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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

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.  (We’re finishing up a series this week in the A Working Pantry Facebook group on ‘Where to Put Pantry Items’ that is helping me think outside the box when it comes to this topic.)

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

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This post linked to: HomeAcre Hop; Five Star Frugal


  1. Love this post! I am working on deepening my pantry. Years ago my dad suffered a work related injury. After his short term disability ran out he was on unpaid leave for seven months until they retired him and his pension kicked in. It was thanks to my moms fully stocked pantry that there was always food on the table.

    1. Having and keeping a well-stocked pantry takes on a whole new meaning when you are dependent upon it to feed your family. Yeah for your mom!

  2. Patsy I am learning that there is nothing like a real life experience to teach us and remind us why we are doing this! Helen wrote on my blog today as recently she was preparing for a cyclone coming into Queensland. She was organised and was able to finish off preparations but you could not get prepared from scratch in time for this! You would have to do without as the shelves in the shops were empty. I am seeing constantly reasons to be prepared like your own, Wendi's above, weather conditions, other world events etc. It is all very motivating I have to say. Your warning that we use it up faster than we think is influencing me to bulk buy more. Thank you for your posts.xxx

    1. Annabel, I had to go read Helen's post ... it is a good one! We are coming upon hurricane season and there is yet another reason why I need to get my pantry restocked. You are so right, getting prepared doesn't happen overnight! Thanks for commenting!

  3. * Stock up on ingredients not ready made items. Ingredients can be used in many different ways.
    * Buy items on sale and buy many.
    * Always have your storage containers full with a few spares of everything.
    * Have a shopping list on the go all the time.
    * Buy meat on sale and divide into meal sizes, label and freeze.
    * Freeze meal leftovers into single portions and freeze. When you have enough, write it into the menu plan as a free meal for dinner.
    * Don't wait until something runs out before you buy again. Most likely you'd be paying full price.
    * When space is at a premium, don't stock up too much on paper products like foil, cling wrap, serviettes / napkins, paper towel, baking paper. Use containers instead to store food. paper towel is only needed to drain fatty food and serviettes are only needed for messy meals like spag bol, bbqs etc.
    * Buy herbs and spices in bulk from wholesalers or Asian shops. Much cheaper.

    When my husband and I both lost our jobs without warning back in 2005, the first thing I did was count up how many pieces of meat I had in the freezer. I had over 50 pieces so I knew we'd be ok for over two months. Our pantry was well stocked and all we had to buy was milk, fruit and veg each week. Although my husband got another job three weeks later, we were able to eat very well with what we had on hand. I cook and bake everything from scratch to feed my family.

    Currently I feed my family of four for $250 a month including toiletries and a few cleaning ingredients. There are no coupons in Australia so this amount is almost unheard of My pantry is always well stocked.

    1. Great comment Wendy! Lots of good tips! Thanks for sharing your wisdom!

  4. The comment that it won't last is long as you think is so right. I can have my kitchen pantry overflowing and in no time at all it is gone! Your blog is so very helpful. Thank you for your time.

  5. We did a similar challenge for four months... My main thing I learned is there is nothing like fresh bananas and strawberries.......melissa

  6. I found you off of a comment posted on Frugal Living on the Waktins Ranch and enjoyed this post. I live in Fairbanks Alaska, and sometimes we go to the store only to find someone has bought out all the flour or brown sugar. The shelf sits empty. It is good to always stay ahead and keep that pantry well stocked. I know sometimes when funds are low, it is hard to restock, but I have always seen God provide in amazing ways as we also do our part to conserve. When we really go through hard times, it always helps me to think of meat as a flavoring instead of a main course. Then I feel less deprived and can stretch it really far. We've been given so much meat in the last few months, but did break down and buy a pound of hamburger at almost $7.00/lb and we split it into three meals for 8 people each with a giant batch of spegatti and beans with corn tortillas. God is good to give us creative ideas when needed. I agree, it's good to think creative and practice it before the need arises. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Great comment! Lots of good nuggets of knowledge! Thanks for sharing!

    2. If you are ever out of brown sugar, you can make your own with one kilo of white sugar and three tablespoons of molasses. Mix well in a food processor or by hand in a bowl ( the long way ) with a wooden spoon.

  7. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences. You have made me think more about specific things we would need to have on hand if faced with having to live off our pantry. I try to purchase things at the very best prices, in season, etc., but can see that I have ample supplies of some things and not enough of others. Through helping at our food bank and also helping a friend who was going through tough times, I realized that people don't think about non-food items like toilettries, bath tissue, personal supplies, laundry detergent, pet food, and medication that can be quite expensive. Keeping a well-stocked pantry of items such as these is important, I think. Thanks again! Elaine

    1. I agree Elaine ... our pantries are so much more than just food!

  8. Hi Patsy! I break down my pantry into pieces and try to keep things that I use together in the same area like pasta and pasta sauce so it is easier for me to keep track of those items as a unit, I go by the saying "It is better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it" I disagree about paper products though if you can stockpile them because if it were a crisis having enough water to do dishes 3x a day could be difficult plus I would never want to run out of toilet paper and not be able to get any! And variety is as you said very important! I know so many that when faced with difficulty will say they are sick of eating this or that. had we not had a well stocked pantry during my husbands job loss and all of the other set backs we've been having we would probably eating boxed mac n cheese 6 nights a week!

  9. Patsy, I love this post because a 30 day meal plan, strictly from the pantry is not something I'd even thought of, yet I consider myself pretty switched on in matters of frugality and pantries. I will be following closely in order to learn more. Thankyou so much. Mimi xxx


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