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If I Were Just Starting Out Building a Well-Stocked Pantry ...

I recently received a comment from a reader basically asking me where to start when building a well-stocked pantry.  Since I get this ques...

Thursday, December 17, 2015

If I Were Just Starting Out Building a Well-Stocked Pantry ...

I recently received a comment from a reader basically asking me where to start when building a well-stocked pantry.  Since I get this question fairly often, I thought it was time to do a regular post on it so here goes:

If I were just starting out building a well-stocked pantry, here are some things I would do ...


1.  Sit down and make a list of the things my family eats. This may seem overwhelming, but it is the foundation of your future well-stocked pantry so take a couple of weeks or longer and keep a journal of things your family eats.  It doesn't have to be fancy or a big deal, keep it simple and just make some notes.  Being armed with this knowledge will allow you to stock what you eat and eat what you stock!

2.  If I was able to grow a garden, I would take the list I just made in # 1 and determine which items I could grow, preserve or make … and I would follow through and do it.

3.  I would become a couponing queen utilizing them to the fullest including rain checks.

4.  I would accept any foods given to me even if I didn’t need them at the time.  I would bring them home and preserve them.

5.  I would buy in bulk and bring it home and preserve it.

6.  I would price match.

7.  I would know what was a good price by keeping a price book.  A small spiral notebook tucked in your purse or an ongoing list on your phone works just fine.  By having it with you when you shop you won't have to wonder if a sales price is really a good price or not, you can check ... and when I came across that good sale, I would stock up as much as my budget would allow.

8.  I would declutter my home so I would have somewhere to put my well-stocked pantry.  You don't have to have a regular pantry room or basement (although both would be very nice), you can get creative in storing your pantry 'out of sight' all over your house.

9.  I would look at this as 'a job' that pays off in savings and security for my family.  If one is serious about building a well-stocked pantry, it is going to take effort and sometimes lots of it.

10.  I would involve the whole family.  You will be surprised how supportive and on board family members can be when they are part of the process.

11. I would barter, swap and glean every opportunity I got.

12. I would take on the heart of a student and learn everything I could from research and reading and from someone who keeps a well-stocked pantry.

Those are 12 things I would do if I were just starting out building a well-stocked pantry. 

What would you do?

patsi
She looketh well to the ways of her household … Proverbs 31:27

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37 comments:

  1. Dear Patsy,
    This a wonderful post. Every one of your tips was spot on for anyone starting out.
    Your blog is very appreciated.
    Many blessings to you,
    Glenda

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    1. Thank you Glenda for your sweet words of encouragement!

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  2. I would add that I would consider buying an extra freezer if budget allows and you don't already own one. We currently use 2 upright freezers (these are much easier to organize than a chest freezer), one is my mom's and one is ours that we brought with us when we moved in with her. Those freezers are a lifesaver for us. It allows us to preserve bulk amounts of meat, cheese and frozen veggies (all bought on sale), as well as homemade freezer meals (lasagna, turkey pot pies etc.) and homemade baked goods. Our freezers have save us a lot of money!

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    1. Just what I was going to say, a freezer has saved my family a ton of money and time. The only thing I would add is to learn how to date and rotate your products.

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  3. These are good points, Patsi! I have never been a good couponer. Most things that have coupons, we don't use. There are a few things though. I really need to get better about it as every little bit helps!

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    1. Same here Jen, but on those things that we do use, I do some serious couponing!

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  4. Awesome advice! Even adding 2 or 3 cans at a time to your pantry will yield great results. I like to get to the point of when there is a good sale, I can buy a case of that item ~ tomato sauce, peas, whatever.

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    1. Donna, that is a very good point, do what you can no matter how small! It all adds up over time!

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  5. What I found that really worked well when getting started is to look at your paycheck coming in and determine how much you have budgeted for food. Haven't got an exact amount budgeted? You're not alone, but in order to become financially stable, you must have a number that fits in your budget.

