Friday, January 9, 2009

The Frugal Pantry

Gunter's Confectionery - Chicago 1920s

A well stocked pantry (there’s an “r” in there guys. Do not confuse this with a well stocked panty. That’s a totally different thing that I will not ever be discussing) will provide a ton of meal options without a whole lot of work and do it cheaply.

I like to do what I call “eat out of my pantry”. (again look for the "R". cue snickering) I define this as only making recipes that I have ingredients in the pantry. This does not mean that I won’t make recipes just because I don’t have every single item in the pantry. I’ve been known (read always) to get creative. When I post a recipe I’ll try to include substitutions that will work. Then you’ll have lots of options available to you.

I don’t suggest running out to purchase tons of stuff in order to stock your pantry. Build up slowly. (Why does this post seem to lend itself to sexual humor? I will so NOT go there) As things go on sale buy as many as you can afford. Just remember that sales are run on cycles. Most staple items go on sale every 6 to 8 weeks. So buy enough to go 10 or 12 weeks and you’ll never have to make that emergency grocery store run. It’s those emergency runs that will kill your food budget.

WallWalla, Washington 1920s

Here is a sample of my pantry (that’s with a "R" again):

Canned Beans = I keep several different types. I pay no more than 50 cents a can and I buy about 20 cans at a time.

Canned Veggies = corn, beets & green beans only because I can’t stand any other type of vegetable that is canned. I pay .50 cents a can or less on these 3 items and buy 10 to 15 cans at a time.

Canned Tomatoes = yeah, yeah these could be a veggie or a fruit if you want to be literal. I buy and use so many cans of tomatoes I gave them their own category (librarian here! We need to categorize). I buy a variety of canned tomatoes such as diced, diced with onions & peppers, stewed, whole, sauce, you name it. I pay .50 cents or less per can and buy 20 cans at a time (I scored, hee hee, last night on tomato sauce for .15cent a can).

Flour = I bake most of all my own breads, cookies, cakes, etc so keeping a good supply of flour on hand is a must. This goes on sale about twice a year; once around Thanksgiving and again in the summer. FYI, you have to store flour carefully to keep the bugs out. If you have a big enough freezer you can place each bag in a zip top bag then stack in the freezer. I don’t have a big freezer yet. I still place each bag in a zip top bag then stack in a cool dark place. For me that is my hall linen closet. You have to get creative when it comes to storage when you buy in bulk. When it went on sale this fall I bought 10 – 5 pound bags. That should last me till the middle of the summer. Each 5 pound bag was .99 cents.

Sugar = It’s the baking thing. I purchased 6 – 4 pound bags for .99 cents each. It has the same sale cycle as flour.

Powdered milk = baking, making cream soups, and casseroles. I buy in the bulk bin.

Canned fruit = I keep cranberry sauce; bought on sale during the holidays. I buy enough for a year. (JR loves it with any chicken dish and I use it to bake with). Peaches and pears; I mostly bake with the canned stuff.

Pasta = I keep a variety of pasta shapes purchased for $1.00 per pound or less. (I got a pasta maker for Christmas. We'll be cranking out some soon.)

Rice = Brown, white, Arborio, & wild rice. I buy it either at Costco or in the bulk bin. I usually buy about 3 months worth at a time.

Oranges - California1920s

These are just the staples. If something goes on sale like cake mixes I buy 5 or 6 boxes. (Besides cakes you can make cookies, scones and biscuits out of cake mix. I'll pass this recipe on soon if you want.) Breadcrumbs, nuts, pasta sauce, mayonnaise, oatmeal, Mac & Cheese, crackers, etc these are some other things I buy on sale.



p.s. Taking the "R" out of the word pantry would have made this post much funnier! Go ahead. Try it! I wait...... Wasn't that funny?


  1. In his "The Minimalist" column in the NYTimes, Mark Bittman addressed "the pantry" (ahem) just the other day:


  2. I do the same thing! I also make my own breadcrumbs from stale bread and freeze them for future use. I do anything to stretch thing out and save, save, save!

  3. Ellie: He writes so much better than I do. Maybe, that's why he gets paid for it. Somethings I agree with others not.

    CCG: I do the stale breadcrumb thing also. Nothing beats a whole stocked pantry or freezer for cheap & easy eats.

  4. As a sahm with three kids and one income, my pantry thanks you!

  5. Wow.

    You made me laugh while reading about grocery shopping. I love it.

    I am also a big fan of stocking up when things go on sale.

  6. Sammanthia: Anytime!

    K: This can be a very boring subject anyway that I can make it interesting helps.

  7. I want into a pantry and see cans and that's it. I can't get past "oh, look at all those cans" part to the part where you say, "I think I'll make (fill in recipe) tonight.

  8. Bernthis: Sometimes I look into my well-stocked pantry and say, "There is nothing in here to make". What I really mean is,"There is nothing in here that doesn't look like a pain in the ass to make".

    Capt: I thought you'd like that.

  9. You are SUCH an inspiration.


  10. Thanks!! Since I just bought my place, I'm still figuring out what I need for my pantry. Great ideas!!!

  11. Hah, I'm still snickering from the panties remark. Have you seen this site: You can type in the ingredients you have and it will give you suggestions for what to make. Thanks for the pantry tip. You know your shopping... I have NO idea what sales are when or why.

  12. Linda: Thanks, I try.

    DeeMarie: I find that spices are the most expensive part. Get the basics to start then add.

    Casey: You can do this with Google also.

  13. Whew! I follow your path to a t. Being we live in a rural area I have a well stocked pantry. Or else I would be running 15 -45 miles everytime I needed something.

  14. I will definitely get creative and it makes my meat and potatoes husband nuts. He hates it.

  15. From pantry to WallaWalla, I am snickering excessively!
    I am throwing down the guantlet, Michele! Take a picture of your pantry! I wanna see what's going on in there!

  16. I am getting the bug to clean out my pantry (yes there is an "R" in there) and this will give me a good list for restocking. Thanks!