February 11, 2014

Grocery Planning: The Pantry

Can you tell by my pictures that I am desperate for spring? There is absolutely nothing to take pictures of around here.

In this post I want to go over planning the pantry (and by "pantry" I mean pantry, freezer, under the bed, whatever). I mentioned before that I listened to an episode of the Busy Mom's Survival Guide  in which she (Pj is her name) explained the way she did her pantry and menus and such. I liked the way she explained it, so I've kind of combined some of those ideas with my own system.

The first step, which I've already done awhile ago but wanted to mention for those who are starting this from the beginning, is to write down all of your typical pantry/freezer items. Things you normally buy and use to make your favorite go to meals, or like to keep on hand. In the last post I talked about picking 15-20 meals for rotation. So I'll be making sure all the ingredients I need for those meals are on my pantry/grocery list.

For us this includes things like rice and beans, canned veggies, condiments, dried pasta, canned tomatoes, corn meal, flour, yeast, butter, etc. I am focusing on things that can keep for long periods of time, since I want to start a 3 month supply. Don't worry about fresh things right now. Just write down long term storage items. (Yes, butter is probably considered a "fresh" item, but I buy enough for a whole month and it can be frozen, so it gets put on my pantry list.)

Next, an idea I'm incorporating from PJ is to write down how many I want to keep in stock at all times. So let's say I want to keep 3 months worth of canned tomato sauce. I will figure out how many cans of tomato sauce we would go through in a month (let's say one large can a week, so 4/month) times 3 = 12 large cans of sauce for a 3 month supply. So now my list looks something like this:

20 lbs Rice
20 lbs Beans
12 28 oz cans Tomato Sauce
48 cans Green Beans
 And so on.

If you're not looking to create a big stockpile, just figure out how much you want to have on hand for the week, or two weeks, or whatever stretch of time you prefer and would be easiest for you.

Now when I am getting ready to go to the store, I can print out my list, look in my pantry and any items that are below quota get the number I need to buy written next to them. If I only have 30 cans of Green Beans, but my list says I want to have 48 cans, then I need to buy 18 cans in this store trip.

If you are just starting out and wanting to build a large pantry you can either budget and spend the money up front to get the whole pantry stuffed, or - the route we'd probably all choose - do it slowly over time. If your budget only allows you to buy 3 extra cans of Green Beans this week, buy 3 extra cans. Then the next week you can buy 3 more. It will build up over time, you can do it!

Make this is as easy as possible for yourself in how you list and sort your items. If you like to group a-z, do that. If you like to group by category, or by aisle in the store, do those. Make it a system that will be easiest for your brain to work with. I prefer by category. If you can arrange both your list and your pantry in the same way, excellent! It will make it much easier and quicker when you go to check stock.

**Bonus points: If cooking from scratch is your goal, take a look at your list and try to find items on there that you can start making yourself. If you typically buy enchilada sauce, you can start making your own with just some flour and chili powder, tomato sauce and water. Bam! Cross the enchilada sauce off your list and just stock the ingredients. Or make your own chicken stock and freeze it instead of buying. Try one thing at a time so you don't burn out or get overwhelmed. **

I am going to be including toiletries and personal items in my 3 months supply. Since those won't need to be rotated as often, I will just purchase a few extras each time I go to the store. 

And that's it for this step! Super simple! It might take a bit of time to put together at first, but once it's done it's done. If you can get it typed up then all you have to do is print it out for each shopping trip.

To recap:
Pick 15-20 (or however many) meals based off ingredients you can store.

Write a list of all the ingredients you need to make those meals.

Figure out how many of each item you need for your desired storage time (Two weeks, one month, three months?), and write that number next to each item.

The idea with this plan is that if there is ever an emergency (crazy weather, or job loss) then you know you will be able to make those meals with what you have in your pantry for the amount of time you stocked for.

Just a note - my "pantry" isn't one specific place in my house. I have a tall cabinet in the kitchen and a hall coat closet that got converted with shelving. If you are wondering where to store a stockpile of goods try places like linen closets, bedroom closets, under the bed, under the dresser, etc. It doesn't have to be pretty and perfect. 

Go forth and make a list! In the next step I'll talk about a price book and shopping for the best price.

Happy Planning,


Farm Girl said...

I like what you write, It is always such a good reminder to me to keep stocking up like I do.
I like that you are saying how many and what size.

Shasta said...

A similar process is called copy-canning. If you have one can of tomatoes on your grocery list, but two instead, until you get up to how many you'd like to store.

The key part of this is being able to shop the sales. If prices are low, stock up. If they are high, skip it and shop from your pantry instead.

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