Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Reworking the Pantry

The past couple of days, I have been slowly reworking our pantry.
Reorganizing wasn't enough. It needed a complete do over. So, that has
been my pet project. I began with being brutal. Too much was being
stored in that pantry area. Much of the excess was stuff that had no
need to be stored in the pantry at all.

The first task was cleaning out an alcove type area. This was where a
chest freezer had once been set up. For some reason, that alcove has
always been turned into a catch-all. I finally got it completely
cleared out today. In that area, I am placing 2 small metal shelving
units that we had been using in the main area of the pantry. These will
fit well in that alcove with room for buckets to be stacked on one
side. Directly across from the alcove are 2 bookcases. These are in
the entrance to our pantry area. My eldest daughter & her family are
living with us at this time. They eat completely different types of
foods than we do. The metal shelves and these bookcases will become
their pantry.

In the main pantry area, I am setting up 2 heavy duty shelving units.
These are rated to hold 200 lbs per shelf. My flats of canned goods
will easily be stored on these shelves. There is already a large metal
shelving unit similar to one you may see in a shop that is used for some
of my home canned goods. Once I am able to replace it with better
shelving, that will be used in a storage shed or other area.

I was really surprised to find that you can buy metal shelving at Kmart
that is rated at 250 lbs per shelf. I bought one of these to use for
the homeschooling supplies. I bought it mainly for holding the totes
and curriculum that the kids are currently using. The shelves are a
wire shelving. Overall, I love the unit. I am planning to buy more of
them to add to the pantry and other areas.

Currently, the way I have my pantry planned is to have one area for
store bought canned goods. Flats of canned vegetables, #10 cans of
tomato sauce, and other items will be kept in one shelving unit. A
heavy duty shelving unit will contain the buckets and gallon jars of
items like sugar, rice, flour, and other grains. One or 2 shelving
units will contain the home canned foods. These will be divided into
sections: meats, vegetables, fruits, and a special section for home
canned meals for my beloved to take on the truck. My goal is to keep a
ready supply of home canned meals so that he can "shop" in the pantry
for the meals he wants to take with him each week. A lighter weight
shelving unit will be stocked with paper goods, toiletries, etc.

When stocking up the pantry, I always looks for sales or great deals.
One of my favorite stores in our area is Wholesale Market. I am able to
buy the cans of vegetables for a low cost. I usually will pay about $60
for 12 flats (a dozen cans) of the various vegetables. This is cheaper
than even Walmart!

Dollar Tree is another favorite store that I go to. For those
unfamiliar, Dollar Tree is a chain of stores that sells everything for
$1 each. At Dollar Tree, I buy the clear shoe boxes with lids or
baskets to store my pantry items in. A fast way to stock up is to buy a
basket or container and fill it with a basic toiletry item. One example
would be toothpaste. Get a basket or clear shoebox with lid and fill it
with about 12 tubes of toothpaste. For $13 you have just bought about a
year's supply of toothpaste and a container to store it in. Next time
you go to the Dollar Tree, pick another basic toiletry item and do the
same thing. In no time at all, you will have stocked up a year's supply
of toiletries in your pantry. At the dollar store, I buy beloved's
small foil bread pans that his cooker uses for making his dinners on the
truck. I buy a 3-pack of pans for $1 each. For about $20, I am able to
buy enough pans to give him 2 cooked meals a day. I strongly suggest
that if you decide to buy a bulk, make sure you get a container to store
it in also. This will save a lot of frustration later on.

The herbs and spices that I cook with are far cheaper at a health food
store than a regular grocery store. Of course growing your own is the
best, but there are many herbs and spices that we cannot grow. Check
for a Whole Foods or other larger health food store that has bulk food
bins and bulk spices. A good example of the savings is that I buy Sea
Salt from a bulk bin for about 65 cents per pound. This is a great
price for our area. Another example from the spices & herbs would be
parsley which I can buy in a small sized deli container for about 33
cents. Don't let the $12 per pound scare you from buying dried leafy
herbs. A pound of those dried herbs is a large bag's worth. The amount
that you would typically buy is far less than that.

One very important aspect of the pantry is that I am going to write up
and maintain an inventory of what I have stored. Food and non-food
items will be recorded and kept track of. This will go far in helping
me to keep the pantry built up as it should be. It is also going to
allow me to see at a glance where I need to focus more. I will be able
to better plan my shopping trips. If I know that I will be near a
Dollar Tree, I can check the inventory and see what I can stock up on
while there.

