Sunday, March 29, 2015

Pantry Challenge #13 ... 2015

This week it’s been all about getting to visit friends!  I have some of the best friends and it is such a treat to get to actually visit with them in their homes … read on to see what I mean!
My to-do list from last time:   

Continue vacuum sealing oats.  Done!  I added 3 more quarts of quick cook oats to my pantry that we got on clearance at Sam’s Club a while back.

Bargain shop!  Done!  We found Skinny Girl stevia extract on a half-price clearance sale at Walmart. We purchased 12 bottles and added them to our pantry.

 In addition:
Our Sam’s Club purchases this week include some things from the damaged/clearance section in the back of the store.  We found a double bulk box of Honey Nut Cheerios for $4.02 (We won’t eat these but they make great snacks for the little ones in our life), a bulk box of parchment paper for $4.02 and a bulk package of Lipton tea for $7.02 (It appears that .02 is a popular number in their markdowns!)  The packaging on all three of these items was damaged but the contents inside was still sealed and intact.  I’ll vacuum seal the Cheerios in jars as well as the Lipton tea bags!  SCORE!!!!

We visited a dear friend and her husband since I last wrote and she and I did some swapping.  I got popcorn tins and she got empty amber vinegar bottles. (She had been saving these popcorn tins for me for a while.)  She also gave me a pretty bottle that we’ll use for saving our change in and a book on sewing dolls.  I was so glad to get those popcorn tins, I love old bottles and of course with 2 precious little granddaughters this book will get lots of use!  Thank you Pama … yes, she is a member of this group … and by the way her pantry rocks!!!!

I purchased this book … Surviving When Modern Medicine Fails: A definitive guide to essential oils that could save your life during a crisis using  Swagbucks I had earned.   This book was recommended by a member of the A Working Pantry Facebook group and I was delighted to have enough Swagbucks to convert to purchase it without having to spend any money out of my pocket.   (The link to this book can be found at the bottom of this entry.)

We visited a non-electric Mennonite store and I restocked my spices.  They have a wide variety and I can buy larger quantities at better prices.  I also got some dehydrated ginger and a couple bars of lye soap.  I’ll use the lye soap for stain treatment and to have on hand in case we run into any poison oak or ivy.

I added 2 bottles of clove essential oil to the medicinal part of my pantry this week purchased at this same non-electric Mennonite store.  We learned about the benefits of clove essential oil and oral health in our discussion last week on herbs/essential oils/home remedies in the A Working Pantry Facebook group This upcoming week our studies will take us in a different direction.

I got the idea for the cutest little Christmas favor from another friend.  She had purchased it at a craft fair.  I think these will be fairly easy to make!  What do you think?

This same friend and I went shopping at JoAnn’s and then to Hobby Lobby.  We shared the coupons we each had and when we didn’t have coupons we found them online.  Shopping with like-minded friends is so much fun!   I found self-adhesive vinyl to make letters for my gallon pickle jars turned canisters, added some ‘on-sale’ fabric to the fabric part of my pantry and treated myself to a cross stitch magazine that I had never seen before … it was way more than I usually pay for magazines … I have been devouring it’s pages since purchasing it.  It’s an Australian publication titled CrossStitcher and I don’t regret spending $11.99 for it one bit.   I’m planning several projects from this magazine in the very near future.  Sometimes you just have/need/got to treat yourself!

We added $4 in change to our change jar!  

I completed a Pinecone Survey this week.

I borrowed the book, The  Color of Grace, How One Woman’s Brokenness Brought Healing and Hope to Child Survivors of War by Bethany Haley Williams, from a friend and am reading it.   I am thoroughly enjoying it.   (The link to this book can be found at the bottom of this entry.)

Here’s my pantry to-d0 list for next week:

Bargain shop

Now it’s your turn, what have you done to build up your pantry or live frugally ?


Sunday, March 22, 2015

Pantry Challenge #12 ... 2015

Signs of spring are all around us, this week the red bud tree just off our front porch has been showing off its beautiful flowers.  I love the colors of spring!

My to-do list from last time:   

Vacuum seal the oats we purchased on clearance in quart jars.  I have this project started.  As I empty and wash jars I’m refilling them with oats!  Thus far I’ve added 3 quarts of vacuum sealed oats to my pantry. 

