Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What's In Your Pantry?

How many of you keep a pantry? How long do you think you could go without going to the grocery store? Do you write a menu? Do you have a plan to help you with meals?

I am not exactly sure how long I have bought in bulk and kept a pantry, but it is sure a life saver at times. I have had different people ask me about bulk buying and how to keep a pantry, that I thought I would write out some ideas. Everyone's situation is different, so you will have to tailor it to meet your needs and fit your space available. I will also share with you some things I do that help me out in the planning area (when I make myself actually do them) =)

First of all a menu is a wonderful tool for me. I print out a monthly calendar page for our menu. If you have a large family and children at home, you might need something a bit larger, since you probably make breakfast and lunch every day as well. This menu is just a guideline for me. If I can't think of anything to make that night, there is something there for me to fall back on. When I am faithful to make a monthy menu, we usually follow it pretty closely. I also have tried to divide my week up into different types of meals. Monday night is breakfast night. We usually have a breakfast type meal (pancakes, eggs, bacon & taters, etc). Tuesday night is pasta night. Wednesday night is soup night in the cooler months and salad night on the warmer months. Thursday night is Mexican night. Friday night is either pizza or chili. Saturday is Dad's night. He likes to cook too, especially on the grill, so he chooses what gets fixed that night. Sunday's we usually have a pot blessing with our fellowship, so I make something big to share. This sort of planning helps me even when I forget to make my menu. For instance tonight, I know it's pasta night, so I will plan accordingly since I have not made a December menu up.

Now, sit down and make a list of meals you make on a regular basis. It is actually very handy to have this list for a couple of reasons. It is going to help you make out your pantry list, but it also helps you to make a menu and to plan ahead.

After you make a list of all the meals you can think of, then start making a list of the ingredients that you would use for those meals. You can write out all the ingredients or just the ones that are storable. For instance if you are having tacos, you might have the seasonings in storage, but the sour cream is probably going to need to be purchased the week you make it. I like to go one step further and break those ingredients down into categories. Herbs and spices, canned goods, pastas, etc.

Now determine how much do you buy of these items. If you have a large family, you can purchase pasta of sll sorts in 10# boxes from most any co-op. I have purchased pastas we us a lot of in a 10# box before, but it takes our small family a while to go through them. Here are some things that we buy in bulk. I buy the 50# bag of dehyrdrated cane crystals (sugar). It lasts us well over a year though since we make very few sweet things. I wait till it is on sale and then purchase it. I buy the organic tortilla chips we use by the case as well. We use them for snacks and also for Mexican night. I am also usually able to get them on sale. I buy pasta in bulk when it is on sale through the co-op as well. I try to keep at least 2 3-liter bottles of olive oil on the shelf. We like fresh made salsa in the summer, but we buy Frog Ranch salsa for other times. I keep 6 to 10 jars of it on the shelf at all times. I have shelves for my home canned goods and the smaller stuff I buy. I keep the sugar, wheat, sucanat, rice, oats, etc on buckets with screw on lids. Determine how much room you have to store things. Then decide how much you want to have on hand at all times. Lets say you go through ketchup quickly. You may want to keep 5 bottles or more on the shelf. This will insure that you always have ketchup and may allow you to wait until there is a sale to buy it. This would be a great project for a daughter to undertake for you.

Now make a list of your items, what quantity you would buy them in, how many you like on the shelf and what is the lowest amount you can have on hand and not run out. Obviously, most of us can not go out and buy all of this at once. Find a co-op. Start watching for sales and as you are able bring an item or 2 up to where you would like them to be. Then maintain those items while adding one or 2 more. You will have a pantry stocked before you know it. If you have helpers in the kitchen, teach them about rotating things so that you use the oldest first. I have an order things go in. You always use the front one closest to the pantry door first. Then teach them that as you use an item up, to mark it on a list of things to buy or watch for sales on. It is really not complicated. The hardest part is writing all the meals and ingredients down to begin with. After that it is just maintenance. Then when you are cooking or baking and you run out of something, you are not running to the store which causes you to waste time, gas and money (because you usually buy more than you went for). You simply go and shop in your pantry.

Don't forget their are items you can store in your freezer as well. We have a bulk food store that allows a better price on butter if you buy it by the case. Butter freezes well. I buy huge loafs of cheese at a discount. Then you can grate it and freeze it for use later.

If you have other ideas, comments or suggestions, please leave them in the comments section so we can all learn from one another.

*Ginny brought up a good point in the comments. Toilet paper. I try to buy enough so that I only have to buy it when it is on sale. There are all sorts of things we can stock up on.


Unknown said...

