Shh… don't tell anyone I'm poor. They all think I'm living frugal and green just like everyone these days. This is a blog about a senior citizen living a frugal life, on a fixed income, in a low income food desert, and passing along knowledge from lessons learned. Some she learned from her Grandma Mama many years ago and some learned only a few days ago.
This is not about building with lumber and organizers. Its about stocking a pantry that fits YOUR style and tastes. Let me remind you that I’m not a nutritionist or a professional. I’m just a little old lady surviving with little income and depending on food banks.
I like to think of my food storage as my “food insurance” for the future. Its my hedge fund against emergencies such as a power loss for several days or weather related staying at home for extended periods of time. For example, in this area the mere mention of snow in the weather forecast has people flocking to the grocery to stock up. “Snow is coming, got to get the milk and bread.” Not me, I know my grocery stash has enough for me to last through even a very long snow in.
Its not easy to keep a pantry stocked with items with a limited budget. Going to the mobile food pantry gave me an opportunity to create a food storage that I may not have had otherwise. This is not the emergency food pantry. What I’m talking about is sometimes called “second harvest” and “gleaning the fields” and other similar names.
Going to the mobile food bank means getting throw away stuff. We get the food destined for a landfill. That’s not a complaint, just a fact. I don’t mind if the cabbage is turning brown, the carrots are twisted, or that the potatoes are knobby. I need those more than a landfill does.
I’ve adapted my food needs to those items I’m fairly sure I’ll get from the food bank. Being a diabetic I often trade or simply give away stuff I can’t eat. I never have problems giving away sweets or chips but no one wants the cereal anymore. We almost always get potatoes, onions, cabbage, and carrots from local growers. I supplement with purchased items, when I’m able, from the discount bins.
Keeping a well stocked pantry means fewer trips to the store “to pick up a few things” plus all those little extra things I didn’t know I needed until I saw them in the display. For me a quick trip into a store almost always results in unplanned purchases unless I’m very careful. Grocery stores are designed like that.
How did I get my pantry stocked? Well, creating my pantry was nothing more elaborate than making sure I have plenty of the most often used items. If you were to keep all your handwritten shopping lists for awhile (or if you don’t write lists then save all your grocery receipts) you’d see a pattern of consistent purchases time after time. Those would be your pantry stock up items. Those are the items you should have in quantity and replenish when on sale at their lowest price. Your pantry list should contain non-edible items too.
Ok, there is more than one way to stock up on pantry staples. One way is to buy in quantity when something is at its lowest price and not buy more until the next great sale. For that way you’d need to know how often the items will be at the lowest cost and also how many to buy to last until the next sale. Be careful about spending more than you planned.
If you’re on a limited budget like me maybe you could stock your pantry using this other way. Say, for example, you normally buy one bottle of dish liquid each shopping day. This trip you find it on sale at a really good price. Buy just one extra. One to put in storage and one working. Go back to your habit of buying only one on shopping day. This will replenish your stock so that you will always have one in use and one in stock. Next time dish liquid goes on sale at a fantastic price again you buy two instead of one. Now you should have two in storage and one working. Understand? Repeat this for other items and with time you’ll have a pantry stash.
Replenishing won’t work if you forget to buy something to replace what’s used. If you use all the stashed items you’re back to an empty pantry. Train everyone in the family to put empty items on your grocery list. Even if there is a replacement already there when something is emptied write it on the list. You need to restock the pantry as items are used.
The fresh food we get from the mobile food bank has helped because it frees up my limited funds for purchase of other things. Each time I get something from the food bank that I know I want to be in my pantry stash I do my best to trade for more. Dry beans are very easy to get through trades. I admit cereal and peanut butter are good foods but we get so much of it from local companies that its even hard to just give away.