Can pecans. Done!  I added 9 pints of pecans to my pantry plus 1 pint for the freezer. The canned ones will last for several years … unless we eat them first! Want to know how to can pecans? Go HERE! 

Scour grocery store and drug store ads for bargains and shop accordingly.  Done!   We didn’t find any bargains from the store ads this week, unless you want to count the buy one get one free special Food Lion was running on Cadbury eggs … yes, I confess, I had two of them … twice!    

 In addition:

We found half gallons of milk on clearance for $1.00 each at Food Lion. We purchased 10 jugs, brought them home, removed 1 cup of milk from each and put the jugs in the freezer.

Our Sam’s Club purchases this week consisted of a bulk can of Swiss Miss chocolate mix on clearance for $3.71,  free toothpaste from the kisosk, Advil samples from a different kisosk, and free orange juice, muffins and a banana.  Not as good as this trip, but we’ll take it!

We were given some fresh clams and my husband made the best clam chowder out of them.  It was a lot of work in getting them from the shells to the table but it was one of the most delicious dishes I’ve eaten!  I am so thankful my husband likes to cook!!!!

We had rotisserie chicken for dinner one night this week and ate all of it except for the breast.  I cubed the chicken breast, vacuum sealed it and added it to the freezer to be used in soup, casseroles, chicken salad, etc.  I then took all the bones and added them to my on-going ‘bones for broth’ bag that I keep in the freezer.  I’m getting close to having enough to make a batch of broth.

I had a stalk of celery that I needed to do something with so I chopped it up and froze it in snack bags and then in quart freezer bags.  I added 9 snack size baggies to the freezer part of my pantry.  I stuck the root end part in a bowl of water to hopefully get it to start growing roots and if that is successful I will plant it in a pot outside and try to re-grow it.

I cashed in enough Swagbucks for a $25 gift card from Amazon.

I received a 60% off of one regular price item coupon from JoAnn’s Fabric so I ordered a bolt of featherweight pellon for my handwork.  Got it for $11.86 plus shipping instead of the $27 plus shipping that it would have normally cost.

We added $6.50 in change to our change jar!   It’s so nice to see this filling back up again.
Here’s my pantry to-d0 list for next week:
Continue vacuum sealing oats
Bargain shop!

Now it’s your turn, what have you done to build up your pantry or live frugally ?

A Working Pantry

This post was featured on:
Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth

Saturday, March 21, 2015

How Do You Can Pecans?

I just turned the stove off after pressure canning 9 pints of pecans.

How did I do it?

I get asked that question a lot, so here's the answer ...

Spread shelled pecans out in a single layer on a flat baking tray.

Toast for 30 minutes at 250 degrees in the oven.

Sterilize half pints or pint jars ONLY and prepare lids and rings.

Fill jars with toasted pecans.  DO NOT ADD WATER OR ANY OTHER LIQUID TO THE JARS.

Wipe clean the rim of the jar.

Place lid and ring on jar.

Place in a pressure canner with appropriate amount of water in pressure canner.

Pressure can them at 5 lbs pressure for 10 minutes.

That's it!  It's really easy and they will last for years!

A Working Pantry

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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Pantry Challenge #11 ... 2015

This week has found us making regular visits to a local hospice house, comforting a grieving grandmother and grandfather and purchasing $932.54 worth of grocerys for $46.56.  What a week it has been!

My to-do list from last time:   

Vacuum seal the oats we purchased on clearance in quart jars.  Didn’t get done!

Vacuum seal cream cheese and freeze.  Done!  I added 6 packages of cream cheese to the freezer part of my pantry.  See the tutorial on how I did it HERE!

Scour grocery store and drug store ads for bargains and shop accordingly.  I think I can safely say that we ‘knocked this one out of the park!’  To see what I mean read this post!  We are still in awe!!!! 

In addition:

I added four more cans of evaporated milk to my pantry.  I am trying to replace what we used during the time we were eating almost exclusively out of our pantry.  A little here and a little there and I’ll get it back to what it was before!

