Thursday, April 23, 2009

How We Started The Pantry

This is how we started our pantry. I need to restart this process to figure out what needs to be added or eliminated. And, it would help create a food budget.

I'd post pictures of our pantry, but it is completely disorganized not to mention really dusty. (Time for a major overhaul. Note to self: Drinking water needs to be used up and replaced.) Our pantry is basically several sets of metal shelves that are set up in a U shape in the corner of what was the rec room.

In my previous post where I explained why I keep a stocked pantry, I don't think I mentioned that I'm also worrying about the country's state of affairs. I think stocking up is a really good idea. I've been adding more prepared foods to the pantry - things that if the power goes off they wouldn't have to be cooked before eating (canned meats, vegetables, etc). They may be expensive and not taste the best, but we wouldn't go hungry.

When we started our pantry we were really poor. If we were really lucky, we'd have a couple of dollars left at the end of the pay period. Sometimes we'd have only 50 cents left. A few times we were down to 10 cents when the next pay check arrived. (For two years, we didn't go to a movie, go bowling, or do much of anything that cost money. We didn't drink alcoholic beverages. There was seldom juice, ice cream, soda pop, candy, coffee, or tea in the house.)

After running out of food a few times, my husband figured out that with his erratic schedule we had to buy more food when we went shopping. We didn't know when we'd get to go again. To do this, we needed to know how much we could spend at the grocery store, how much food we needed, and how much it actually would cost to buy it.

We lived in a single wide mobile home. The floor plan was rather unique in that it had a small room off the kitchen. This room had a coat/broom closet and a space for an upright freezer. (It even had a door to the outside. This room was an amazing feature for those of you who are too young to know about mobile homes.) The manufacturer called it a mud room. We called it our pantry.

*Dh made a list of all the different foods, cleaning supplies, paper products, and grooming aids we had on hand. (It wasn't much. This was before we had stocked a pantry and before we had a deep freezer.)
*To the list, we added what we were out of that had to be replaced.
*I figured out a menus for each meal for a month.
*I then figured out how much food we would need to make up these for just the two of us.
*We added to the list what we absolutely had to have to get by until the next shopping trip and what was needed to make up the meals that were on the menu. (I have always kept a grocery list on the refrigerator and/or by the phone.)
*Then we added what we would like to have (juice, jelly, fresh produce, lunch meat, ice cream, chocolate chips, pop, etc).
*This all was written down a single column on a few sheets of school notebook paper. (I can't remember now if like items were grouped or if the list was alphabetical.)
*Dh added columns across the paper: package size, price per oz/ea/pound/whatever, store name. I typed this up using carbon paper so that we had several copies.
*Then we took our list and went product and price shopping.
*Actually, this took a few shopping trips to get a good idea of which stores consistently had the best prices. (We seldom could go shopping when what we needed was on sale, so we looked for the best over all prices.) We filled in the columns on our list. We bought by comparing, changing brand and/or store, or duplicating an item if the price was right. We'd buy larger containers of non-perishables.
*We kept track - to the penny - of what we spent. If a needed item was on sale, we'd add an extra to the cart until we reached our spending limit. Sometimes we'd have to decide if we really, really needed an item. Sometimes we'd go over budget just to get the bare necessities. Sometimes we had enough money to add some extras.
*Somehow, slowly our pantry was being stocked.

The menu planning kind of went by the wayside, but we kept this list updated for probably 15 years. (It's kind of ironic that when we could have put it on the computer is just about when we quit keeping track of prices!)

If I remember correctly, we finally mostly shopped at two stores - one was Safeway and the other (I think) was locally owned. We'd only go to the other stores if a sale was good enough to make it worthwhile.

Even with all our careful planning we'd still sometimes run out of things. A piece of meat would be half fat or gristle. A recipe that said it made 6 servings would barely feed us one meal. I'd forget to write something on the list or forget to take the list when we went shopping. We'd have unexpected company. Sometimes there just wasn't enough money to buy everything we needed.


Anonymous said...

I've tried off and on to keep a price book, but the prices change so often, it's not worth it. I do keep a mental list of a great "stock up" price in my head, so if I come across something, I know pretty well if it's the lowest price it will go.

Like ground chuck, I've bought on sale for 1.37/lb which is an amazing price, but this past week I paid 1.65/lb for the same thing because the 1.37 hasn't come around again and I only bought about 2 months worth at the time.

Packrat said...

Motherhen - P, we started this list when we were first married. I know most of the prices in my head, now, too. What I can't remember is how much of something I have in the freezer or on the shelf. I think we have enough canned tuna to last weeks.