Keeping a well stocked pantry is one thing, using that food before it goes out of date or spoils is what you must balance when keeping a stocked pantry.
If you don't have a pantry you can convert a closet into a pantry.
I would like to say that getting our pantry to the stage we are at this time has not been easy. Food is expensive for us too and if we could afford it everything would be organic but we make choices and do without some things to buy food for our pantry. We don't spend on entertainment, we have plenty to do around the house to keep us too busy to need entertainment. Sitting down to watch television does not come that often because we are busy working in the yard trying to grow vegetables. Keeping a pantry now saves us money because we can cook all our meals from home. It is extremely rare for us to eat out and we like it that way. When you have stored food in a pantry you can ride out hard times and you can wait for things to go on sale. Keeping a stocked pantry is a very good thing.
Everyone has their own needs, family size and taste preference matters when keeping a pantry. There is no one size fits all when keeping a pantry. I hope I can at least give you some suggestions and help you to make your own decisions when keeping a pantry.
I am not promoting any particular products these are items that are available in my area and we change brands off and on. These brands are what we have in our pantry the day I took these photos.
One big thing about keeping a stocked pantry is do not buy anything you don't like to eat.
Another big deal to me is don't keep a stocked pantry because you think the world is coming to an end but keep a stocked pantry because that is what our generations before us did and it just makes sense. Yes, we are living in troubled times and people are struggling, the more reason we need stored food to help us over the humps in the road and gullies in the fields.
We have been keeping a pantry for many years, I thought that I would share our good and bad experiences with keeping a pantry in hopes of saving you some money.
First I always mark a expiration date on any item that goes into the pantry. I learned through the years that you must rotate everything when something new comes in to the the pantry. That means if you don't feel like removing all the items and putting the new items in the back of the old items then you need to wait until the next day to do it properly so it is always rotated.
Always keep the item that is going to expire first in the front. Here pictured above I will use the pumpkin that will expire 4-12 first. There was a shortage of canned pumpkin in 2010 and part of 2011. I was very happy that I had a pantry stocked with canned pumpkin because many people had no pumpkin for pies during the holidays of 2010.
Back in 2010 I read that the last sardine company in the United States was shutting down. My husband does not eat sardines but I do occasionally. I was so saddened by the news I went out and stocked up on sardines since they have a long shelf life. I wish they had not closed but at least we still have a supply of US sardines.
Keeping a stocked pantry means you can buy things when they are on sale instead of full price all the time. We keep canned fish and meat in case we have a power outage or emergency. This means we must eat the canned meat occasionally to keep it rotated. So we keep the things that we will eat. Salmon, tuna and chicken. Canned meat has a good shelf life.
The canned chicken makes good chicken salad as well as chicken and rice. Add a little olive oil or butter in a skillet, add chopped celery and onion and saute then add canned chicken and cook for about 10 to 12 minutes. Pour over rice or mix the rice into the skillet. This is a quick meal and very good. If you don't have fresh celery just add celery flakes with the onion.
We keep shelf stable milk in the pantry. The shelf life of milk is not as long as other items so this limits how much milk I can keep. I keep milk in different forms, canned, powdered and boxed.
This is a good milk that I use for pouring over cereal or for cooking or drinking. We don't normally drink milk but use it when cooking.
There is now organic shelf stable milk that I am very happy about having in the pantry. We still have to use up the other before I purchase more of this milk. Shelf stable milk is a very good option for someone living alone or for a small family that does not consume much milk. You can buy the milk in very small amounts. This is a 8 ounce box.
I vacuum seal dry goods that will sit on the shelf in the pantry. This extends the shelf life of that food.
This pictured above are oats for oatmeal and brown sugar next to the oates. I buy the large containers of oatmeal and pour the oats into canning jars then air seal them. I keep quite a bit of oats on hand because we eat oatmeal often.
All the pasta we buy I put in a canning jar and vacuum seal it so that it will keep much longer than the normal expiration date. our pantry shelf will hold seven jars deep.
In the glass jars pictured above is powdered buttermilk. I keep it on hand for making biscuits.