I had a few strawberries left from the ones we purchased last week that were still in the ‘flash freezing’ stage so I bagged them up in snack size bags, then into quart size bags and added them to the freezer part of my pantry.  There were 16 snack size baggies this time and when I added them to the 44 I did last week that gave me a total of 60 snack size baggies of strawberries ready to be used in smoothies.

We came across an older gentleman selling strawberries this week in a parking lot one day while we were out … the berries smelled really good … the berries looked really good …  I asked if I could taste one … the gentleman said yes … they tasted so ‘strawberryee’ … we bought some to eat and to make low sugar strawberry jam.  I made 6 half pints using Annabel’s method from The Bluebirds are Nesting.  It is super easy and delicious!  I will be using this method to make other types of jam.

We found mushrooms on sale again at Aldi’s and purchased another flat.  I brought them home and canned 8 pints and added to my pantry.

Someone told me that her Aldi’s had butter on sale for $1.89 so when I was in the area of our local Aldi’s I stopped in and sure enough, there it was!  Our Aldi’s had butter on sale for$1.89/lb too!  We purchased a case and brought it home and added it to the freezer part of our pantry.  We are set for the rest of the year on butter!

I’m closing in on having enough Swagbucks to redeem a $25 Amazon gift card.  Whooo Hooo!

We added $5.50 to our change jar!

I completed a Pinecone survey!
Here’s my pantry to-d0 list for next week:

Vacuum seal the oats we purchased on clearance in quart jars. 
Can pecans

Scour grocery store and drug store ads for bargains and shop accordingly. 

Now it’s your turn, what have you done to build up your pantry or live frugally ?

A Working Pantry

Friday, March 13, 2015

Our Sam's Club Shopping Trip: You're Not Going to Believe It!

My husband and I went to Sam's Club this morning to pick up a few items and when we got there we discovered that they were resetting their frozen food section.   They had several items on clearance for $.51/each and people were filling up baskets and flatbeds at a rapid pace.

Being the frugal bargain hunting people that we are, we did the same thing!

Look at what we got ...

Everything was on clearance for $.51 each except the gallon jars of pepper slices on the left side of the picture.
Here's what we got, the regular before clearance price, the number of each we purchased and the total before clearance price that we did not pay.
Dark Sweet Cherries … Regular price: $9.38 (4) … $37.52
Hashbrowns … Regular price:  $4.98  (8) … $39.84
Triple Berry Blend … Regular price:  $9.68  (11) … $106.48
Supreme Stir Fry … Regular price : $7.68  (14) … $107.52
Breaded Okra … Regular price:  $6.98  (1) … $6.98
Stir Fry Vegetables … Regular price:  $7.68 (2) …$15.36
Flat bread Breakfast Sandwiches  …. Regular Price: $9.98 (3) …$29.94
Waffle Breakfast Sandwiches … Regular Price:  $9.98  (11) … $109.78
Popcorn Shrimp … Regular Price:  $8.68 (7)… $60.76
Pizza… Regular Price:  $11.98 (8) … $95.84
Shrimp … Regular Price: $14.98 (12) … $179.76
Organic Chicken Burritos … Regular Price:  $9 (2)  … $18
Chicken Piccata … Regular Price: $12.48  (10) …$124.80

If you subtract the prices of the 2 jars of peppers that were not on clearance, the total comes to ... $46.56.  Want to know what the regular price of all the items minus the peppers were ...$932.58!

We filled up both of our freezers and stored some in a neighbor's freezer.   We shared some with others and this week we'll be cooking and preparing some of it to take to a family who is going through a difficult time.

Our pantry got a really good boost this week!

We feel so blessed!  God is so good!

A Working Pantry

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Q & A: Vacuum Sealer Bags

Here's a question I received from a reader today after she read this post on freezing cream cheese.

Question: Are you using "name brand" vacuum bags? Or? I purchased some off ebay and was quite disappointed in them. Some kept seal, some didn't. And it didn't seem to matter if it was dry goods or something like salmon.

Answer: I pretty much stick to the Food Saver Brand or the brand in the Amazon link below.  I have had good success with both.  When I have to buy again I will go with the ones in the Amazon link.  They are a bit cheaper and I thought they worked just as well.

I hope this helps!

A Working Pantry

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Seven Things We Learned While Eating Almost Exclusively from our Pantry for Three Months!

