Saturday, September 07, 2013

Living the Pantry Lifestyle

Another "off the top of my head" post I'm afraid.  Between difficulty in getting computer time and the continuation (albeit better) of vertigo, it is difficult to ponder for long.

However, one thing that happened this past week reminded me why deepening the pantry can be good for the pocketbook.  I finally felt comfortable about driving again... the dizziness comes mostly when getting up suddenly and when I am lying down... so I drove to the grocery store for the first time in about seven weeks.

All it takes is a prolonged absence to notice again how much prices are rising.  I was able to find some salad ingredients on clearance but otherwise was not very happy too see the prices on the most basic of foods.

I've long ago given up some luxuries but freshly ground pepper is not one of them.  We actually ran out of pepper in our quest to find a more reasonable price but I ended up paying $12.99 (let's just call it $13.00 minus one penny, for that is what it is) for peppercorns. 

Now, I have an appreciation for spices and how long they travel and how difficult so many are to pick and all (saffron for example) but I have never paid that much for pepper.  But it was not just the spice, everything has been rising except our income.

But that makes it even more important for those trying to stay on a budget to stock up when essentials are on sale.  I was not stocking up but by choosing store brands and sale items for my immediate needs, I saved almost $25.00... or so the receipt said. 

Even then I had to pass up a number of 10 for $10 sales that I once would have taken advantage of.  Such a sale put some items at half off.  There are items that I wait for such a big sale, like Philadelphia cream cheese at the holidays.  It can be less than half the original price.

This time of year was when we used to stock up on canned vegetables because a favorite store would have them 5 for $1.00.  I'm not sure how low the prices are now. As the new crops of green beans and corn were coming in from the fields, those cans left in the warehouses were moved out with such great prices. 

I'd buy $20.00 worth of mostly green beans but also corn (for vegetable soup) and canned potatoes.  I'm not fond of the texture of canned potatoes but they work great in a pinch when you need them.  So for a rather small amount of money, I'd have some veggies on the shelves for the coming winter, even if they were in a can.

I look at stocking up on a sale this way... if the product is half off then it is like doubling my income when I buy it.  Even a 20% off sale is like increasing my income by... 20%.  Of course, as long as your purchases are actually used.  :)

So when you see your favorite brand of unbleached flour now going for over $5.00 a bag and even the store brand of brown sugar at $2.50 (we won't even begin to talk about good stuff like real maple syrup)... stocking up on sale will be more important.

By the way, I don't blame the farmers.  They don't make enough so often as it is.  Something gardening makes me appreciate more every year.

*** I was asked how to best store pasta to make it last the longest.  Mostly it is important to keep it dry.  I keep most pasta in a large Rubbermaid container (well sealed) on a shelf in my garage where it gets hot in the summer.  At least here in the Midwest, it doesn't seem to hurt it.  It's not like I live in Arizona... but at least it would be dryer there.

I have an old bread drawer in my kitchen that I don't use for bread and it tends to stick when opening and shutting.  So I now use it to keep the boxes of pasta that are the oldest and need to be used quickest.  Newer purchases go in the Rubbermaid container. 

*** I have had a wheat grinder since the 1990s and it has lasted a long time... but then again I do baby it, being careful not to overload it with wheat all at one time.  Replacing it would not be in the current budget!  I did not realize how I have become used to freshly ground grain until I was given a bag of whole wheat flour and it tasted so different.

Yes, it does grind corn into cornmeal, too.  (Not all of them do so you must check before making a purchase.)  Although these days I don't use much cornmeal so I buy one bag of a health food brand non-GMO cornmeal and keep it in the freezer. 

But one nice thing about the wheat grinders (that grind corn) is you can purchase popcorn in bulk and use it for your cornmeal.. and to pop for a snack.   I did that when there were four of us at home and I cooked a lot more.

*** I have never made zucchini noodles!  I know Stephanie has made "noodles" from cabbage... via the Paleo diet... and loved the way they tasted.

Speaking of whom, she is going to write a Saturday post for me about micro cooking... when she gets some time.


mdoe37 said...

Gosh I'm glad I'm not picky about pepper! lol

Prices are getting nuts. I also look to those fall stock-up sales, small green peas, some green beans (I can those if I have them), tomatoes, beets. I stopped at a deer bait/feed/dollar store last year and purchased 100# of potatoes (a few for mom, a few for fresh, the dehydrator. Very cheap potatoes. I canned quite a few quarts -- they are nothing at all like the commercially canned ones. I did carrots as well -- deer carrots.

We are feeling a bit of pinch right now. The income has been reduce by 40% -- cough -- office politics. Hopefully that will be rectified soon. But this is exactly why we have pantries. I still buy some things, but it just isn't as urgent. I even was able to stock up on $1.99/12 oz bacon this week!

I look forward to these posts every week, Brenda! Hoping that the vertigo up and goes. I'm sure its sinus nonsense. Its been a bad year...I've resorted to Zyrtex D to help keep me percolating.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad that other people are noticing the rising prices at the grocery store. I shop about once a month and can really see the price does make it hard to stay on budget, but I shop the stock up method.
I'm glad you're starting to feel better.....vertigo is no fun!


Vee said...

Good to know that you are coming along. Scary that the prices are going up, up, and up.(I haven't been grocery shopping for about five weeks. Not excited about the trip I must make first of the week.)

I have not developed a taste for freshly ground pepper. Perhaps I should. (I hate grinders...such a pain and not working much of the time. I have bought individual salt and pepper grinders, but that is probably at top prices. Good thing we don't use much of either.)

Anonymous said...

So glad you are doing better! Praying for a full recovery.
Thanks so much for the info on storing pasta. I had no idea you could grind popcorn into cornmeal! Something to keep in mind. I had heard of grinding rice for rice flour, however. Now I just need to gather recipes!
Laura from WA

Maryann said...

Glad you are feeling better. We have found that buying "bulk" spices are a lot cheaper than those in the little containers. Places like Whole Foods has them (that's the only thing I buy there causes prices high) Get exactly how much you want, plastic bags provided, fraction of the cost

Mrs.Rabe said...

I did some stocking up this week. We have a discount grocery store and they had a large smoked turkey breast that I bought and sliced up for lunch meat. It worked out to be $1.49 per pound! That is a real blessing for our family. Also they had Kielbasa in one pound packages for $1.39! I bought four! Great to keep in the freezer and use with tomatoes and rice when you need a quick meal.

I have started to pray before I go to buy groceries, and ask the Lord to help me find good prices, and to stretch our dollars.

Thanks for this post!


Rebecca said...

I about choked this week when I heard a news report saying that while home prices rose, food prices had remained the same.


People in the aisles of the store I shop in seem to just kind of wander up and down aisles with their jaws dropped. (As do I!)

Manuela@A Cultivated Nest said...

Glad you're well enough to make that outing!

I only use freshly ground pepper too. I love the way it smells and I like that you can grind it "chunky" or "fine". I often find better deals of pepper at TJMaxx than at the grocery store.

The cream cheese - I just buy the Kroger brand which often is $1 anyway.

I'm just glad it's getting cooler and we can have more soups. I just can't make myself eat hot soup when it's 90+ but they are such good meal stretchers. Plus you can make a big pot and then it's a time saver too!

Maybe the price increases are a regional thing. I went to Kroger on Thursday and didn't notice any price increases and I hadn't been there in about 3 weeks. Hope it's not coming my way!