Saturday, September 05, 2020

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Seasonal stockup on a budget

It is looking more like Fall these days, even with the temperatures battling it out with highs in the 70s some days and 90s on other days.  I've put some Fall decorations out but I'm waiting a few more days to put any pumpkins on the porch.  I couldn't wait for mums and bought a small white mum and a small rust mum a few weeks ago when I found them at a great pre-season price.  The buds were very tight when I bought them but they are now opening in full beauty on the porch.

It was hard to believe (how many times I think of this phrase lately) but another monthly stock up day was earlier this week.  I write out my Meijer list on one sheet of paper from the tablet made for that purpose and my Aldi list on the other side.  Most of the items on my list are always purchased each month but I also write down those items I might purchase, just to keep them in mind as I mentally calculate the budget.

My goal has been to restock my pantry after all the pandemic shortages and do some seasonal stocking to prepare for the cooler weather.  So, I thought I'd share a little more about my pantry shopping strategy and how I've tried to restock the essentials on a budget.  It never ceases to amaze me what can be accomplished a little at a time.  Although, I know it is far easier to restock for two people than it is for my daughter and her family of seven!

This month I didn't purchase very much meat, partly because my husband had to eat a mostly veggie diet for a few weeks so I have meat left in the freezer.  I did finally find one package of beef bones at the store and bought it in spite of the price, now the same as the beef itself used to cost.  It went into the freezer for a future batch of veggie beef soup.  I can justify the price in the nutrition it adds and the amount of soup the bones, beef, and veggies come together to make.

I have written for years that I am not a warm/hot weather cook.  We have plenty of BLT and grilled cheese sandwiches, salads, scrambled eggs, and other quick meals in hot weather.  Fortunately, my husband doesn't mind as long as I don't serve anything with mayonnaise in it.

However, as soon as sweater weather arrives, the kitchen is once more a welcome place to spend time and I'm looking forward to soups, stews, casseroles, and even making bread again in the bread machine.  I use the dough cycle and bake the bread in the oven.  It is perfect for the needs of a small household.  My friend makes very good bread and she bakes hers in the bread machine.

My pantry strategy of spending more on stock up day to fill in areas of the pantry that needed restocking and then buying just one or two items when I went to the grocery store the rest of the month has paid off very well.  Since I'm on a budget, it has been the best way to have on hand what items I need now and possible future needs.

What has also helped is changing the strategy to having less options on the pantry shelves (concentrating on what is needed for my five main meals) and purchasing more of those items I use a lot already.  That has helped me prioritize the available budget.  I am now about at the point where I can spend some grocery budget to expand my options.

These are items I will continue adding to the pantry even though I have quite a few already... like canned tomatoes.  Especially when I can find large cans of whole tomatoes, which have been very difficult to find during and after the pandemic shortages.  I also stock small cans of diced tomatoes, stewed tomatoes, and tomato paste.  This week I bought a few cans of chili ready tomatoes to add to the pantry, just to add options, although salsa would also work for Mexican style meals.

Each month, I have also been adding or replacing one or two spices as needed and either a bottle of cooking oil or extra virgin olive oil.  I need to be careful since there are only two of us because oil can go rancid if not used within a certain time period.  So I buy smaller bottles of olive oil and medium size containers of cooking oil.  I still use canola oil for those rare times I fry something.

I have some Crisco shortening sticks already since they are essential ingredients in a few baking recipes, especially a couple Christmas cookie recipes.  I found long ago that the butter flavored Crisco went rancid quicker than I used it but I have not had trouble with the regular Crisco sticks.  Of course, Mom used Crisco to fry just about everything and she lived to be 85!

This week, I was looking at the foreign food aisle as usual (although many of these foods are now incorporated into the American diet) and was pleased to see that sumac and Za'atar were now available in the Indian/Middle Eastern section of Meijer.  I bought a jar of sumac since I had run out.  I already have Za'atar that I bought from Amazon.  (I plan to return to Kroger soon to buy two or three pouches of the Indian veggie stew I tried previously.)

I have added a few other items to the pantry for flavor such as a jar of Spice World Garlic.  I will add one or two more small jars before Winter.  This brand contains garlic that is grown and packed in Coalinga, California.  

I need to add a couple jars of chopped pimento to the pantry since that is an essential ingredient in my potato salad!  That is the kind of item I add to my monthly grocery list that stays on the side of my refrigerator.  Otherwise, I will forget it until I want to make potato salad and then... oops!

Now that there are cooler days in the forecast, I want to try more vegetarian main dishes and these kinds of spices, garlic, etc. will be very helpful in that goal.  I just have to be careful that they are added in such a way to be husband friendly.  ;)

I know this is another one of those "thinking out loud" pantry posts but it is the best way I know to share how I stock a pantry on a budget.  Oh, I was asked why I prefer King Arthur Flour.  It is not only unbleached but unbromated.  It also uses American grown wheat that is non-GMO.   So I do prefer it for my day to day baking needs.

