Tuesday, February 22, 2011
A really long pondering about stocking up...
After the comments in the last pantry post, I thought I'd write out more thoughts about deepening the pantry. Emphasis on "off the top of my head" kind of writing... and as it is my ponderings, it is rather long. :)
If you are really wanting in-depth "deepening the pantry" information, I'd suggest taking the time to read through my posts from the past years as well as following the links provided to other sites. They are all under the Deepening the Pantry links on the sidebar.
At one time, I lived in a large house which had a utility room in the basement that I used as my pantry. I also had more discretionary income in which to stock up. Today I live in a small-ish house (no basement) and my discretionary income is often the change I find in my coat pocket. But I'm still able to deepen the pantry because it is just a part of my every day existence... I think in pantry terms.
Moving to a much smaller house required doing things differently in many ways. For instance, I have a fraction of the storage room for the dishes and seasonal larger accessories I used to decorate with... so for the most part, I cut way back on items for specific holidays... no more Christmas teapots or Easter serving trays. (I do still have a collection of Thanksgiving-Autumnal English plates as well as four Christmasy plates... they take very little storage space and I use the Christmas plates all year.)
So, what does this have to do with stocking the pantry? I'm glad you asked. I need to concentrate on the basic items of cooking instead of the "nice to have" stuff. My priorities for space and money are the basics of baking (flour, sugars, honey, etc.) as well as wheat*. I also stock up on butter when it is on sale, slip three or four pkgs. in a gallon size Zip-lock bag, and toss it in the freezer (if you fill up more than one bag with butter, then slip a piece of paper with the date these were purchased into the bag... where it can be seen before removing butter, this way you will know which bag to use butter from first). I don't believe margarine is all that good for you but I do try to have one very good quality margarine and Butter Flavored Crisco on hand... only for the cookie recipes which require them.
Having said that, I also have a few favorite family recipes which start with either yellow cake mix or chocolate cake mix. Just recently I realized the cost of cake mixes were going up a lot so the next time I was shopping at Wal Mart, I checked to see if they still had Pillsbury cake mixes for 88 cents. They were hard to find (the pricier cake mixes all at eye level!) but they were there and at that price. I bought a few boxes of yellow cake mix and a few German chocolate mixes to put on the shelves in the garage. That price was a fraction of what they wanted for cake mixes elsewhere.
Also, I decided to purchase what I needed to complete a couple dessert recipes entirely... which meant purchasing the store brand of cherry pie filling and a couple of my favorite graham cracker crust pie shells (I rarely have actual graham crackers in the pantry). I also added one can of sweetened condensed milk to my cart (I already had one or two at home) and I purchased two bags of confectioners sugar and two bags of brown sugar to add to the one or two bags I already had. None of these items were on sale but I knew these were also the best prices in town.
I'd say one of the secrets to having a well stocked pantry is to look through your favorite recipes and then make certain you always have at least one item each needed for the recipes... and more when possible. Most of us use the same recipes each month (main dishes, side dishes, and desserts) so it doesn't take much time to peruse our favorite recipes before going to the grocery store. This way we have everything needed for a last minute meal or dessert for the family or unexpected company... and it frees us to show hospitality at the last minute.
It doesn't do me any good to purchase a chocolate cake mix and then not have a can of cherry pie filling (store brand works well) when I want to make the chocolate cherry cake. So, when I'm purchasing one of the items I make certain I have everything needed. Some items I just keep stocked, like trying to have canned pumpkin on the shelves at all times (which was hard last year!) because I have so many recipes I use it in.
Right now I don't have any chocolate chips in the house, very rare for my pantry. But I haven't found them at a good price lately so I'll wait. However, I bought a can of pumpkin each time I went to the store over the Holidays even though it was expensive, after it was not available last year.
It just gets down to the priority and what is in season. For instance, I purchased three boxes of orzo and a bag of lemons the last time I was at the grocery store since we're still in the season for my favorite chicken soup. I tend to have chicken stock on hand in cold weather more than I would in hot weather, when something else would become a priority for limited funds and shelf space.
