Monday, June 3, 2013

Keeping a full pantry for a large family on a budget

I used to be a big weekly menu planner. I spent hours scanning the adds, making list, and scouring recipes. It was time consuming and locked me into set meals on set days. I no longer do that, instead I build up my pantry and fill up my freezer. Then I make a list of meals I have the ingredients for the month. This is much easier now that we are not eating as many processed foods but it could be done by anyone.

I started by paying attention to the types of food I bought regularly and the meals my family enjoyed most. Then I would keep track of how much we eat of a particular food in a month. For instance, I make all of our bread, biscuits, pancakes, tortillas and the like from scratch, we are a family of 9 so I go through approximately 35 lbs. of flour a month. We eat a lot of Mexican food so we go through approximately 13 lbs of beans a month. When my pantry and freezer are full of the staples I can make meals according to my energy level and needs for each day.  This also allows me to do one major shopping trip a month and saves me a ton of money because there is no impulse buying. If we run out of something before my next shopping trip WE DON'T EAT IT! That is the biggest money saver. If we run out of sugar we use honey or brown sugar. No flour means no baked goods.  This rarely happens anymore, but it does happen. I can decide to whip up a cake or cinnamon rolls and I know I more than likely have the ingredients on hand. I no longer shop for our weekly needs or even our monthly needs, I shop to refill my pantry and freezer staples. Any produce that is on sale for cheap I can, turn into jam, or freeze.

The best way I have found to do this is to check the adds. When something your family eats regularly goes on sale buy a lot of it. For instance when pasta went on sale recently for .49 I bought 40 or so packages. I will not be buying pasta again until it hits a rock bottom price and then a will restock. Also buying in bulk. My flour, beans, rice, sugar, oats etc. are all purchased in bulk and stored in food grade buckets with gamma lids like these

Here is a sample of my freezer and pantry staples.

 This list does not include everything in my pantry and freezer. I have 4 or 5 gallon sized bags each of green chilies, assorted bell peppers, and tomatoes in my freezer right now because of a trip to Market on the Move which is a local program to reduce food waste. I have a large bag of Jalapenos on my counter waiting to be pickled. Along with many jars of canned beans, jellies, jams, and tomato products. I also have many jars of dehydrated fruits and vegetables. Once you learn to think beyond next weeks meals and your menu and start thinking about food storage and extended pantry items, you start to look for opportunities to add to your staples. You start thinking about what's in season, what can I freeze, what can I can, what can I dehydrate, how can I put what I have to good use? Sugar was on sale last time I went shopping and because I wasn't trying to buy according to a menu and I had staple items at home already I was able to take advantage of that sale and stock up on sugar. That is something I won't need to buy for many months if not a year freeing up money to put towards another item that might be on sale.

Now onto my my list:

  • All Purpose flour
  • Whole Wheat Flour
  • Baking Powder
  • Baking Soda
  • Corn starch
  • Brown sugar
  • Powdered Sugar
  • Pumpkin spice
  • Cinnamon
  • sage
  • Sugar
  • Honey
  • Coconut
  • Powdered milk
  • Olive oil
  • Italian seasoning
  • Chili powder
  • New Mexican chili powder
  • Chili flakes
  • Oregano
  • Cumin
  • Garlic powder
  • Dehydrated onion flakes
  • Basil
  • Bay leaves
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Achote
  • Popcorn
  • Oatmeal
  • Bran
  • Flax seed
  • Chocolate chips
  • Dried cranberries
  • Peanut butter
  • Butter
  • Eggs
  • Raisins
  • Prunes
  • Frozen blueberries
  • Frozen straw berries
  • Frozen mixed veggies
  • Milk
  • Coffee
  • Tea bags
  • White rice
  • Brown rice
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Tomato paste
  • Tomato sauce
  • Assorted pasta
  • Italian sausage
  • Whole chickens
  • Frozen green beans
  • Frozen broccoli
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • In season fruits and vegetables
  • Assorted nuts
  • Sour cream
  • Mustard
  • Ketchup
  • Mayonnaise
  • Cocoa powder
  • Clear gelatin
  • pectin
  • lemon juice