Keeping a Pantry

The First Thing I Do That Makes Meal Management Easier

I would like to tell you that I go grocery shopping every week, but I don’t.  It’s not that I don’t want to.  The weekly marketing used to be a pleasant part of our routine, and maybe it should be again!  But I don’t always have the time I want to manage that.  I plan to go monthly, and sometimes I even miss that mark!  But, ever hopeful, I make a monthly menu plan, and I try to get everything I need to make those meals.  Then I only have to resupply the perishables at my most local store or, really, almost any store I end up near on some other outing.

To help smooth out those odd weeks, though, when I don’t make it out as scheduled, I like to have a well-stocked pantry.  The End Of The World preppers suggest having a six to twelve month supply of food on hand, but where would I keep that much stuff for eleven people?  I figure a three month buffer would be adequate for whatever everyday sorts of emergencies we might encounter, be it bad weather, sick kids, or a government shutdown.

I think I have finally achieved that goal!  Some things are too bulky to keep too much of, like flour or fruit juice, so there’s less of that, and I like to keep more coffee in stock, because that is one thing I NEVER want to run out of, but, generally, I’ve got a solid three month supply of the basic things I use all the time.

What this means at the shopping level is that all I need to do is step into my pantry and do a quick inventory of the things I’ve used since my last shopping trip, and just replace those.  I keep everything in easy-to-rotate cardboard trays from the store.  And if there should be a delay in getting to the store, I still have a significant amount of food to work with.  It isn’t urgent that I resupply.

Three shelves along one wall store most of our supply of nonperishable food. Spices are sorted into a bag designed for shoes.

Ideally, you could build this up over time – it’s certainly possible if you have a plan and stick to it – but that didn’t work well for me.  I’d stock up on something this month, only to let the supply dwindle in subsequent months as I stocked up on something else, and obviously, this doesn’t work if you don’t maintain what you’ve already built up!  So I’ve been working on this for about three months now, and I have a good basis to work from going forward.

A well-stocked pantry is a wonderful blessing in my job as home manager.  It gives me flexibility if I need to deviate from a plan I made a month in advance of the life we’d actually end up living, and it gives me the flexibility to not go to the store if something else has to be dealt with.  And if I want to try that great recipe somebody else posted to their blog or facebook?  I probably can.

Your pantry won’t look like my pantry.  I buy honey by the gallon and grains and sugar in fifty pound bags, because we’re a large family and eat accordingly.  I keep things I can use to make other things, so I have tomato sauce, but not enchilada sauce or pizza sauce.  We never run out of Hershey’s Syrup.  My culinary preference is Italian, so I have capers, sun-dried tomatoes and oregano, but we don’t care for spicy foods, so I keep only small amounts of canned chilis, cumin, and salsa.  I do keep a significant amount of chocolate chips on hand, because you never know when you’re going to need an emergency chocolate chip cookie, and when I want mustard, I want a really good mustard.

Your pantry should and will reflect your own family’s tastes and preferences.  What do you find yourself making over and over again?  What sorts of ingredients do you lean toward?  What are your go-to easy meals when the day has been a little too long?  Stock those things.

I use buckets with gamma lids for bulk storage, and I also have an upright freezer in here. I’d rather have this in the kitchen, though, along with just-a-fridge. They make those, I think.

Maybe you don’t have a dedicated pantry space?  I know I don’t!  And I never have.  My first pantry was a shelf in my laundry room.  My second was an upstairs hallway linen closet; I kept the linens in the rooms they were used in instead.  My third was a couple of shelves in the garage.  And here, I have shelves in our back door entry space.  You can use the tops of your cupboards, the weird space under the stairs, under the children’s beds, and I’ve even seen somebody use a dresser adapted for can storage and tucked behind a sofa!  Get creative; I’ve lived in some pretty tiny places, and I can tell you that if you want a pantry space, you can absolutely figure out how to have one.

Pantries also save money!  You can stock up when things are on sale, then coast along till it goes on sale again.  Whatever small space you can set aside for food storage will always be worth your while.



4 Comment

  1. I would LOVE to see one of your monthly meal plans if that is something you would share. I think that it would help to save so much money on groceries. I tend to shop sporadically…with little trips for bread and milk. That would be ok if I only picked up bread and milk. That never happens. A $5 trip ends up being $30 or $40! I love how you have your spices stored! What a great idea. Mine are falling out of the cabinet. Thanks for sharing your tips.

    1. I’ll see what I can do about the monthly meal planning, Amy!

  2. Yes, I like the spice storage too – we keep ours in a cardboard box that’s easy to pull out of the cupboard but yours are visible which is certainly a plus.

    This doesn’t relate to the post … but I was wondering how the Speed Queen is doing for you. Does it allow you to manually select the water levels – rather than “sensing” how heavy your load is and giving you what the regulatory agencies deem is an adequate amount of water? A lot of people may not notice that their washers aren’t using enough water to actually clean their clothes since their clothes weren’t particularly dirty to start with, but those of us with farms and lots of people in dirty jeans definitely do. We call our current washer “the dirt-redistribution machine”.

    1. Ha! Yes, the modern machines are just dirt redistributors. The Speed Queen is really no-frills. You set your own water level; it doesn’t have any sensing features. The lid locks when you turn it on, but there’s an easy fix for that involving a clothespin at the rear of the machine. Google that one; I don’t remember the details, only that it works. 🙂 It’s fanciest feature is an automatic brake, so as soon as the spin is over, it comes to a speedy halt. I love mine!

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