    Looking towards Paycheck #1- inventory what food you have already in the house- shelves, fridge, freezer, garden, etc. Make it a challenge/game to figure out what meals you can make out of your present inventory. These can be really simple meals- keep your goal of a well stocked pantry in sight! Write out a menu plan for however many days are in this pay period. Start filling in with your simple already in stock meals you just figured out. Next fill in more meals on your menu plan with meals you could make by adding just a few ingredients to your existing pantry items

    . Make a list of those items you need to add. Decide what things you are going to run out of during this pay period that are NEEDS- diapers, milk, whatever is a need for your family (not a "want"). Put those on your list. Jot down the cost of the things on your list and subtract it from your budget total for food. Hopefully, you still have a little left over on your $ amount.
    Check sale ads from the stores and notice the loss leaders. These are the things most often on the front page of the ad. If you still have more meals to put on your calendar, use those things on sale as much as possible.
    Any extra $ you have in your food budget should be divided on those amazing loss leaders but my suggestion would be NOT to spend all the extra on one item or category while you're getting started. Spread it out over meat/protein, vegetables/fruits, baking supplies, dairy so that you will have a diversity of categories to eat from- not just 50 lbs of sugar!! When your pantry has grown more abundant, you can spend all your excess on some pantry item that is an amazing price because you won't have to eat just that and nothing else until the next payday!
    When payday #2 comes, do the same thing again. You may have used up some of your previous pantry items, but don't worry- you are on the path to a well stocked pantry that will allow you to go without shopping until the price is at your low price point level. Sales usually rotate through quarterly.
    Hopefully, this is not too confusing! I actually have taught classes over the years using this pantry principle and have a handout that I made. If you'd like a copy of it, I can send you one.

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  6. Dear Ms. Patsy,

    Thank you so much for sharing this and answering my questions. I love #1. It is a great place for me to start. I remember one time I stocked up on something I thought I could get my family to like and it was a no go and it was a waste of money. I passed it to someone else but still I felt it was a waste. I will start with #1 this time.

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  7. Wonderful advice Patsi! My best advice for those starting out is to learn to love your pantry because it sustains us not just when we're hungry at present, but by adding each week your ensuring those future meals if money is tight and the more economical we are about stocking it now the more we are able to add and build it up.
    Vicky

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  8. Patsy, that has to be the post of the year! What a wonderful practical set of advice for someone wanting to stock a new pantry. I love every single bit, especially the ones about treating it like your job (a favourite topic of mine) and taking on the heart of a student. Really worthwhile. Thankyou. You have inspired me so much this year, and I have really appreciated your support. Love, Mimi xxx

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    1. Thank you Mimi! Your sweet words of encouragement have made my day!

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  9. That is a great list. The only thing I would add is to hang a grocery list on the pantry and train your family to add an item to the list when you are down to one or two. Once I got my pantry stocked I found it is easier to run out of things if you only buy them twice a year.Or having to pay full price...yikes! You do get used to thinking...there's more in the pantry Then I started once a month looking through my pantry and making a list of anything I am getting low on and keeping ahead of the game.I freeze homemade spaghetti sauce and one day there was a note from my older daughter "Mom, we are out of sauce." Nice, but she was married and didn't live there any more!

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    1. Gloria, that's a good tip and useful too! Our children are still our children, no matter where they live!

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  10. I learned to stock my pantry from my mother. When I went shopping with her every Wednesday, I watched as she always bought several of each item that was on a good sale, i.e. 10 tomato sauces, instead of the 1 she needed for that week. I still can't believe that they were 5/$1 or even 8/$1 back then. When chicken was on sale, she bought the 3 allowed. We always ate whatever was on sale.

    She also taught me to can and freeze a large amount of produce, and how to figure out how many of each I needed. I still use the method--simple, but effective--just figure there are 52 weeks in a year, how many jars of peaches I needed per week minus the weeks that they grow fresh, and multiply to know how many jars to can in all. She always taught me to can a few extra in case of surprises or crop failures. I've taken it beyond that to can relishes, sauces, etc. that she never did, but the planning principle holds for all foods. I don't ever remember being out of any kind of canned fruit or vegetable using that system. I also keep detailed records of how many jars I have left over at the beginning of each summer, how many we have used in the previous year, and that also helps me know how many to can or freeze that year.

    So, once you learn to stock your pantry, teach it to your kids. It's come in handy for me for years. Also, use what you preserved. Sometimes it's tempting to "save" it once you've gone to all of that work to preserve it. But, it's to use. It is such a waste of time, to me, to go to all that work and NOT use it.

    I've done a couple of experiments where I tried to plan out everything our family would use for an entire summer and buy it all in the spring. I've had some successes and failures when I did that, but I usually don't work much in the summers, and it helps to have it all stored up. I think it's a process that I want to try again.

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    1. beckyathome, those are some great tips! We definitely do not 'save' our preserved foods either, they are very much a part of our daily meal plans!

