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Friday, January 8, 2010

Prudent Penny: Pantry Patrol

I think my favorite room in the whole house is the pantry. It's not huge, but it is a walk-in, with shelves that soar high above my head.

Living out in the boonies has forced me to become an even better planner than I already was. I hate having to drive 30 miles just to buy a bag of sugar. The cost of gas, fighting the crowds and having to pay a premium for something that was on sale the week before all figures into my mission for keeping my pantry stocked.

But with a stocked pantry comes responsibility. You have to rotate your stock and more importantly, you have to use up your stock. 56 cans of tuna are not going to help you any if they just sit there. (and no, I don't have 56 cans of tuna.) But you get the idea.

I used to store all my dry goods in big plastic bins, but with the BPA scare, I've repurposed the bins for non-food items and started buying glass only. I use extra large glass containers for the dry goods I buy in bulk: rice, flour, pasta, sugar, and salt. The items I buy in smaller quantities are things like brown and powdered sugar, oats, cornmeal and powdered milk.

Everything is labeled and dated so I know what to use first. If I buy something new, I make sure to put that at the back of the line.

This year, I am trying to use less processed food, but I still keep a few ready-made items in storage for days when I am too busy or sick to make it from scratch.

Organizing your pantry:

• Keep the heavy stuff on the floor or at chest level.

• Store lesser used items or light stuff like extra rolls of plastic wrap or plastic baggies on top. If they fall on your head, at least you won't see stars.

• I'm short, so I keep a dedicated step stool in the pantry so I don't have to look for one.

• Date EVERYTHING. I don't rely on the store's expiration date because it is really a "best by date", rather than a spoil date.

• Date it again. Want to be extra efficient? Jot down the date when you opened that jar or bag. That will give you a better idea on how fast you used up an item.

If I see that a jar of jelly lasted me two months, I know I can buy six jars and that will keep me in jelly all year. (A good homesteader would have made her own jelly, but I haven't planted my berries yet.)

• Store everything by variety. I keep my cooking supplies on one shelf, can goods on another, etc., etc. Doing this will keep you from hunting all over creation for that tiny jar of wasabi.

• Whenever possible use glass containers. I buy gallon sized mason jars, and recently I found extra large jars that can store up to 10 lbs of sugar, flour, etc.

I love my pantry. It always makes me feel I'm home.

Tell me about your cupboard or pantry. Do you enjoy stocking it, or is it a necessary evil?

For more Prudent Penny posts, go here.


Marianne Arkins said...

I keep my food storage downstairs in my basement and it's jam packed! Right now, it's mostly store bought stuff, but I plan on doing a LOT of canning next year as things are in season. The only exception to that may be diced tomatoes ... I really, really hate to peel and dice tomatoes...

I actually have a log of my storage downstairs, and when I pull something off the shelf, I make a tick mark next to it on the log -- it's an automatic grocery list that way. When I do my "stock up" runs, I can see exactly how much I need to replenish what I've used. It's much easier than counting. I have four bookcases full.


Dru said...

Just went to check and what is in my cupboard are cereal, tea, spices, olive oil, chicken broth, hot chocolate and apple juice. And that's full, at least to me.

Have a good Friday.

Maria Zannini said...

Marianne: I forgot to mention my notebook. Yes! I keep one of those too. As things run out, I put 'em back on the list.

Ref: basement
I envy your basement, but I'm glad I don't have to climb those stairs. *g*

Maria Zannini said...

Dru: Sounds like you have the basics to keep you going. I have a sister who doesn't like to keep any more than she can use that week. That scares me--LOL--especially during the winter.

Jennifer Shirk said...

It's a neccessary evil. :)

I'm trying to convert over to more glass, too.

Maria Zannini said...

Jennifer: BPA is scary stuff. I can't believe more hasn't been done to make people aware.

Mom's Cafe Home Cooking said...

Hi Maria. I found your blog through the canning group. I post there as well.

Your pantry is nice and neat! Congratulations. My pantry is a large walk-in about 10'x10' with 2 freezers. It has a low ceiling and on one end expands under the stairs. It's home to all the canning I do as well as other foods amount to an almost 2 year supply of food that gets rotated on a regular basis. I do use a few large food grade plastic pails with lids for flour and pastas. BPA leaching is only a problem if the plastic is heated (microwave) or comes in contact with a harsh environment (dishwasher). However, I prefer glass for storage as mice can chew through plastic. I have plastic shoe boxes for storing foods packaged in envelopes or boxes. I notice you have boxes and bags of food on your shelves. Here they have to be protected from mice and humidity, although this year we've been lucky with no mice.

I'm looking forward to reading more on your blog. I love the idea of a self-sustaining homestead!

Maria Zannini said...

Hi Mom's Cafe!

You don't have a pantry. You have a suite! LOL! That sounds wonderful.

You are right about the plastic. Heat is the main culprit, but plastic deteriorates due to age too. And different plastics wear at different rates. I'll use them in the freezer for short term use, but that's it when it comes to food.

Ref: mice
Knock on wood. I don't have to worry about mice--just the lions down the road. *g*

Thanks for stopping by.

Sherri said...

*drool* Once upon a time I had a pantry like that...le sigh.

I'm all about stocking up...enjoyed a couple weeks in December where the only food we had to buy were milk, eggs, and butter! My problem is where to store it. The paper stuff can go in the garage but food stuff can't because of the heat in summer. Sadly, this house's idea of a pantry is a floor to ceiling cabinet about 20 inches wide and 24 inches deep (which means things get lost).

Maria Zannini said...

Hi Sherrie,

Back when we lived in an apartment, I didn't have much storage. I used to store my supplies in a small closet.

It's gotta be tough for you with four boys. They probably insist on eating all the time. :o)

Sherri said...

Re: Eating all the time...heck yeah they do and they aren't even teenagers yet :o)

Time to get the monsters feed then I think I'll go wait for hubby with all those goodies you mentioned earlier in your comment on my blog ;)

~*~ Shar ~*~ said...

Thanks for leaving you blog link on Canning2! This was a great post!

Maria Zannini said...

Sherri: Your secret's safe with me. :o)

Maria Zannini said...

Shar: Glad you like it!