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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.