If you have never planned an inventory for your pantry, start off the
easy way. Save all of your shopping receipts for a month. Today, most
stores provide an itemized receipt that lists each item purchased. Use
these to write up a listing of what you purchase in a month's time.
Track how many of each item that you needed. This will give you a
baseline to start with. Separate the items into categories to make them
easier. Picture a grocery store in your mind. Write up your inventory
the same way the store's isles similarly. Group dairy together, grains,
baking supplies, vegetables, fresh produce, etc.

Once you have the basics written down, write the amount of each item you
purchased in a month's time. You can then multiply it by the number of
months you want to stock up for. In example, if you purchase a 24-roll
pack of toilet paper that lasts 1 month, you would need 6 of those
24-roll packs for a 6 month supply. This goes for anything from food
items to toiletries. Be sure to consider diapers, sanitary supplies,
and any other special items.

It all takes time to get set up. I won't deny that. But in the end,
the effort is very worth the time spent. In the past, there have been
the odd times when I think that my pantry is very well supplied, only to
find that I am lacking an important item at a most inopportune time.
For the homesteading family or those wanting to live a rural lifestyle,
being well stocked is essential. One classic reason for a well stocked
pantry - our old car. Our car was a 1994 model. It had been through 3
owners before us. We were blessed to be given the car at a time when we
needed it. Well, last Christmas Eve, the timing belt pulley gave out.
We had to save up the money to get it taken to a shop and be fixed at a
cost of just over $400.00 total. Exactly a week later, while out with
Little Miss and my grandson, the driver's side front wheel broke. I
felt the steering get loose while on a railroad track and accelerated to
get the car off the tracks. Just as I got the car over the tracks, the
wheel broke. When the car stopped, I checked and the wheel was facing
sideways while the car was facing forward. There was also a bad oil
leak from the oil pan possibly being damaged when the wheel broke. This
has left us without a vehicle for over a month now. Once our tax refund
arrives, we will be buying another (newer) used vehicle. Now, here is
the question. If something like this happened to your family, would you
have a pantry stocked well enough to get through? We have been very
blessed. The pantry basics were well stocked. I have made a couple of
trips to a nearby town to refill the propane tanks. A neighbor drove me
in town and while there, we stopped to buy a few groceries. Each time,
the amount of groceries purchased was minimal and mainly items that are
perishable. It was mostly a shopping trip to add to our supplies in
case I didn't get to town again for a while.

This experience, though it was much easier to manage than it could have
been, has taught me a few things. I am now stocked on flax seed meal.
Mixing 1 Tablespoon of flax seed meal to 3 Tablespoons of water and
letting it set for a few minutes gives you a substitute for 1 egg in a
recipe. It is also very healthy for you! I am also stocked on powdered
milk for emergencies. After we get the new-to-us vehicle, I will be
contacting the health food store and placing an order for cases of
almond milk. We are able to buy it at a very good price in those
cartons that can be stored on a pantry shelf without refrigeration. The
cost is slightly higher per gallon than the gallon jugs of cow's milk
that requires refrigeration.

There are several areas where I can see a need for improvement. My
supplies were based on a family of four. With my eldest daughter's
family here, that number has doubled. Unfortunately, the pantry
supplies were not doubled before the car troubles came about. That is
another lesson learned. My supplies were used in half the time I had
planned for. Now, I am basing even the non-food items on the household
of eight instead of our family of four. It was a great learning
experience. This little hiccup in life gave me the opportunity to see
where I need to plan better or more efficiently. Reworking the pantry
to fit our family household better is going to be a huge benefit for us all.


Greg and Donna said...

Great post! I started doing this yesterday with the spices, another cabinet and a shelving unit. My husband was impressed with the progress and organization and has requested the outside utility pantry be next ~ but thats a job for another day.

Rita Mosquita said...

If you live close to an LDS Bishop's Storehouse, you can (even as a non-LDS) purchase bulk food at one of the best prices of food available.My local one allows non-members. I called in advance to check it out. I understand that a couple do not allow non members. You can purchase bags of food (25#,give or take, depending upon the item. You can use their equipment and can there also.
Currently, 25# of regular oatmeal is $15.35.

debbieo said...

I too found how much cheaper it is to buy bulk spices. I bought some thyme the fist time and I got as much as was in the bottle for only eighty eight cents. I am going back Saturday and will be looking for oatmeal.
Our old car pooped out too and we have been saving for another new to us one too.
I know where you are coming from. I too stock up for times like this.

Anonymous said...

thank you for the tip on the egg substitute, I am going to give it a try. We are short on money and I would love to do some baking but can't afford to buy the eggs and I happen to have 1/2 gallon of flax seed that I could grind as needed.