Saturday, February 08, 2014

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - A little show and tell

Good cookbooks are part of my Pantry Lifestyle!
I'm often asked how I deepen the pantry on a fixed income.  Well, it is not all that deep but what I do have is a combination keeping a list of priorities and watching for bargains.

Here are a few ways I keep a pantry.  Nothing profound, whatsoever... but it may spark some ideas of your own.

I am always on the lookout for items that are 1) pantry friendly, and 2) easy for me to prepare on those days I'm not feeling my best.  I mentioned before that I saw a recommendation for these shelf stable Barilla Tortellini and it sparked my interest.  So I tried the original Three Cheese variety and we loved them.

I have yet to try the Cheese & Spinach since they were a very recent purchase.   And for just the two of us, I can get two to three meals from each package according to the way I use them.

These would also be perfect for your Hospitality Pantry, the package says they serve 4 - 6 and since the first time I made them, I cooked the entire bag at once... I can assure you when cooked there is a lot of pasta goodness there!

This kind of pantry item is a little different than stockpiling regular dried spaghetti, rotini, etc. since it contains a lot of flavor already.  One could cook them and then toss in some butter and herbs and they would be fine... or garlic and butter... or as I did a tomato based sauce.

I'm always trying to find inexpensive ways to add healthy ingredients to my pantry on a budget.  Two new-to-me ingredients I added in the last year were Irish oatmeal (or any steel cut oats) and quinoa.

It can be especially difficult when you have special dietary needs to deepen a pantry on a budget.  Then you add in taste and well... it can be a challenge.  But part of the ways cookbooks (and some cooking shows) help is to provide various ways to use new-to-me ingredients.

I also have found yummy substitutions for some foods that I don't care for.  Like the almost empty orzo box above (yes, I need to buy a few boxes again!).  I don't care for white rice unless it has added flavorings which can have a lot of sodium and preservatives.  Although I do love the Zatarain's New Orleans Style Jambalaya mix to use as a side dish and the extras store well in the frig... but I used the last box in my pantry recently.

So it was a happy day when I started seeing various recipes using orzo pasta instead of rice.  I use orzo in my Greek Lemon Chicken soup instead of rice... here.  Orzo also makes a delicious substitute for rotini in lighter pasta salads.  Since it can be eaten with a spoon, it is a great way for young kids to eat pasta.

We are cutting way back on meat consumption, not only for health but because it's getting too expensive for our budget.  While we still eat meat, a lot of my recipe research lately has gone to plant based recipes and I'm finding so many delicious ways to go without meat for the main dishes... neither Hubby nor I feel deprived.

Oh, see that bag of garbanzo beans?  We were given lots of boxes of those dried beans (each holding probably ten packages).   It seems the food pantries couldn't give them away as people around here don't use them often. I admit even I usually use the canned version for hummus.

So I have been busy researching recipes for the garbanzo (aka: chickpeas) beans.  Especially Middle Eastern and Italian recipes where they are used a great deal.  Oh, we kept a couple boxes and gave a couple to our church's food pantry as a lot of students are from countries that use them.  One box is waiting a chance for me to meet with my friend, Linda, who can use a case.  Her family is also adding more plant based recipes to their diet.

All this to say that there are many inexpensive ways to add and stock protein in the pantry.  Far more than what is shown above but it was ten degrees outside (and thus not much more in my garage) when I quickly pulled items off the shelf to show you!

Both of these items represent finding clearances on the after-the-holiday shelves.  The hot chocolate packets were a dollar a box after Christmas so I bought two boxes then.  The Starbucks' VIA (which I have heard is delicious and never tried it) instant coffee went on a clearance price this past week so I bought three boxes.

I broke my own rule of not stocking up on anything I have never tried but hey... how can you go wrong with pumpkin spice?

I don't stock up on candy, anymore, with just a couple exceptions should the budget permit.  I purchase candy either colored red (as in M&Ms) or wrapped in red (Hershey's kisses as an example).  Much like purchasing paper plates and napkins in red after a holiday, they can be used for Christmas, Valentine's Day and any of the patriotic holidays.  :)

Of course there are lots and lots of items often available after Christmas should one have the space and budget.

I have had people laugh at me when I tell them I usually pray before going shopping, whether the grocery store or Goodwill.  But I believe God is a central part of keeping a pantry on a tight budget.

Not too long ago I went into Target for a couple items I can best purchase there.  I decided to peruse the end aisles where they have clearance items and came across these extra large containers of Seventh Generation dish washing liquid.  While the clearance cost was not huge, it was enough to purchase two of them.

Then I noticed just around the corner at the end of the long aisle, there were dozens of bottles of Mrs. Meyer's dish soap in a couple new-to-me seasonal scents.  I didn't care for one of them but the other... this Radish scent... was lovely.  And they were on clearance for $1.99 each.  I bought five.

If you read any of the "How I Stock Up" series, I wrote there how I will use a significant part of my grocery budget for stock up if I find a clearance sale.  That is exactly what happened here.   I used a precious $25.00 for only dish washing liquid but I am now stocked for 4 to 6 months since I had a couple regular size bottles of the Seventh Generation on my shelf.

Believe me, this was a "God thing".  I had no plans on looking any further at Target that day than to see if they had blueberry Bonne Maman and my husband's favorite Amy's soup.  But He knew and drew me to the aisle where I could stock up on organic or "pure" dish washing soap in the loveliest of scents.

Another way I keep a pantry on a budget is to do size comparisons.  Although not all bulk items are the best deal... sometimes they are far better than their smaller counterparts.