When I was at another grocery store recently, I purchased frozen vegetables which were on sale, including the three pepper mix (sliced red, green, and yellow peppers). The frozen peppers on sale are often cheaper than the fresh items at full price but in the winter, the frozen green and colored peppers are much, much cheaper. It will be months and months before my garden will grow these.
Now, the baking items for the pantry were pretty much planned before I went to the store since I knew Wal Mart had the cheapest costs for those items. The frozen veggies were purchased for the pantry because I noticed the sale when I went to the grocery store. Because I am always thinking pantry when shopping, it is second nature to look for some items to see if they are on sale... like frozen veggies.
That particular store also puts their packaged salad lettuce blends on clearance in the morning as their sell by date nears. I always check that area upon first entering that store and came away on that trip with three bags of salad for 99 cents each. They just have to be used within two or three days. But their clearance meat section is not good at all, they don't put a very good sale on the meat which is near its' sell by date.
However, another of my favorite (but more expensive) grocery stores puts their meat on a manager's discount in the morning... and it is a great discount. That store is also good for purchasing soup bones very cheap (which you can't even find in some stores) and they very often have at least one brand of K-cups on sale.
Each store has that which is a better price or has better sales on some items than others. Today my husband has an appointment near where our favorite Target is located so he is stopping by there on the way to the appointment to purchase two bags of our favorite coffee... the Target store brand Kona blend... great price. I like to make that coffee for breakfast and save the more expensive K-cups (although usually purchased on sale) for the times we are in a hurry or when Christopher wants a cup of coffee when he arrives home in the evening... especially if he needs to stay up late to study.
Then there are those times when I stock up a lot on an item when they are on a great stock up price (most often these can be found in the newspaper's grocery supplements or online with some stores). I've mentioned before that a couple of the grocery stores in the area put their canned veggies on sale in the autumn. I've purchased four or five flats of green beans during that time when they were a quarter a can. Of course, with limited storage available, that kind of stock up has to be only for much used items. Various canned tomatoes would be another such item.
The same goes with stocking our shelves with TP and other paper goods (I store mine in the tiny shower which is in the tiny bathroom). I recently purchased three of my favorite 7th Generation dish washing liquid because I had a coupon for each that took the price down to around $1.75. I use Charlie's Soap for my laundry and thanks to a gift from Stephanie (hmmm... Mother's Day or birthday?), I haven't had to buy any laundry detergent for awhile. I'm sure there are many items we can think of to purchase on sale for later use... or full price when it lasts so long like the Charlie's Soap.
The more we can stock the pantry with items at either their cheapest price in the area or on sale... and then shop the pantry instead of going out to the store and paying full price (and save the cost of gas!)... then we eat well for the least amount of money... and fight inflation. Not to mention we have items on hand should anything happen to stop the flow of transportation, have a local or national emergency, or as so many people know right now... a job loss.
I've told you before how we lived from our pantry for months after a job loss (that was when we had the bigger house and pantry). I'm sure some people are tired of reading about my friend whose grocery stores were empty after Katrina... and she lived in New Mexico!
But as I've also said so often... deepening the pantry is insurance we can eat. Thus or my "off the top of my head" ponderings. Please forgive the questionable grammar and any typos I didn't catch.
* I have used wheat and owned a wheat grinder since the mid 1990s. I started grinding my own wheat for health reasons. But I've known so many people to store wheat for an emergency and then never use it in the meantime. If you are going to store wheat, you really should be grinding it and using it regularly or you 1) won't know how to use it when needed, and 2) your body (and that of your family) may not be used to that much fiber!
As it is, I usually mix freshly ground wheat with at least one cup of unbleached flour when I use it after all this time. If I'm making bread or cinnamon rolls for other people, I reverse that to one cup of ground wheat to three cups unbleached flour.
Our local Wal Mart now sells wheat on the same shelf as the flour...
Picture: Housewife Taking Canned Goods... ; allposters.com