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Friday, January 15, 2010

Prudent Penny: How to Figure Supplies

Whether you store your items in a full walk-in closet or a little cupboard, how you stock it can mean the difference between a successful pantry and one with expired food.

Every couple of years, I play the 'menu game'. Basically, I plot out all the meals we regularly eat, then scour my homemade cookbook for new recipes to add to the list.

My homemade cookbook is a binder with all the recipes I've clipped from magazines, online or from friends that we either ate or thought looked good.

I usually end up with at least 60 good recipe ideas, things I know we will eat. Look down your list and put a 2x, 3x, 4x, or however many times you think you might make that meal in a month.

For example, we probably eat cheeseburgers two times a month. 2 x 12 is 24. I double the total (24) because I am cooking for two. I end up with 48. That tells me how much ground beef I'll need, how many buns, cheese, condiments, etc for this particular meal in a year. I might not have room in my freezer for 48 patties in one go, but I can probably fit 24. That's a half year of burgers I don't have to worry about. It's already pre-measured and ready to defrost.

Try doing something more complicated now. Like pizza or a casserole.

Do this with every menu idea on your list.

The numbers do not have to be exact, but it helps. A ball park figure is good enough to get you started.


Cook once, store for the week.

I adore pasta and would gladly eat it three or more times a week. Rather than heat the stove up for every meal, I cook one big pot of pasta. I prefer mine in olive oil and spinach so I transfer the cooked pasta into a pan drizzled with oil, crushed garlic, and sauteed spinach and mix it into the pasta.


Since I live alone a good deal of the time, it makes an easy meal for me to reheat and eat on the run. I don't mind cooking for other people, but I hate to cook for myself.


Want an easy way to know how often you use up paper towels or toilet paper? Save your empty cardboard tubes for a month. Multiply it by 12. Voila! You have your shopping list for TP for the year.

Recycle the tubes by making fire starters out of them for winter. To make fire starters, stuff them with shredded paper or dryer lint.

Or make three short cuts at one end and fold the pieces under until it sits flat.They make the perfect seed starters. Plant the whole thing in the ground where it will disintegrate to compost.

Tips on what to store:

• Buy only what you'll eat.

• If it's a new (to you) brand, try the smaller size first. You don't want to be stuck with something no one will like.

• Paper, plastic, aluminum: If it's a smart price, buy it. These products do not expire.

• Careful with stocking up low acid foods like tomato products. Buy only what you can use up before the expiration date. If the lid bulges, no matter how slight--throw it out.

• Do a sniff test with seasonings. If it's lost its punch, toss it. Most experts tell you to toss them out in a year. They could be right, but I trust my nose more.

Do you have any tricks for figuring out how much to buy and store?

For more Prudent Penny topics go here.


Sherri said...

Great tips Maria!!

I used to be really good at the cooking once thing but have gotten out of the habit since being a SAHM. I should do it again and then maybe I'd have more time for other things...nah, I've got kids, LOL

Maria Zannini said...

i really don't like to cook so cooking once is a big shortcut for me.

Glad some of this helped.

Marianne Arkins said...

I love to cook ahead. One of the easiest ways to do it is double whatever you're making. If you're making lasagna for dinner, make TWO.

If you put foil or plastic wrap in the bottom of the pan you would normally use to cook it in, THEN add the ingredients, you can freeze it and remove it from the pan in one bit piece. When it's time to cook it, you peel off the plastic or foil and pop it into the pan, frozen, then thaw and cook.

I have five or six casserole type dishes I make this way. I also make ahead cookie dough and a few other baked items.

Maria Zannini said...

Using foil is a great idea!

What kind of casseroles are your stand-bys?

I only have 2 or 3 that I stock up. I'd like to add more variety.