Having a good pantry can bless your family in many ways. It can be as simple as not having to run to the store at the last minute because you’ve forgotten to buy an ingredient (because you always have everything on hand), to being able to cook a week’s worth of meals when you’re snowed in (and not having to brave the elements and face possibly empty store shelves for bread and milk, to being able to feed your family without shopping for a year because your family has lost their source of income.
In addition, having a well-stocked pantry will save you money (and not just the cost of gas for multiple last-minute store trips) because you can buy things ONLY when they are their lowest price.
Ready to save some money and be more prepared in 2011? Here are five simple ways to build your pantry this year:
1. Shop Sales
It sounds simple, and it is. Only buy food and toiletries on sale. Aim for the lowest priced sales, and only buy when prices are at their lowest. For example, chuck roast may be $4.99 a pound where you live. However, if you wait, it will go on sale. It may go on sale for $2.99 a pound, and you may think that’s okay. My personal rule is no meat over $2 a pound. If you’re willing to eat something else cheaper until the next sale, you can wait to buy chuck roast until it’s $1.99 or even $1.89 a pound.
Many foods go on sale for 50% off, and sometimes even up to 70% off. (And when you’re ready to save even more, coupons on top of sales can take you all the way up to 100% off on lots of items!)
This may sound great to you, but how are you going to eat in the meantime? Besides eating what’s cheapest this week, you can be prepared to only pay $2 or less per pound for meat every single time, by following step #2.
2. Buy More
When you see a great deal on something, stock up. Most sales run in 12 week cycles, so calculate how many you might need to get through to the next sale (or longer). For example, if pasta is on sale for .50 a pound, and you know you eat spaghetti once a month, buy at least three packages of spaghetti noodles. You’ll have only spent another $1.00 more than the one you would have bought for this month, and yet you’ll have saved money for the next couple of months. It may seem like a tiny thing, but as you practice this, you’ll end up spending significantly less in the long run, and you can cut your grocery budget by 60% or more--this year.
3. Take Advantage of Produce in Season
We all know that peaches taste best in season. Like all fruits and vegetables, they’re cheapest at the same time that they’re the most delicious. Whether you get them from your own garden, a CSA, your local farmer’s market, a friend’s garden, or even from the grocery store, you’re going to pay the least when they’re the best, and wish that they could taste like that and cost like that all year long.
Instead of wishing, do something about it! Buy lots of fruit in season! Take it home, and freeze or can peaches, peach jam, peach nectar, and peach puree for baby food. And of course, don’t forget about apricots, pears, plums, apples, strawberries, and even grapefruit! Not only will this save you money on groceries, but you’ll have some inexpensive Christmas gifts for family and friends as well. There is nothing quite like apricot jam made with the ripest apricots available. Your friends and family will thank you—and ask for the same present next year.
If you’re wondering how you’re going to build up a pantry when you seem to already be eating everything in your house until next pay day, you can use this simple way (#4) to keep your pantry full:
4. Buy Less Expensive Food
Have you ever added up the cost of your favorite meals? I have. I can feed my family of 8 for anywhere between $1.50 to $8 for all of us (and have leftovers, too!) I can stretch my money a lot further if I eat the less expensive meals more often each month. Many of those less-expensive meals are favorites at my house, so someone is always thrilled! If you eat more soups, rice, beans or potatoes, for example, your family will still be full, and you’ll have more money to use to buy more food for your pantry shelves. In 2010, I fed my family for less than $.70 per person per day. We ate the more expensive meals on occasion, but as we focused on the less expensive meals, we were able to eat plenty of delicious food—even though our income has been cut by 70%.
5. Buy Staples in Bulk
There are many ways to buy in bulk. If you have a warehouse store like Sam’s Club, Costco, or B.J.’s, bulk purchases are simple. But even if you don’t, there are plenty of other places that you can buy from (and may want to buy from as well). If all you have is Walmart and your local grocery store, look for the big (25 pounds) of rice, beans, and flour on the bottom shelves. Beans for $1.25 a pound may not sound too expensive, but beans for 58.4 cents a pound are even better. Bulk purchases are a simple and quick way to inexpensively build up your pantry.
And if you’re not sure what your husband will think, be sure to stock his favorites more often with the money you’re saving, and have them ready to pull out for late-night dates after the children are in bed. In my pantry, we keep the chocolate chips (in the 5lb. bag) on the top shelf :)
Brandy Simper is the mother of 6 children. She writes about frugal meals, homeschooling, gardening, sewing, and ways to save money at The Prudent Homemaker. Be sure to visit her there!
Photos copyright The Prudent Homemaker