have the best prices on those items.  The grocery supplements will tell me if there is a sale in a store where an items is usually a higher price.  My husband, however, does keep a written price list for the items he purchases.

My favorite grocery store would be far too expensive to shop at exclusively but it also has some of the best sales (and it is the store that puts meat on clearance when it nears the sale-by date).  Kroger can also be pricey but it has wonderful 10 for $10 sales, as well as putting packaged produce on clearance near sell-by dates.  Wal Mart is not always the cheapest, either, so you have to know your prices.

I buy my honey at the Farmer's Market each summer and I prefer to purchase produce and even flowers there when I can... fresh, local products and it supports the farmers directly.  That is the best of all...  Well, in addition to planting something yourself.  ;)

I hope this answers all the questions!


Anonymous said...

Thank You. That was very helpful.

Vee said...

Such a good, thorough explanation. I have recently started buying groceries in my own hometown store. It's notorious for its high prices, but with gas prices being what they are and by shopping its excellent weekly sales, I can do pretty well. Now I make trips to the bigger stores just once a month. We really have to put a crimp in the miles traveled right now. I'm sure that's true for many of us.

Thanks for all your research, Brenda, and your commitment to this ongoing project.

Mrs.Rabe said...

You are a 'Wellspring' of knowledge Brenda and such an encouragement!

I shopped yesterday and was able to add to our pantry stock. I am thankful to be able to do this.

Linda said...

Thank you! Your very insightful and helpful. Blessings

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to comment on wheat and grinding. I have a Vita Mix. I only grind wheat in it for making treats for our 2 dogs. You are not supposed to grind more than 2 cups at a time. It also leaves the wheat hotter than I like. I have an Excalibur Grain mill that I have had for almost 30 years. I didn't grind wheat for a number of years so the stones are in great shape. I love it because it grinds with 2 stones. It also has a hand crank that can be attached in an emergency.

I'm about an hour from a company that supplies wheat to Panera. They also sell to individuals. I to feel strongly a need to be prepared. We have 400 pounds of wheat stored. All of our adult children and 10 grandchildren live in the same town. We have been storing and buying ahead for 3 years now.

One of our sons is the local fire chief. He has told us that there really are not contingency plans in the event of a national crisis. Our government can handle things in localized areas. But,if something happens in a number of localities all at once people had better be able to make it on their own for awhile.

Unless you have unlimited resources, it takes a plan and some time to get things stored up. My husband and I have spent the last 3 years praying for creativity and wisdom. God has shown us so many ways to prepare.

One of our sons-in-law is an operations manager for a large midwestern grocery chain. They are receiving large price increases for their store brands that will be added to the current cost after the national brands increase their prices. The worst one so far is a $1.30 increase on a 48 ounce bottle of cooking oil.

God's word for our family has been "Be like Joseph and prepare." Everyone needs to seek God for His direction for them. He has a plan and He will show you if you ask Him.

Pam M.

Anonymous said...

Just another comment about the wheat grinding - something our family has received tremendous health benefits from! You can learn more about grinding wheat and find some SUPER whole wheat recipes at this website: Look in the search categories for "grinding grain". She even has a video of how to use the mill. God Bless!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for answering all the questions and including site addresses Brenda. We too were able the last few days to get a few things here and there extra to put back. We are sure watching and keeping our perscription refills up to date etc. Wish we could get them further in advance than 3 months supply but can't. I also got another manuel can opener as mine was old and knew I best have a good one. I had gotten my first electric one recently but knew that would not work if no electricity! :) I am working on using up things in our little freezer. I can keep meat and such in the regular refrigerator freezer and would rather use the extra one for flours and such altogether that doe not have to be frozen, ,just in case. I do not need that much meat frozen etc. I am planning to do more canning of meats again. I think we need to look around our neighborhoods and see if there are any older people or people with needs that may need help and get to know them now. Too many of us don't know many of our neighbors and you that do know yours are way ahead. We are all in this together and we will need each others input and help one of these days. I cannot tell you how much being able to come to your site knowing there are like-minded people here means to me. God is so good! Sarah