As I said in an earlier post, I have gone through boxes of cookbooks and kept only those recipes that I was sure my family would like. I have been burned by too much experimenting in the past, so I decided to stick with what I know adding only a few new things. I've never had an overflowing pantry, but with food prices and gas prices (making fewer trips to the store) I wanted a well stocked pantry with plenty of food choices, but not so well stocked that I would be throwing things out.
As I mentioned last time, pantry basics are going to be different for every family. I took a two step approach to filling my pantry with our own version of the basics.
First, by using store sales ads and coupons, I stocked up on the things that were basically non-perishable that I knew my family would eat. My favorite pasta and pasta sauce, some rice and noodle sides, canned soups not only to eat but to cook with, canned vegetables and fruit, cereal, sauces, condiments, etc. The key here is not to go crazy just because something is on sale and you have a coupon for it! Only buy something that you know will get eaten.... otherwise you didn't save anything. If it is a really good deal, buy multiples. I have a few recipes that call for the 14oz jar of spaghetti sauce. My favorite brand NEVER puts that size on sale. But I actually found it at The Dollar General for $1.00 a jar. I bought 10. We are already down to 6.
Now you should try what I like to call "Once a Month Shopping". Sometimes it ends up lasting longer than that though. Pick 20 recipes, maybe some new ones maybe your favorites. Now make a list of any ingredient you don't already have in your pantry, frig or freezer. Remember to mark down more than one if you have multiple recipes that call for the same thing. For example, the last time I did this, I needed 9 packages of mozzarella. That may seem like an extreme purchase, but stay with me. Now do the same as you did before, using your store ads and coupons to get all of these items. I ended up going to the three major store chains where I live, a couple of drug stores, Dollar General, then ended up at Wal-Mart for everything else.
Why get 9 packages of cheese, when you could just go get more later? Remember, our goal is to save money and that includes gas for a shopping trip. Plus we're saving time. I got enough cheese for 20 recipes....about a month's worth of dinner's when you throw in leftovers. As long as the cheese won't expire before then, I got it on sale, with a coupon, and all in one trip in one day. PLUS, I now have a list of 20 recipes I can choose from. If I originally decide to have lasagna one day, but time gets away from me or something unexpected happens and I need to make something faster, or simply no one is in the mood for lasagna that day, I already have the ingredients to make something else.
Keeping it Stocked
Now that you have your pantry cleaned out, organized and filled with the things you know you will use, you need to keep it that way. Always rotate stock when putting new groceries in. Put the newer stuff behind the older. Once every 6 months or so, take everything out and clean shelves. Also make sure nothing got knocked over or completely overlooked.
ALSO, keep a magnetized notepad on the frig. As soon as you use ingredients in a recipe, write it down on this list. Then as soon as the next sale and or coupon comes along you can replace that item and be ready to make that recipe again on short notice. This way you will always have a nice well stocked pantry with many recipes ready to go, also saving you money on those last minute "I guess we'll just have to eat out" trips.
Since doing this, my family has only eaten out twice in the last 6-8 weeks, and that was because we wanted to, not out of frustration. It has saved us a lot of money, not only in food costs, but in gas, and we have eaten more healthy food.
Let me know if you have any questions about the pantry.
Until Next Time.....