If you’ve been following A Working Pantry for very long, you’ll know that my husband and I recently experienced an unexpected financial hardship that left us having to eat almost exclusively out of our pantry for 3 months.   We learned some things first hand during that time that will help us be better prepared for future events of this nature, so I thought I would share what we learned in the hopes that it will help others who might face similar situations in the future.

My well-stocked pantry was and is a life saver.  Being able to continue eating in the manner that we always had without worry about how to provide the food to do that was such a stress reliever.  We were already stressed enough trying to deal with the situation that not having to worry about how we were going to eat was a real blessing.

I need to look for more clutter to clear out so that I can have additional room to expand our well-stocked pantry.  

Variety is very important!  I can’t stress this enough … variety is very important.  In order to avoid eating the same meals over and over again and getting food burnout one needs to know how to take basic ingredients, add some spices, etc and create something that has a different taste.   Having a pantry filled with a wide variety of things your family will eat helps to be able to create those different flavors and dishes. 
You need a ‘strictly from the pantry’ menu. I would suggest a 30 day meal plan for ever how many meals you eat per day along with snacks, where all the ingredients come from your pantry without you having to go to the store. This will help with the ‘variety’ issue I mentioned above.
Your pantry will last half as long as you think it will.  It is surprising how quickly a pantry gets used up when you’re eating almost exclusively from it.  Some items that we thought we had plenty of were the first things we started running low on. 
You need special treats.  In my opinion special treats are essential to a well-stocked pantry.  They help keep moral up and give you a little something to look forward to.
You need to know how to stretch what you have.  Necessity is the mother of invention and during our 3 months of eating almost exclusively from our pantry we stretched and saved every bit of food.   Leftovers became another dish and even the little bits were saved for ingredients in a soup meal.

Now that our financial hardship is over, I'm making it a priority to take what I’ve learned and use it to build a better well-stocked pantry.

Do you have any words of wisdom/experience to share on this topic?

A Working Pantry

This post linked to: HomeAcre Hop; Five Star Frugal

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Pantry Challenge #10 ... 2015

Signs of spring are popping up everywhere and I am so glad.  I am ready for spring and warmer weather!

I’ve been busy restocking my pantry this week … here’s what I got done!

My to-do list from last time:   

Divide and freeze the bulk bag of mozzarella cheese we purchased last week.  Done!  I added 20 (1 cup size) packages to the freezer part of my pantry!

Make Turmeric capsules.  Done!  I made 120 capsules.

Check the local sale ads for bargains.  Done!  I combined sales and coupons and added dishwashing liquid ($.74/bottle), sharpie markers ($.49 each), bubble mailers ($.49 each) and peanut butter (2 for $4) to my pantry!  It feels so good to be building up my pantry again after 3 months of living almost exclusively from it and not being able to add to it!

In addition:

I ordered protein powder using the Amazon gift cards I earned through Swagbucks in February.  This size container will last me about 6 months.

I clipped and printed off coupons for items on my shopping list.

We were asked to take someone to the airport in a neighboring town one day and after we dropped them off we headed to Sam’s Club to see if we could find any ‘clearance’ items.  We found 10lb boxes of Quaker oats for $5.01, regular price … $8.48 (I’ll vacuum seal them into quart jars).  We also found 2 bottle packages of 46 oz bottles of organic vegetable juice for $.91 a two pack.

I knew we wouldn’t drink the juice as a beverage so I stood there and thought about it for a minute and then I knew what I could do with them so I purchased several bottles.  What did I do with them … I made vegetable broth and canned 34 pints.    I’ll use it for soups, stews, casseroles, etc.   Thirty-four pints of organic vegetable broth for $4.55 plus tax.  I'll take it!  Sometimes you just have to think outside the box!

We found strawberries on sale at Aldi’s for $.99/package and bought 16 packages (2 flats).  I brought them home, washed them up, flash froze them and packaged them into snack baggies.  I then put the snack baggies in quart freezer bags and added them to the freezer portion of my pantry.  I added 44 snack baggies of strawberries to the freezer which I’ll use for smoothies.

