Friday, April 20, 2012

Frugal Friday: Stocking Your Pantry - What to Include

One way that I save money every month on groceries is by keeping my pantry well-stocked. But it's important to stock it with the right kinds of foods if you're looking to save money. Most pre-packaged, ready-made food is not only expensive, it's generally unhealthy and has a relatively short shelf life. So today I'm going to give you an idea of the types of food that I keep in my pantry on a regular basis to help me save money. If you're worried about the food going bad, here's a great site where you can plug in a food type and find out about how long it will store. Another way I save money is by storing dry food in containers that I already have. I love old peanut butter and mayonnaise jars! We also store food in empty ice-cream buckets, popcorn tins and #10 cans. 

Grains are the staff of life, as the saying goes. Most are healthy, relatively cheap, easy to store, and have a long shelf life. I like to keep a large variety of grains in my pantry so it's easy to use them in my cooking. I have an electric grain mill which makes it really easy to include these grains in our diet on a regular basis. If you don't have a grain mill, you can cook these grains and add them in many dishes as well.
Some examples of grains that I keep on hand:

Brown Rice (short-term)
White Rice (we generally do not eat white rice but it's nice to store in your pantry because it keeps longer than brown rice)
White Quinoa

Beans are relatively inexpensive and easy to store for long term. I like to keep a variety in my pantry. I usually store dry beans because I have a pressure cooker and beans are easy to cook in a pressure cooker. I have also canned my own beans in a pressure canner, which makes it really nice for quick meals.
Some examples of beans that I store are:

Pinto Beans
Kidney Beans
Garbanzo Beans (or Chickpeas)
Black Beans
White Beans (Navy, Great Northern)
Soy Beans
Black-eyed Peas

Seeds & Nuts
Most seeds and nuts are short-term storage due to the high oil content in them, generally speaking. To keep them longer you can store them in a cool place - like a refrigerator or freezer.
Some examples of seeds and nuts that I store are:

Flax Seeds (short-term)
Almonds (short-term)
Walnuts (short-term)
Raw Sunflower Seeds (short-term)
Raw Peanuts (short-term)
Raw Cashews (short-term)
Pumpkin Seeds (short-term)
Chia Seed

We keep a variety of dried, canned, and frozen fruits on hand. In general, dried fruits keep longer than canned or frozen. Canned or frozen fruits will keep for a least a year (usually longer, but mine rarely last that long before they get eaten). Fresh apples are also something we always keep on hand because they store for quite a while.
Some examples of fruits that I store:

Banana Chips
Dried Cranberries
Dried Apples (home dried)
Dried Pears (home dried)
Dried Pineapple
Canned Apples (home canned)
Jams & Jellies (peach, pear, apricot, plum, etc., home canned)
Frozen Bananas (I freeze the ones that turn brown)
Frozen berries
Frozen peaches
Canned Pineapple
Canned Mandarin Oranges
Fresh Apples (3 or 4 months)

Although fresh vegetables are my favorite, it's nice to have canned or frozen vegetables in your pantry for when you don't have the ability to go to the grocery store. Winter squash is a great vegetable to have because you can store it fresh for about 6 months. We also keep fresh potatoes and fresh onions in our short-term storage and they last three or four months if you store them correctly. Most frozen or canned vegetables can be stored for at least a year. Here are some examples of vegetables that I keep around:

Dried Bell Peppers (home dried)
Dried Zucchini (home dried)
Dried Yellow Squash (home dried)
Frozen Corn, Peas, Green Beans, Spinach, Broccoli, Cauliflower, etc
Canned Corn, Green Beans
Frozen Avocados (I buy them when the go on sale and freeze them myself)
Salsa (home canned)
Relish (home canned)
Olives (canned)
Tomato Sauce (canned or frozen)
Fresh Winter Squash (Hubbard, Butternut, Spaghetti, Pumpkin, Sunshine - short-term, 6 months)
Fresh Potatoes (short-term, 3-4 months)
Fresh Onions (short-term, 3-4 months)
Fresh Garlic (short-term)

Baking Ingredients
It's nice to be able to bake at home without worrying about running out of ingredients. Some baking ingredients have a longer shelf life than others so make sure you check before you store a lot. Here are some examples of baking ingredients that I keep extra of in my pantry:

White Flour
Gluten Flour
Wheat Flour (if you don't have a wheat grinder)
Wheat Bran (short-term)
Corn Starch

Baking Powder (short-term)
Baking Soda
Yeast (frozen when opened, short-term)
Sour Dough starter (perpetual, in refrigerator)

Corn Syrup
Brown Sugar
White Sugar
Powdered Sugar

Shortening (short-term)
Olive Oil
Canola Oil
Coconut Oil

White Vinegar
Apple Cider Vinegar
Red Wine Vinegar
Balsamic Vinegar

Vanilla Extract
Almond Extract
Cocoa Powder

Chocolate Chips
Unsweetened Coconut

Herbs & Spices
Spices are good to have on hand because with them you can make plain food taste wonderful. I always make sure I keep extra of the spices that I use the most. Fresh spices are always better than old spices so make sure you rotate them well! Here's a list of some of my favorite spices I keep in my pantry:

Garlic Powder
Onion Powder
Italian Seasoning
Chicken Bouillon
Beef Bouillon
Dried Onions
Chili Powder
Cumin Powder

We drink mostly water, as a rule, but it's nice to have a few little extra drink mixes around for when company comes or a special occasion. I also keep milk flavorings in case I have to use powdered milk, then it's easier for the kids to drink it if it has a little flavor.

Chocolate Milk Flavoring
Dry Lemonade Mix
Orange Drink Mix
Strawberry Milk Flavoring
Grape Juice (home canned, bottled or frozen concentrate)
Apple Juice (home canned, bottled or frozen concentrate)
Orange Juice (frozen concentrate)

Meat & Dairy
I buy meat when it goes on sale and freeze it in serving sizes. Some meats I cook before freezing, but mostly I freeze it uncooked because of time. I also look for sales on eggs, butter and cheese and buy a lot because we use them a lot and they store well in the refrigerator, short term. I also make yogurt and buttermilk a lot and keep it perpetually in the refrigerator, using the starter from the last batch to make a new batch. 

Chicken (frozen, canned)
Beef (frozen)
Pork (frozen)
Fish (frozen, canned)
Cheese (short term, refrigerated or frozen. Block cheese stores longer than shredded)
Butter (short-term, refrigerated or frozen)
Eggs (short-term, refrigerated)
Powdered Milk
Powdered Eggs
Plain Yogurt (perpetual)
Buttermilk (perpetual)

Here's a few other things that I store for convenience sake:

Mayonnaise (short-term)
Peanut Butter (short-term)
Worcestershire Sauce
Soy Sauce
Pasta (all kinds that I use - I don't make my own...yet)
Sprinkles (fun for kids...)
Food coloring (ditto...)

Having your pantry stocked with whole foods is a great way to get started in creating a healthier family. I hope this list helps you get a head start. Good luck!


Jenn said...

This is a really great list for the pantry. I'm going to pin this one so I can refer back to it! Thanks for linking up at Thrifty Thursday!

Anna @ Feminine Adventures said...

Wonderful list! We're currently living in a tiny duplex. Our "pantry" is on bookshelves behind the couch. Even though it's not extensive, having what little we do in our pantry has saved so much money and time spent running to the store.

We're moving in August and I hope to have a "real" pantry. This list will be a great reference.

Thanks for linking up at Thrifty Thursday. :)

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