I buy yeast in bulk since I make all our bread from scratch. I make sure and rotate the yeast keeping the most current date to the front and the longest date to the back.
I keep dried beans in jars and air seal them. These are white beans, black beans and pinto beans. They are all air sealed. I also have a basket on the floor of the pantry that is filled with packaged air sealed dried beans. I have a recipe posted on this website in the cooking from scratch section for an easy way to cook dried beans.
We keep quite a bit of balsamic vinegar on the shelf because we make balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing for our salads and we keep a good stock of honey.
Keep some molasses on hand too so you can bake up some ginger snaps without having to run out to the store.
We canned and froze quite a bit this year from our small garden. This is pear preserves on top and pear relish on bottom.
These are pickles that we canned from our cucumbers that we grew over a arbor in our backyard.
Keeping canned pineapple on the shelf really comes in handy for a pineapple sandwich with homemade bread.
We try to keep corn meal, grits, cream of wheat stored as well. Also I dehydrate food and keep dried carrots, corn, broccoli and other foods dehydrated and air sealed in jars and bags. I don't want all our vegetables in the freezer in case the power goes out so dehydrating food is another option for food storage. When you work hard having a backyard garden you must have a way to preserve your food.
This is dehydrated corn air sealed in a canning jar.
We keep fresh vegetables on hand, my husband built us a wood bin holder for fresh pantry ready vegetables. There is a cubby for sweet potates, regular potatoes, onions, garlic and apples.
I wrap apples in paper before putting them in the bin. This helps to keep them fresh longer.
Apples in the bin. When I cook oatmeal I most always cut up an apple and simmer it with a tablespoon of brown sugar and a pat of butter to make a topping to go over the oatmeal.
We always keep oil on the shelf. It is time here to buy more oil and rotate this forward.
Now this next part took some tweaking but we finally got a system going and has worked very well for several years now.
We keep flour, sugar and rice stored in five gallon buckets. Here pictured above I removed one of the buckets to show you how I rotate these items. Each bucket holds 5 - five pound bags of flour or 25 pounds of flour, or the same for sugar and also rice. This system took us a while to get it where we could keep a lot on hand without going out of date. When I started storing larger amounts of flour I would open the bags of flour and pour them into the mylar bags inside the buckets but I did not like doing this because it made it difficult to rotate the flour.
We keep two buckets each of flour, two buckets of sugar, two buckets of rice etc. This means we keep 50 pounds of bread flour, 50 pounds of sugar and 50 pounds of rice. We also keep 50 pounds of all purpose flour. The bucket I removed from the shelf for the picture was bread flour. You see there is still a bucket of bread flour on the shelf. This means the back bucket has five bags of flour and the front bucket has five bags of flour. I make all our bread from scratch so I actually use the four up before it expires and could keep more.
I keep a jar on our counter that holds five pounds of bread flour. When it is empty I go to the pantry and remove a five pound bag of flour from the five gallon bucket that is in front on the shelf and refill the glass container on my counter. Now the front bucket has only 4 bags of flour left bringing that bucket down to 20 pounds instead of 25 pounds. But the back bucket still holds 25 pounds of flour. The next time I go to the store I will pick up a 5 pound bag of flour and when I bring it home I will not put it in the front bucket because that flour will expire before this new bag will. So what I do is I remove both buckets from the shelf, I remove a bag of flour from the back bucket to put in the bottom of the front bucket. Thus rotating all the flour. The new flour will go in the bottom of the back bucket. To do this I must remove all the bags to get the new bag into the bottom. I look at the dates to make sure the one that expires first is always at the top. This way the flour is being constantly rotated. I always check the expiration date of the flour at the store and make sure I buy a bag the bag with the longest shelf life.
This is what the inside of the bucket looks like. It has a mylar bag that I keep twisted closed.
When you open the bag, you will see two bags of flour laying on their side, there are three more bags under them shown in next picture.
The three bags on bottom. When I rotate the flour one of those bags will be removed and moved up one level and a the new bag from the store will go in it's place. I always check the expiration date to make sure all the dates are being rotated properly.