Yes, I love having my pantry and menu planner, also. I have bought bulk for many years, even though it is only me and Ron. I have a funny story related to this: One time, many years ago, when I was working at the bank, I had a couple of girls over after work and one of the girls went to the bathroom. She wasn't in there two minutes before she yelled, "How many rolls of toilet paper do you NEED???" LOL! I like to stock up... ;-)

Anonymous said...

I read your blog all the time, when I have time(we have a large family). It is like a daily inspiration for me. Today, though, is about something I have been trying to do for awhile, buy in bulk. I have managed to buy a lot of things once a month but it's not actually bulk(lots of boxes and bags) and then there are some things that I can't buy in bulk. Going to the store every week takes up a lot of my time that I could spend doing other things. You mentioned co-ops, where do I find them? I looked online and can't find any close by and ordering out-of-state is costly. I live in Alabama, any help would be greatly appreciated.


Perri said...

We have a combo pantry and laundry room. The pantry is stocked with cases of soups and veggies, boxes of meals like Hamburger Helper, Cans of fruit, baking supplies, pastas, etc. We also have 3 freezers so when I find things on sale, I stock up on them, too.

I've never tried a monthly menu though. I might give that a whirl in january.

Teresa said...

I print off a copy of this weekly menu planner and work with what I already have in the house then buy what I may need once a week.
I don't have a lot of room for storage yet but I do plan to restock as soon as our upper cabinets are installed. I need lots of improvement on the art of stocking-up!

Thanks for visiting my blog again recently, Marci!

Anonymous said...

Can you stock up on take-n-bake pizzas???

Guess who??

Marci said...

I see Mrs. Wonderful Neighbor left a comment anonymously!! =) Those my friend are for when your husband asks you what you are having for supper you tell him and he suggests he picks something up. =)

Anonymous said...

I found a great website that has household full size planners that have really been a help to me. The link is www.donnayoung.org/household/fullsize/kitchen/index.htm

I use the grocery list and the weekly menu. There are many planners on her website. Marci has given such great tips. I also recommend storing water.
I would also like to recommend a book that I've used for years. It has great tips for storing food and water and feeding a family. It is called "A Family Raised on Sunshine" by Beverly K. Nye. It is out of print now, but I've seen it on ebay and also on Amazon. Some libraries may have copies.
Love your blog, Marci. I've read it for a long time but this is my first post. :)

Michele said...

I wished I lived in a place where items actually went on sale! For some reason, we don't have any stores here. It's Wal-mart supercenter or IGA - that's it. Without competition, there arent any sales to amount to anything. No double coupons either. I shop for our family of six twice a month, with quick trips for fresh goods in between...it adds up quick. I don't what "co-ops" we might have around here either, I am in NW Arkansas....

Klasse Woods Natural Farm said...

Nice "meeting" you. I'd never clicked on your link before. I'm on the RealFoodLiving group - I've admired the name for your farm a long while now. So it's been nice to see more of what you do.
Come on over to www.livenlearnfarm.blogspot.com/ to meet us too if you like. Maybe we can swap ideas? Be sure to check out our farm posts to read how Dad came Home in 2007.
Like you, I like to stock my pantry - much of it coming from my garden. I stock up when I find good sales and plan menus using what I have & sales I've found.

Jehovah Jireh is a faithful provider - even for a farmer with six growing boys! To God be the Glory!

All the best with all your endeavours.

VoiceInTheWilderness said...

We've kept our pantry for years now- even when we lived in an RV,we were able to store extras of everything in a storage shed at my in-laws' house. We buy lots of everything, although we are not nearly as organized as I would like. After my 4th child was born, my husband re-did our pantry while I was in bed recovering. He had everything labeled and made up a master grocery list which he kept hanging in the pantry. I did not properly maintain it, however. Now we have some industrial strength shelves in our garage that we keep our "pantry" on. Buckets of grain underneath, canned goods in the middle, and boxed goods on top. My favorite place to go shopping is the garage!

Anonymous said...

I try to keep a pantry stocked with the food items that I cook with most frequently. I found taco dinner sets on sale recently for .50 each, so I bought a bunch of them. I won't have to buy anything for tacos for about 6 months. I figure a 6 month supply of anything is enough for me to store at one time.

I also buy specialty items when I find them on sale...like chai tea! I bought enough boxes of it to last a year last spring. It's wonderful!

What else is in my pantry? Sugar, ketchup, salad dressings, canned tomatoes (store bought and home canned), green beans, tp, paper towels, cereal, tea, spaghetti and spaghetti sauce, salsa. All of these were bought on incredible sales and stocked up.

In my freezer, I have chicken breasts, fish, corn (home grown), soy beans (home grown - great value!), fried chicken patties, bread, pork chops.

My pantry is more of a storage for sale items than a menu planned pantry. I save loads of money keeping a pantry; I honestly don't know how I would afford to feed my family without it!