Do remember that stocking a pantry just a little at a time is better than not stocking at all because we don't have the space or money to do more.  There is a  lot of online chatter about the possibility of stringent lock downs again.  I don't know if that will happen but I do know in the area where I live, we have yet to flatten the curve on new cases.

One thing I do know for certain, November in the States has the potential for a lot more civil unrest. The time leading up to the election has been my goal for months now to restock the pantry should it be necessary to stay inside until the worst blows over.  One does not have to live in a city since widespread civil unrest can cause major supply disruptions anywhere in the country.

It wouldn't take much to disrupt the supply lines again as some items are still hard to find unless you happen to be in the store when they arrive.  I had to return to Meijer the day after I did my stock up shopping just to buy a few more items.  In only one day, the shelves that had been stocked with paper towels were now completely empty and the store brand of tissues were mostly sold already.  Less than twenty-four hours!  I was hoping my allergy medicine was back in stock (nope... another empty shelf).

It is an entirely different way to shop these days than what I have been used to doing.  However, we adapt and do what is necessary.  I thank God that we still have plenty available even if now it requires going to a few stores to find everything or that we have to purchase a different brand than our favorite.

Once again, if you have the ability to help someone hurting right now, a grocery store gift card and/or a gas station gift card (or cash!) may make the difference between them keeping the faith and becoming absolutely desolate.  You may have no way of knowing this side of Heaven what your gift will mean to them.

Do some detective work and try to find out needs a friend isn't telling anyone about.  Drop off groceries if you know what they will eat. Include some snack food as well as well as the healthy food. Honestly, a box of Captain Crunch would put a smile on my mother's face!

Even just a $20 bill slipped into someone's hand will make a difference.  We can do that while social distancing, can't we?  I have been in a desperate situation with two long term periods of unemployment and I can assure you that a little given in love makes all the difference in the world to your friend or family member (or complete stranger!).

Mentioned in this Blog Post

Small jar Spice World chopped garlic... here.  (I don't use a lot of garlic or I would purchase the larger jars. Once it is open, it has to be refrigerated.) 

Za'atar... here.  (I tried a few types and I like this one the best.)

Ziyad Sumac... here.  This is the same size bottle I bought at the grocery store this week.  Quite often the grocery store price is cheaper but it was the same as Amazon sells it.

If you have read pantry posts for long, you may remember that I first tried sumac on hummus and then on fattoush at a restaurant on campus when my son was in college.  I don't know where it was all my life.  Well, okay... in the Middle East and not the American Midwest.  This brand contains no additional salt or additives.

Disclaimer:  Most links to are Associate links.  I thank you.

5 comments: said...

It's been interesting here in PA, to not be able to find any stewed tomatoes! Even from all the different companies that make them. That's my go to sauce for pizza. I did try one or two off brands from my normal one and wasn't too sure about using them, but now none of the stores even have them. Lots of other kind of tomatoes, so I'm trying to find some recipes to make my own. Not sure though of that one specific ingredient that I need to make it taste the same! I even looked at the brand name website and got the list of ingredients.
Thanks for sharing, most of us are doing the best we can. Thankful for many things, and praying for our country.

Elizabeth said...

Recently was given a small jar of Za'atar seasoning...maybe you could share sometime how you like to use this spice. And though mine does not say so, I am wondering if it has cilantro or coriander seed in it, as a general rule? (I could die from that so I must be careful not to use it).

Margie from Toronto said...

We've been pretty lucky here in that the grocery shelves seem to be well stocked again - although it wouldn't take much for more disruptions - especially as Winter arrives. I am fairly well stocked but still trying to fill in some gaps and add some treats or interesting bits & pieces that I might not normally buy. I want to try new recipes and more vegetarian ones this year. I am also replacing and restocking herbs & spices - I have Sumac but Zatar is also on my list.

I'm like you in the Summer - I buy a cooked chicken or some cold meats and just make salads or sandwiches - I really do take a couple of months off from cooking but by the time we reach mid-Sept. I'm ready to get back in the kitchen. I'm looking forward to making some soups and some stews and to get some baking done as well.

Have a wonderful week.

Deanna Rabe said...

I am stocking up, a bit at a time too, and I'm thinking of putting some cash aside. We have a lot of local produce stands and they only take cash. I'm in agreement with you regarding the post election period. I'm praying.

Your thoughts about ways to help neighbors and friends are good. I'm trying to be more aware and intentional.

Patti said...

I was reading a devotional recently, concerning the daily gathering of manna. It talked about not hoarding and trusting God for provision. I think there is a fine line between stocking up so as to be prepared and in stocking up to excess. Your thoughts?

Patti @ Clothed with Joy