For instance, I only use Splenda in my coffee and tea (hot or iced).  But even then using the little packets can add up.  Well, a few years ago I found that I actually like the granulated Splenda better than the packets.  I don't know if there is a difference or it is my imagination but the granulated seems to be less overpoweringly sweet.

Then there is the price.  When I recently purchased the above bag, it was $5.99 and will last me four to six months.  I checked and the smallest box of packets was $6.99 and they would last two to three weeks.  So in this case buying in bulk is a significant savings.

I should say as an aside... I keep all the extra Splenda packets I get when purchasing "coffee to go" at drive thru windows.  I have a rooster mug on my microwave oven that holds them.  Recently when I ran out of the granulated Splenda, they came in very handy to sweeten my morning coffee!

Some items I purchase in bulk because they would be far too expensive otherwise... like wheat.  Others I buy in bulk because they are more difficult to find in my area... like French lentils.  Then there are the spices I purchase in bulk for far less money... like the sumac from the Asian grocery store.

I do hope this show-and-tell sparks your own ideas about how to deepen the pantry on a budget.  Remembering it goes back to this being a Pantry Lifestyle (always using what is in the pantry) as opposed to stocking for only an emergency.

Okay... so I do keep some cans of Spam on my pantry shelves.  But I like Spam.  Even though my husband despises even the aroma of it cooking.  ;)

  • I thought this "rant" about needing to be prepared for an emergency by a Pennsylvania news reporter sounded like something I (blush) would do... here.
  • Here is my friend Deanna's blog post about that same storm... here.
  • This article on setting up a deep pantry area is one I've shared before but is worth repeating... here.


LauraC said...

I use garbanzo beans in chili now-half kidney, half garbanzos. I love garbanzo beans and the two different beans makes chili much more interesting.

Vee said...

Well, I must say that I am sitting here feeling quite embarrassed. Why? Because John was dragged through a food pantry by his sister who works there and he came home with two boxes of food. It was the usual odd assortment as the selections were made in advance by someone else. I'm afraid that I was not properly grateful or appreciative nor willing to o the research required to find ways to eat the very unusual to me ingredients. John is feeling sad and, until reading this, I was feeling annoyed. I know I can do better.

Jenny said...

I don't do as well at keeping a stocked pantry as I did when my family was growing. With just the two of us now we've become a little spoiled & I think neither of us really feels like doing the extra work any more. Still, I do try to stay in my grocery budget & get as much as I can for my money. And it's been great this winter to still have very good meals when we've been snowed in.

My biggest budget buster is the fact that we eat very little or no bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, ect - carbs basically & all the cheapest foods. My dh is diabetic so most meals are meat & vegetable - so we do eat meat or eggs every meal. I eat beans when he isn't home but they seem to raise his levels too much for him to eat them regularly.

Mama Squirrel said...

We sometimes buy dried tortellini too--it makes a nice change, and they're good in a bowl of broth.

Here is a funny story about food boxes. When we were younger with only a preschooler, I used to help organize a fruit and veg box order at a community centre. It was sort of a co-op; all the food came in a truck from the same Toronto market where the grocery stores did their ordering, and it was already organized into boxes. You chose ahead of time which box you wanted: single person, family, pregnancy (they added things like almonds), or Caribbean. One time they mixed up the order so our family got stuck with a Caribbean box. It was a good thing they included recipe sheets in all the boxes, because I had never cooked eddoes or plantains before. It was a very educational week!

Mrs.Rabe said...

I've only ever eaten chickpeas as hummus. Especially the red pepper hummus. Yum.

I love to see what you have in your pantry. I've not seen that Barilla pasta, but what a great product for days like we had this week. I love to use orzo!

Thank you for linking to my post!


Nana said...

Hi Brenda;
I think your Saturday posts are one of my favorites! So many great ideas for keeping home fires burning in the midst of snow, ice, and wind. I had such a good time this past week stockpiling some simple things for our food pantry. It creates a feeling of preparedness and prosperity! Have a great week end Love and Hugs, Nana

Anonymous said...

how do you cook lentils? what do you eat them with?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great suggestions! I'm definately going to look for the tortelini next shopping trip.

We've been making homemade soup more lately. Cheap and it hits the spot in this cold weather... Chickpeas or any kind of dried beans work well in soup.

Eggs are a good source of protein. Cheese used to be but it's getting pretty expensive now.

Anonymous said...

We saw the recommendation for the Barilla Tortillini on Americas Test Kitchen show on PBS. They tested others and it came out as the best tasting. Water is the one thing we do not have enough of. Well there are others but it is the most important! Thanks for the article as I see how they store it on shelfs and have it turned different way so it can be used. Also using all the Gatorade bottles and such like we have already. Part of our problem is it is too hot so much of the year here and our house is not air conditioned so things in the pantry can spoil faster. Having an air conditioned room for it would be great but can't happen! :) We all do what we can and we are. Thanks for all the information today and always. You have always been such a help and inspiration. Sarah

hopeinbrazil said...

Because we live on a limited budget and because we believe that all our money belongs to God, I wouldn't think of going shopping without praying first. He wants us to be wise with our resources.

Deborah Montgomery said...

I found some of that radish-scented Mrs. Meyer's on sale too. Yummy! Having a stocked pantry has been essential during this long, cold winter. I'm always glad when I don't have to go out.

Did you hear that some of the tobacco growing farms are switching to growing garbanzos because of the popularity of hummus? A lot healthier for everyone!

The Journey said...

these are really good. Best when hot

The Journey said...

how do you cook lentils? what do you eat them with?

- I soak mine- they say you don't have to but we find you still get gassy from them if you don't-- I cook them with rice (dirty rice). Also soup with celery and onion.

The Journey said...

We also like to sprout lentils - they are so good.