Na Na pinches her pennies (aka frugal living)

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.

Build a pantry

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.

Food bank 10-10-16

Food bank food 10-10-16

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.

Food bank 9-27-16

Food bank 9-27-16

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.

Food bank food 10-10-16

Food bank food 10-10-16

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.

MORE LATER…..

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15 comments on “Build a pantry

  1. Margie in Toronto
    October 16, 2016

    I’m always surprised by friends and family who think having a well stocked pantry is “too much work”! For me it not only saves me money but time and some weeks that’s even more important. I also know that if I’m ill, or the power goes out, or a storm is about to hit that I don’t have to wonder about what I’m going to eat or drink – there’s always something there to fall back on.
    I’ve spent the summer eating down a lot of what I had so now I’m in restock mode. I’ve got quite a few different proteins on the shelves so now I’ll concentrate on different items each week – depending upon what’s on sale. This week it’s things for the bathroom that I’m running low on. Next it will be things like teabags & coffee and UHT milk that I like to have on hand for emergencies and then it will be some baking items as we get closer to Christmas.
    I check the flyers each week but only buy if it’s something that I really need and will use – not just because it’s on sale.
    Keep up the good work and get the word out there.

    • Anita
      October 16, 2016

      Hi Margie, I’m surprised by that too. We do seem to think alike. There are some folks that don’t want to work for a better life. My daughter doesn’t understand it either even though she grew up with me keeping a pantry. She’s convinced that making a two week menu and only buying what’s needed for those meals is the frugal way to shop. I gotta let her find out for herself though.

      I’m curious, shouldn’t you be eating down the food storage during the winter when its more costly to buy and stocking up during the summer months when food is cheaper? Maybe I missed something?

      • Margie in Toronto
        October 18, 2016

        To me this is the time that I restock – I don’t cook as much over the summer and get back into proper cooking in the Fall. That’s when I’ll get fresh herbs and spices, new flours etc. for baking and yes, that;s when I restock on many items because they are cheaper now – all kinds of deals for kids going back to school and because the harvest is in. I’m a bit behind this year as it has stayed very, very hot – up to 28C today and humid – not like Fall at all.
        I stock up more before Christmas and New Year as again, things go on sale around the holidays. The weather is at it’s worst here in January and February, things are expensive, and as I don’t drive it’s more difficult to transport things. So I’ll be well stocked by then so that I only need to buy the minimal amount of fresh foods and can stay hunkered down if weather or illness keeps me from going out. Does that explain my timing a bit better?

        • Anita
          October 21, 2016

          Ok, it makes much more sense now. Yes, there are some really good bargains to be found before and during the holidays. I was thinking more about the vegetable garden season of summer than the sales of fall. Thanks for explaining it.

  2. sarasinart
    October 16, 2016

    You always have a wonderfully stocked pantry and also always give your readers such good words of wisdom. You’ve learned some lessons to pass on, some lessons that others need to learn as well.

    • Anita
      October 16, 2016

      Thank you Sarasin, If everyone of us frugal people could only convince one other person to be frugal and they also convinced one person the world would be in much better shape food wise. The world’s food is out of balance. Too much waste in some countries and not nearly enough food to feed the people in other countries.

      • sarasinart
        October 17, 2016

        Too much waste right here in our country. I keep trying to convince people about the good of gardening and helping them if they need it. I have gotten some people going on that. We need to remember how to take care of ourselves.

        • Anita
          October 17, 2016

          I sure wish you were close enough to help me with my garden. Mine is going to need quite a bit of planning before I even start. Groundhogs, voles, and possums to deal with first.

          • sarasinart
            October 17, 2016

            If I was close enough, I’d be right there!

            • Anita
              October 18, 2016

              I know you would help if you could. I’d be interested in knowing how you keep your food safe from Wilber or Wilberina next year.

              • sarasinart
                October 18, 2016

                I don’t think there is gonna be a way to prevent the groundhog from eating what he wants. He’s still here and seems to have settled in well, lol. Tomatoes are his favorite so I’ll have to use rabbit fencing to make the bottoms of the cages more dense so the fat little bugger can’t get to them. Or resign myself to the idea that the bottom ones are for Wilbur!

                • Anita
                  October 21, 2016

                  I believe that’s what I’ll have to do too. Resign myself to letting the critter have a share.

                  • sarasinart
                    October 21, 2016

                    If you have critters, a real fence is the only way to keep them all out.

  3. Cynthia
    October 15, 2016

    We just came through a hurricane (South Carolina) and I was very glad I had my pantry stocked. Not only during the hurricane but even several days after there was very little on the grocery store shelves to buy.
    I was wondering why you sometimes don’t share readers’ comments on your blog. I suspect there is a community of like-minded people who read your blog and I would enjoy reading their comments.
    Have a good weekend!

    • Anita
      October 15, 2016

      The comments are located at the very bottom of each post.

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