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.

Stocking a pantry

Creating a pantry is simply the storage of something while its abundant and cheap to last through times of scarcity and high prices until the next season of abundance.  Its also the storing of items you consistently reach for when cooking.  Not everyone is able to have a dedicated food storage room (pantry) with shelves and a big freezer.  Sometimes space is very limited.

Not everyone will be able or even want to grow and preserve foods themselves.  Learning about gardening and preserving food is not a requirement for creating a food pantry anymore than learning to sew is required to have a nice wardrobe. Not everyone will have the time necessary for canning or cooking from scratch.  We each have our own taste in food and how far we are willing to go to create our food storage.

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Canned ground beef saves freezer space and saves cooking time.

So what does a well stocked pantry look like?  What should you store?  If you do an internet search for pantry storage lists you’ll find thousands of pre-made pantry lists and calculators.  Almost all of them are based on having lots of space for storage or frequent high end shopping.  Please don’t use someone else’s ideas of what should be in your pantry.  Creating your pantry is as unique as you are and as personal as your own budget.  Your pantry is for your needs and likes.  It doesn’t matter if you only store a few extra items for emergencies or lots of items to last several months but there are four basic things to consider when creating your pantry storage.

Know where you are going to put it – A bargain is not a bargain if you don’t have the space to store it until you need it.  Storage can be in lots of creative spaces.  Under beds or in a closet of course but you may have an extra bathtub not being used, or space behind the sofa, a stack of empty suitcases, shelves around the ceiling, or on the back of a door. Use your imagination.  One word of caution though.   When lazy neighbors come begging its hard to deny you have something if its out in plain sight for them to see.  I used to have a neighbor who did that all the time.  She visited me on grocery day to see what I bought as I put it away.  Next day she would come to borrow a couple of things which never would be returned.  I got wise to her trick and started saying;  “No. My food is for me”  and keeping things out of her sight too.

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Know what you need and for how long – Don’t rely on any pre-determined pantry lists telling you what should be in your pantry. Create your own list based on your own likes and available storage space.  I started my own pantry list by keeping my grocery receipts for a few weeks.  I noticed I purchased the same things consistently in the same amounts.  That became the basis for my pantry stock up list.  For awhile I dated items the day I opened them.  When the container was finally empty I had an idea of how long it lasted which told me how many I’d need in my storage.  I still do this when I change to a different brand or size.

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The final bit rinsed from the container on 2-22-17

Know the lowest price and the sale cycle – The lowest price is known as the “buy” price.  When you find an item at its lowest cost you buy enough to last until the next time its likely to be at its lowest again.  The frequency a item returns to its lowest is called the sale cycle.  Although lately keeping up with the sale cycles and buy prices has been very difficult because of constantly changing sizes and cycles.  I think the manufacturing industry has caught onto thrifty shoppers keeping price lists and is trying to prevent us from using them.  Knowing which stores have the best low price on items is important as well.  I don’t rely on one store exclusively.  I buy different items at different stores by keeping up with their sale cycles.  Yes this takes a bit of work to record in a notebook but its worth it for me.

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Store what you use and use what you store.  Out of sight out of mind.  For some people filling a pantry is not the issue but remembering to use what is stored is the problem.  If you put food out of sight and fail to use it then what good has it done you?  If you don’t have much stored away it may be easy to remember what you have and where.  My memory isn’t so great anymore so I find keeping a pantry storage list very helpful.  My pantry list is very good for shopping.  I’ll pass on a discounted item if I know I have ample supply already in the pantry.

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Over stocking your pantry is not good.  Having too much in storage can also lead to wasted food that has gone bad.  Be realistic in what you store.  Its far better to limit the amount you store to just what you know for certain you will use and keep the extra money for replenishing your stock.  My funds are very limited to begin with so buying something I really don’t need just because its a bargain isn’t really a bargain at all.  Its wasted money.

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8 comments on “Stocking a pantry

  1. Jean Bender Bontrager
    February 25, 2017

    You are so smart! and resourceful! I love reading your blog, but I wish things were a little easier for you, sometimes!

    • Anita
      February 26, 2017

      Please don’e worry about me. I’m at my very best frugal self when times are toughest. Sometimes being broke is a good thing. Just look at how well I’ve improved my health because I started going to the mobile food bank instead of McDonalds. This month I started my quilting business again ( https://anitaestes.wordpress.com/ ) and have some customers. This will improve my finances.

  2. Margie in Toronto
    February 25, 2017

    Lots of good advice! I’m stocking the pantry right now as I’m due for knee surgery in a few weeks and don’t want to have to rely too much on friends doing shopping for me (although I know they will be there). It will be much simpler to have all the basics there and ready to be used.

    • Anita
      February 26, 2017

      Thanks Margie. I hope the surgery and healing goes smoothly for you. Are you also putting some heat and eat meals in the freezer to use the first few days? I’ve been thinking about making some freezer meals just in case I need them.

      • Margie in Toronto
        February 27, 2017

        Yes – already got a few in there and I’ll definitely make a few more things beforehand. This weekend I;m going to do some pulled pork and I think a meatloaf or two. They can join the pasta sauces, meat chilli, vegetarian chilli and a couple of servings of stew already in there.

        • Anita
          February 27, 2017

          Yum, that sounds good. I put some more salad in jars today. I’m so happy to be eating crunchy stuff again I can’t seem to stop. Thank goodness its all still healthy.

  3. Donna
    February 25, 2017

    Great information Anita! We all need to go by your ideas. I stocked up on meat over the holidays so I am using it now to save some money. Dr recommended keto diet for medical reasons. I find it more expensive due to veggies and meat requirements. Noodles, pasta and rice less expensive but no more. I have lost 5 lbs and hubby 7 so it works. Good health is worth the extra cost but need to be careful when shopping.

    • Anita
      February 26, 2017

      Thanks Donna. I’m glad your doctor is working with you on diet. So many just say go on a diet and leave it at that without any guidance. You are so right, good health does cost more but is worth it.

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