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  11. Dear Patsy,
    My number one tip is start and get going. You will be amazed at what you can accumulate by using every opportunity.
    Thanks for all your posts, support, encouragement, friendship and kindness all year.
    Every person who is better prepared as a result of following is better off, their whole family is. That is a good ministry right there.
    Have a really wonderful Christmas and I look forward to our adventures in 2016! With love Annabel.xxx

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    1. Annabel, start and get going no matter how small the first thing you do is, is the best tip! Thank you for your sweet words of encouragement and I'm looking forward to our adventures in 2016 as well.

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    2. I agree Annabel. I started with 4 bottles of ketchup I got on sale and 12 jars of jam I made. That was all I had in my pantry! I was on a really small budget, but every week I would look for one item on sale to stock up on.I started with cheaper items like canned beans. "Yard by yard life is hard, inch by inch it's a cinch."

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  12. Patsy, I agree with your post and with Annabel's admonition to "get going" right away. And wasn't it Mimi who wrote about stocking on an extreme budget and how she'd keep back a cup of flour or sugar from her regular groceries if that was all she could afford? She'd put the kept back supplies in separate containers and add to them slowly until she had her pantry better stocked. Bit by bit adds up!

    Merry Christmas and the happiest of New Years to you and your family!

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    1. Bit by bit is exactly how it has to be done at times!

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  13. Save your seeds and learn to grow your own food. Do not be dependent on the stores to fulfill your needs. Learn about herbal medicine and wild edibles. If something major happened, the stores would clear out and there would be nothing. Most food is trucked in from hundreds of miles away and if that supply chain broke down for some reason it would be catastrophic.

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    1. Excellent point Rose. We can't grow everything, but see what you can do. Grow basic veggies and preserve fruits. Have yeast and basic supplies, and bake your own bread. Another point is that we may THINK we need a certain food item, when actually it's just a luxury item. When the store shelves empty, that item will be gone too. If you have a yard, you can plant a garden. If you don't have a yard, you can grow something in a pot or perhaps join in with a community garden.

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  14. I am so glad to be able to come here and be encouraged and learn even more about how to keep my pantry! :-) Getting as much skills down as you can is a help to go along with your pantry too. From gardening and composting to crocheting to keeping chickens, using oil lamps or sewing and mending. Anything we are used to doing and have practiced is money in the bank. Have a back up plan and a back up plan for your back up plan.
    I had three basic stores I always checked their ads carefully. Then I again looked at the others that came in the mail. Why there was a store there that had a sale on tomato sauce that I haven't not seen the likes of for a couple years! Now I check them all out and if I will be in that area I stop in and take advantage of maybe the one thing..like that sauce..they have on a special special! Have a Merry CHRISTmas everyone! Sarah

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    1. Sarah, you've shared some really good tips! Thank you!

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  15. One thing to add to your pantry is light. We keep those battery operated lights sometimes advertised for use under top kitchen counters. We keep them inside cupboard doors or on shelfs. Ours are LED. Some have one light others a bar of lights. Some have magnetized backs. You just swipe you hand over it to turn it off or on and it lets enough light on to see what is on the shelf. We also use it on the shelf that has the over the counter medical supplies. If the power goes out or it is night and you don't want to put a big electric light on these are great. Most are portable if you need to take them with you someplace else. Like a flashlight of sorts. Dollar stores even has them. That and also having disposable silverware, cups and plates like I told Annabel ages ago are something I had not thought about at first. No wash water is needed with disposables if it gets to that point. :) Sarah

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    1. Sarah, having back-up lighting is very much a part of my pantry!

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  16. Such a timely reminder! So glad that Hurricane Irma didn't impact you too badly - it is just horrifying to see what those Caribbean Islands and Florida are going through right now.
    But have to say that I'm a little shocked at how ill-prepared some folks were - especially with all the warning time. Many of those interviewed talk about having little food or water - and yet these are people who chose to stay in places like the The Keys and they seem to be folk who did have money to do a bit more planning ahead. Please understand, I'm not talking about people who had little to start with and were financially unable to do much stocking up - and certainly not those in places like Barbuda - but - our Govt. here in Canada & that in the US tells us time and time again to have a minimum of 72 hours supply on hand - and I honestly don't think I'd be happy with less than 2 weeks worth (I actually have more). We really do need to be much more pro-active about planning ahead to look after ourselves and our families if it is possible - not only to make our lives more comfortable but so that Government resources can be put towards those in truly dire straits.

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    1. Margie from Toronto ... yes! yes! yes! to everything you said! Well said!

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