Friday, May 18, 2012

Living out of my Pantry: some final questions

The TOS Homeschool Crew is doing a 5 Days of... Blog Hop, and I decided I would use this to push me into posting about some things I've meant to for awhile.

I will -- one way or another -- be posting every day this week on the topic of 5 Days of Living out of my Pantry

This is the post where I attempt to wrap things up a bit.  But I'm feeling way too random and I totally lost my focus.

How do I afford to do this?

Well, this isn't a one-shot thing.  For me, anyway, a good pantry is built up over time.  In general, I try to be replacing what I'm using as part of my weekly grocery shopping.

And I try to allocate a percent or two of my weekly grocery budget to building the pantry.  When I'm in a $35/week grocery budget cycle, it's tough... but I can still get a pound of beans or a single can of tuna, above and beyond what I plan to serve that week.  When I'm spending $100 per week, that means I try to put $5-10 a month into my pantry.

I also try to hit Sam's Club every couple of months and purchase something there... a 25# bag of flour, popcorn, or rice, or one of those ginormous packages of yeast.

I allocate roughly $50 every other week to Bountiful Baskets.  That lets me get two baskets (which is all the produce I usually purchase for my family) and an "extra" or two.  When it is tomatoes, I get a bunch canned.  I've also canned peaches, frozen apple slices, and frozen mangoes from those extras.  I sometimes can manage to preserve something out of the baskets too.

When neighbors are desperately trying to get rid of zucchini, I'll shred and freeze a whole lot of that.  When we can get over-ripe melons for nothing (or next to it) from the farmers down in La Junta, I chop and freeze those too.

I purchase mark-down meat, and come home and do a mini freezer cooking session.  A crew-mate posted a bunch about that topic in 5 Days of Freezer Cooking.

Where do I put all of this?

Well, that is tricky.  We don't have a ton of storage available in our kitchen.  I do have food stored on the tops of my cupboards in the kitchen.  We have food stored in boxes under our bed.

We have a good sized chest freezer in our living room.

Organization is not my gifting.  One of my crew-mates posted about organizing your pantry earlier this week though, as part of her 5 Days of Home Organization.

But, but, but...

Your situation is undoubtedly totally different than mine.  My military friends can't build up a huge pantry when they have to worry about moving every three years.  They can still get to a point where (except when they are about to leave) they could feed their families for a month or two, but planning for longer just isn't realistic.

That's fine.

You have to do what works for you.  I truly believe that EVERYONE should be prepared to eat well for a week though.

What do I cook?

Ethnic cookbooks can be great.  I have a lot of Polish cookbooks, and those are fabulous for using some pretty inexpensive ingredients.  There are lots of great ideas online.  That's where I find most of mine, actually.

Cooking here often involves me looking and thinking, "I have a bazillion great northern beans.  And we got broccoli in our basket this week." Then I google "white beans and broccoli recipes" and end up with hits like Emeril's Noodles with Broccoli and White Beans.  It calls for canned beans, but I'll substitute.

Or if I get stuck, I post on Facebook.  A plea like, "Help this northern girl figure out how to cook edible grits!" for instance, and I had a bunch of great recommendations.  And I made grits that were not merely edible (which in itself would have been a huge improvement) but people went back for seconds...  and it was requested that I make it again.

What about you?  Thoughts?  Questions?  Looking forward to chatting about living out of your pantry...

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Cristi said...

How did I know it would all come down to grits? :)

Mollie said...

I have no space for pantry unit so I bought just recently a pull out pantry unit for my kitchen cabinet. It helps a lot organize my groceries.