Saturday, January 25, 2020
Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Planning for Stock-ups
I'm a little over a week away from my monthly stock-up grocery shopping but the planning has already begun. I have a note pad in the kitchen where I write items I need to purchase on that day all month long. I also have a list of my most often cooked dinners of the current season. Nothing fancy, just a handwritten list of meals held on the side of the refrigerator with a magnet.
I will be perusing the list this week to see if there is anything I need to stock up on for those meals. Usually it is a canned good that I have used the last or next to the last can in the pantry. I try to stock up better than that but lately both the grocery stores I go to have been out of certain items on stock up day!
As far large stock-up items, they are spread out through the year so they don't overwhelm the budget on any given month. This next month, I know it is time to purchase the large Sam's Club package of toilet paper, which happens every three or four months. Another month will be time to stock up on paper towels. I stock other items every few months, like large packages of batteries, large containers of over the counter pain killers, and other items purchased mainly at Sam's Club.
Usually, we only have one rather expensive stock-up item each month. Of course, there are other stores where one can stock up on the same items. I was in line last month at Aldi's when a woman came up behind me with two huge packages of toilet paper. She said she only purchases TP once a year!
Even when I try to plan for stock-ups, it doesn't always work. For instance, I thought I was stocked up on batteries until I opened the remote for the DVD player this week and was shocked to find the batteries partly corroded. Yikes, it has been awhile since I changed those batteries and you know what I didn't realize? They were AAA.
I thought I no longer had anything that needed AAA batteries so I hadn't purchased any for awhile. I now know to keep a small package of AAA batteries with the rest and to check other battery operated items that I don't need to change the batteries often.
I have had corrosion from batteries ruin an item before. I believe it was a flash light I hadn't used in a long time. That is why it is always suggested, if you don't plan on using a battery operated item for awhile, to remove the batteries and keep them in a safe place nearby.
I have been concentrating my stock-up for awhile to fill the freezer. My deep freeze isn't very big but it holds enough for our needs. When chicken goes on sale, I buy at least a few packages for the deep freeze. That way I often have whole chickens and chicken thighs (purchased in family size containers and frozen only four in each bag) waiting for only 99 cents a pound or less. Last week I added more chicken at 88 cents a pound. I add chicken breasts when they go on sale for $1.99, usually sold in a family pack and also repackaged for two in a package.
I slip the smaller amounts of chicken in a plastic food bag and after washing my hands, I place a pre-written label on each bag. Last week it was chicken thighs and the date on each label. Those bags are then slipped into a gallon size Ziploc bag for protection from freezer burn. The gallon size bags stay in the freezer and get reused.
Since there are just two of us, this enables me to save by buying family size packages on sale and still not wasting anything. I know just how much I need for most meals; four chicken thighs, two chicken breasts with ribs, one large deboned chicken breast, etc. I can pull out just one package at a time and carefully close the Ziploc bag and place it back in the freezer.
Whole chickens are frozen by keeping them in the plastic grocery bags so they are easy to pull out of the deep freeze. I always double bag each whole chicken when I'm going through the self check-out at the grocery store or I double bag them when I arrive home if a cashier has checked me out. I recycle plastic grocery bags at Kroger or Meijers in the containers they have for that purpose when entering the store.
Some other items I keep in the freezer: I have a couple packages of my favorite thick cut bacon in the deep freeze, purchased on sale. I also have one ham and one turkey, purchased during the Holidays really cheap. I try to keep my favorite vanilla ice cream in the deep freeze, too. It is good to have on hand for those rare times I make a pie or cobbler these days. I say try because, ummmm... ice cream.
I honestly hear the siren cry from the deep freeze late at night... waiting for me to rescue it and serve with Hershey's Simple Chocolate syrup. But at least when it is in the deep freeze in the garage, there is more of a chance I will be diligent and not listen to it calling me. I have a thing for ice cream.
Speaking of frozen stuff, I have started using more frozen vegetables and frozen brown rice, especially in winter. They are stocked on sale, too. Although I have never heard the cry of frozen spinach late at night. Sometimes you will find bread in the deep freeze, always extra butter, and extra packages of Aldi's grass fed ground beef (that I rarely find on sale). I do purchase larger packages of regular 80-20 ground beef for the deep freeze when it is at a really good sale for making meat loaf.
There are some items I mainly stock once a year (like cranberries for the freezer and cans of pumpkin) but mostly they are purchased on a monthly basis as I find a good sale. That way, when the chicken isn't on sale, I have enough for my most often made dinners without paying high prices.
It may seem like a large expenditure but by stocking for the freezer this way, it is spread out over twelve months. There are some stock-up days that I don't buy any meat because there is none at a good sale. Sales do tend to be seasonal for many items.
I need to just go ahead an purchase some items that I hate spending money on. One of those... beef bones. A couple months ago, I picked up a package of beef bones at the grocery store while the manager of the department was stocking items nearby. I put the package back and told him that I could not pay nearly $7.00 for three small beef bones. He felt exactly the same way, saying he remembered getting them free for their dogs when he was a kid. The bone broth craze is the reason behind these prices.
Instead of veggie beef soup, I've been making oven stew by cubing a round steak purchased on sale for the meat. It is very good but not the same. Thus, the need to just go ahead and buy the bones. Maybe the beef I use will be on sale enough to justify the cost of the bones?
On another note, I really appreciated the comment last time about checking for expiration dates when visiting elderly relatives. I know exactly what it is like as I would visit my mother and find her refrigerator loaded with Meals on Wheels containers. That was a long time ago and I know a friend who gets them now and many of these meals can be put in the freezer and thawed for later use. I hate to think how old some of those may have been at my mother's house.
That is enough pondering for today. Happy pantry planning!