The same method is used for the sugar and rice.
This system has come in handy many times such as when we have had a unexpected repair bill and we don't have to worry about not being able to afford groceries. Often we realize it has been over a month since we shopped for groceries. When we use this system we never go below having at least 25 pounds of these items because just using out of the front bucket goes a long way.
We use two different brands of mayonnaise this way we can usually catch one on sale.
We buy baking soda and white distilled vinegar in bulk. There are so many uses for these two items. Besides cooking I use baking soda for cleaning. I use vinegar for cleaning as well as washing vegetables especially lettuce and spinach.
In this basket on the floor of the pantry are more dried beans that have been air sealed in packages. Also I keep vegetable and herb seeds in packages. The floor of the pantry stays cooler so it keeps the seeds cool. I always keep seeds on hand so I can keep things growing in the back yard. I have a gardening section on this website.
So how do you know how much food to keep in your pantry? This photo of our pantry is not a long term stock. If we were to do like some and keep a long term stock we would need much more space and a lot more of everything. We keep what I would consider about a three month pantry. We could stretch it further if we were in some kind of disaster. This looks like a lot but if we truly had a disaster or hardship of some kind and could not buy food then everything we would eat would come out of this pantry. This stock would go quickly if we truly depended on these supplies.
Set your own goals and simply start the next time you go grocery shopping. An extra bag of flour will cost you about $2.65 a little more or less so if you can, buy an extra bag when you shop. Trade off things, don't buy soda or chips so you can buy a pantry staple. Maybe buy the big five pound bag of rice instead of that small bag.
Knowing how much to buy is as simple as writing down the date when you use something. On a piece of paper start a log and jot down the item and the date when you use it or open it. Let's say a box of oatmeal. You open the new box, write the date on the box and then on a piece of paper or notebook, write Oatmeal and the full date such as, October 14, 2011. When the oatmeal is all gone look at the date and figure out how long it has been since you opened that box. Let's just say it lasted two weeks. So you now know to have a month supply you need to keep two boxes of oatmeal in your pantry. If you want to keep a three month pantry then you need work your stock up to 6 boxes of oatmeal on the shelf.
If you open a can of beans, write down what they are, can of green beans, october 14, 2011, can of tomatoes october 20, 2011. If you open a jar of jam, write the date on the lid and then in your notebook. When you finish the jar of jam how long did it last? Let's say it lasted 9 days. So now you know you will need at least 3 jars of jam for one month supply or 10 jars on the shelf for a three month supply.
How do you get ahead when food cost so much and you are already struggling buying groceries? You have make choices. You may need to buy store brands at first because they cost less.
Stop eating out, drink water instead of soda, stop buying junk food or the easy processed foods so you have the money to buy food that can build your pantry so you have things on hand to cook at home. Instead of buying bottled water use a quart canning jar and bring water from home.
Think back in time, people took only a sandwich to work most days. They did not have processed foods. My Mom took only cold biscuits to school for lunch many days. That is all they had. A cold biscuit is not a bad thing. I looked forward to cold biscuits every time I went to my Grandmothers house. She did not keep chips, cookies or snacks. But she always had a pan of cold biscuits and they were so good. Now I am a Grandmother and we keep cold biscuits in our house. Some people ate cold salmon patties that were cooked for supper the night before. Not a bad thing.
There are so many more items, this would be too long to include everything in the pantry. We also have the refrigerator and freezer with fresh and frozen food. Then there is the backyard.
It is fall now as I am putting up this pantry page and the summer garden has finished but we try to keep something growing year round. These are cabbage plants that have not yet formed their heads.
More cabbage and pepper plants that are still producing a few peppers.
Carrots in the keyhole garden as well as cabbages.
A red bell pepper
A carrot. We most always have carrots growing somewhere in our backyard.
A Grapefruit on our small tree. We are not in a great zone to grow citrus but we have managed to keep them from dying in the winter by keeping warm lights and plastic around them when it freezes.
It is nice to go out and pull up a fresh snack and the bunnies love the tops as well as the carrot.
Hope this helps you to get your food supplies in order :)