The Well-Stocked Pantry: What It Means, Why You Should Care and How to Do It
Modern Housewife Meets the Traditional Pantry
As food prices both in the grocery stores and in restaurants climb higher and higher, many moms are finding themselves struggling to feed their families on budgets that seem to be getting tighter and tighter. I know, I'm right there with you! Homework, soccer, scouts--the list goes on and on. We're busy. We're tired. And, we're trying to feed our family on budgets that seem to be shrinking as prices continually go up.
So, how do we avoid the inevitable, "I don't have anything to make for dinner?" How can we get our grocery budgets down? Maybe it's time to go back to the traditional pantry.
Did you know that research says that most Americans only have about three days to one week worth of food in their homes? What?!? Forget about emergencies, what about the last minute pot luck invite? I don't have time to run out to the store every other day for things I suddenly realized I need. But, we didn't always live like this.
You see, back in the day, when women still called themselves "housewives," they were meticulous about keeping their pantries stocked with food, spices and canned goods to keep there families fed. I mean, they had to feed their peeps three meals a day, seven days a week and convenience foods weren't exactly overabundant.
They kept price books, bought in bulk and rotated their stores. They meant business. Of course, today, we can run through the drive through lane for a quick meal on the go, or run out for pizza when we don't want to cook. But, if we're trying to tighten up the budget, eat healthier or just avoid those extra trips to the store--ain't nobody got time for that--we could learn a thing or two from our "foremothers."
It's Frugal and Frugal=More Money for Fun!
By keeping your pantry stocked you can buy items only when they are on-sale or even better when they are on-sale and you have coupon. You can try out new recipes on a whim, knowing you probably have all the ingredients already on-hand, and if you are missing an ingredient, you probably have a handy substitute. Best of all, if money is really tight, you can go without groceries for a week or two--depending on the scope of your inventory--knowing that you can get by with what you already have in the house.
It Makes Cooking Fun Again--or at Least Tolerable
In my pantry, I have everything I need for baking, canning, freezing meats, and making delicious, frugal, and healthy meals for my family. I can handle last- minute menu changes, make quick and simple meals, or intricate fares that delight our senses. We've been invited to a pitch-in tomorrow? I'm sure I can whip something up. You need cookies for tonight? No Problem! Couldn't get to the grocery store this week, I know we can make do.
I have worked hard to create a well-stocked pantry and that pantry works hard for me!
Stocking Your Pantry
The first step in stocking your pantry is to find out what you have in it. Spend one afternoon taking a full inventory of everything you currently have in your pantry, freezer and cupboards, making sure you note quantities. This includes meats, vegetables, baking supplies, condiments etc. If you have it in your kitchen already, then it is something you will need to buy again.
The second step is to identify any items that your know you need but don't currently have in-stock. Make a list of meals that your family eats on a weekly or biweekly basis. Add those ingredients to your pantry list. Think about meals—don’t forget desserts—that you would like to cook your family. Add those ingredients to your list. You will be well on your way to stocking your pantry.
Add to your pantry a little at a time. Plan out your weekly meals for a few months, striving to add one new recipe each week or so. That way you wont blow your budget or buy items and then forget about them before you ever get around to using it. Are there anything processed food items that you would like you make yourself? Perhaps you could buy potatoes to make mashed potatoes, and french fries or purchase plain rice and make your own rice dishes. Make on swap at a time and before long you wont only be feeding your family for less, but you'll serving them much healthier foods.
It may take several months to create a fully-stocked pantry, but with some patience and dedication, you will end up with a pantry that allows you to flex those creative cooking muscles and feed your family well. .
Keep these basic pantry items in stock and you'll be able to make almost anything at a moment's notice!
- chicken/beef/vegetable stock
- stick butter
- lemon juice
- tomato paste
- condensed or powdered milk
- assorted frozen fruits and vegetables (I never buy canned for my family. Fresh, frozen or home-canned only!)
- I always keep plenty of meat frozen in the deep freezer
- all-purpose flour
- corn flour
- baking mix
- brown sugar
- powdered sugar
- vegetable/canola oil
- olive oil
- powdered baker's chocolate
- Spices: a standard 12-18 spice rack should do the trick
- baking powder
- baking soda
- rice (both brown and white)
A Tip About Spices
Did you know spices are only good for a couple years at most? Overtime they lose their flavor or harden from moisture. Years ago, I stopped buying spices in containers from the store. Except for a handful that I use regularly, I can't even use them up before they expire. Instead, I buy spices from crunchy stores like Earthfare or Fresh Thyme, where I can chose the quantity I want from a tablespoon to 4 ounces or more. You scoop them into little bags at the store, but I pour them in little jars that I keep in my cabinet when I get home.
The uniform glass jars are pretty and make me smile every time I pull them out, and I can buy just enough for what I can use within three to six months, so my spices are always fresh.
I love this spice jar set. It makes the whole process super convenient.
Keeping Your Pantry Stocked
Once you've stocked your panty, keeping it up should be the easy part, but if you're not careful, you'll end up right back where you were--an empty pantry and short on funds to replenish.
The key is to continually restock your goods so you always have what you need on hand. Your budget will hardly notice, I promise!
Keep a notepad on your fridge and jot down what you've run out of. Opening that last jar of ketchup? Time to buy more. Down to one or two pounds of ground beef? Add it to the list and start watching for sales. Low on spices? Time to make a trip to the specialty store for bulk spices.
Hopefully I've inspired you to take a look at your pantry and stock that baby up with your favorite foods. What are your pantry must haves? Let me know in the comments below.