Here’s my pantry to-d0 list for next week:

Vacuum seal the oats we purchased on clearance in quart jars
Vacuum seal cream cheese and freeze
Scour grocery store and drug store ads for bargains and shop accordingly

Now it’s your turn, what have you done to build up your pantry or live frugally 

This post contains affiliate links.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Q & A: Where to Buy Capsules

Here's a question I received from a reader today after she read Pantry Challenge #9 ... 2015.   I thought some of you might be wondering the same thing.

Question:  Where would you recommend I get capsules for making turmeric capsules?

Answer: Here's what I buy and have been very pleased with. 


I buy turmeric powder from The Bulk Herb Store or Mountain Rose Herbs.  Both have quality products.

I purchased the capsule machine I use to fill the capsules with from Mountain Rose Herbs.

Amazon carried it at one time.


I hope this is helpful!
A Working Pantry

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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

This is Why! part 8

Previous entries can be found HERE.

In this final entry for this series, I’m going to share miscellaneous ways I stock my pantry.  These things don’t really fit into any of the other categories we’ve talked about so I just combined them all into this one.

80.      I started out small.  When my husband and I first got married many years ago, I didn’t have a well-stocked pantry … I didn’t even have a pantry … and on top of that we were poor college students with little to no money to work with.  But over time, using the principles I saw my mama use, little by little we began to accumulate a small amount of pantry items.  We had to start at the beginning and work our way up to a well-stocked pantry.

81.       I start with the basics … the foundation/building blocks of a pantry such as butter, flours, milks, etc.  (Everyone’s ‘basics’ will look different.)  This is the foundation of my pantry and is what I focus on stocking first.

82.      I stock comfort foods.  Comfort food for me begins with chocolate so I watch the after holiday sales … Christmas, Valentine, Easter, and Halloween.  When I find chocolate candy on sale for half price or less I stock up. Them I vacuum seal it in jars until needed in baking or as a comfort food.  (Yes, even on a low-carb lifestyle there are times when nothing but chocolate will do!)

83.     I don’t give up.  Many times there has been a lack of money to help stock our pantry but where there is a will there is a way and I’ve been known to get pretty creative with what I’ve had to work with.

84.      I set goals for my pantry.  I take keeping a well-stocked pantry very seriously and make it a priority.

85.     I only stock what my family will eat.  While there is nothing wrong with trying new things, make sure someone in your family will eat it before you add it to your pantry.  Otherwise it’s just something that’s going to sit in your pantry taking up valuable space that could be used to stock something your family will eat.

86.     I stock a variety of foods.  Variety is very important when you’re eating exclusively out of your pantry.

87.     I also stock a variety of spices.  Spices can turn a mediocre dish into a dish that everyone looks forward to.

88.     I never turn down ‘free’ food.  If someone offers to bless me from their abundance, I say ‘thank you,’ and bring it home and preserve it.

89.     I take advantage of ‘free samples.’  I accept all free samples whether we use them or not.  If we won’t use it, I find someone else to bless with it.

90.     I read and research to keep up-to-date on new ways to keep my pantry stocked.

91.     I keep my pantry rotated making sure not to let anything in it expire or ruin.

92.     I write the date purchased on store bought items and the date preserved on home-preserved items before I add them to my pantry and use the oldest first.

93.     I consider water to a part of my pantry and stock accordingly.

94.     I stock homemade convenience foods such as freezer meals that are ready to thaw and cook.

95.     I build up my pantry by knowing what’s in it.  Knowing what’s in my pantry will keep me from adding too much of an item.

96.     I build up my pantry by not wasting what I’ve worked so hard to put in it.

97.    I work on building up my pantry all year long not just when the ‘garden’ is ready to harvest.

98.    I take care of my pantry items by keeping storage conditions suitable to each item.

99.    I use and accept the knowledge that this is my ‘job’ and one way I can contribute economically to our household budget.

100.    Last, but certainly not least, I use a positive can-do attitude to help me keep a well-stocked pantry.

 There you have it, 100 ways I build up and stock my pantry.

I hope this series has been helpful and shown you why everyone should have a well-stocked pantry as well as given you information that you can use to build your own.
Yes, you can have a well-stocked pantry!

Your comments are what will make this series more helpful so please share your wisdom.

To see how I incorporate all these ways in my daily life, join me at A Working Pantry.

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