Shopping From Your Own Pantry to Save Money – Part 1

What Items Are Best to Keep?

Happy New Years from the HillTop!

I have been reflecting over holidays, like many people, about plans, goals, and changes for this year. Each family will have goals set specifically to their household’s needs. However, as we have seen changes the past few years to our supply chains and costs, one area that we all can agree on is keeping spending in check. One area everyone could use some revamping in is our food costs.

However, what do you do about groceries if you need them? How often do you run to a grocery store? I am asking about any form of a grocery store, including: bulk stores, online food services, delivery grocery stores or convenience stores. Locations for obtaining groceries can come in a variety of forms and they keep changing.

Have you ever grocery shopped out of your own supplies?

The Covid pandemic really changed how people view keeping back a bit of food. I am not suggesting hoarding, but to have a healthy stock pile to be able to pull items out as needed, whether for convenience during a season of busyness or for the winter weather conditions. At minimum, having enough of a stash to put off running to the store, with still having healthy meals for the family.

Here are a few areas that you can grow and produce your own storage in a variety of areas.

Canned Goods

Canning was making a comeback long before the pandemic. It went nuts in 2020. Canning supplies were flying off the shelf and people were searching for lids to match up with jars that grandma had stored for 25-30 years, during the pandemic.

Canning gives you a wide variety of options to stock your pantry with. Do not be overwhelmed. As always, start small.

Some of the easiest items, to start with, that give you options and meal helps are:

  • Tomato Paste – Is a wonderful staple for scratch cooking. You can use it for flavoring or as a thickening agent. It is extremely easy to make, and takes significantly less tomatoes then it takes to make sauce.
  • Pasta Sauce – Used for more than just pasta! Our favorite is for “Pigs in a Blanket” (or stuffed cabbage) from my Czech background. While easy to make, be warned, it takes a lot of tomatoes. If you have a small tomato yield in your garden, consider getting your tomatoes from a local farmers market.
  • Fruits – Ever eat canned peaches in winter? Tastes amazing! Fruits are great to add to breakfast or cook in muffins.

Dry Goods

Having dry goods, like rice, beans and noodles are great. They do not need any electric to store them and they last for a long time. Plus, whether you grow them or buy them, they are inexpensive. One the biggest keys to keep in mind is proper storage.

  • Herbs – Dehydrating or drying herbs are a great way to have a small stock for cooking. Herbs are so expensive in the store, but if you cook from scratch, you need them! Even with a small garden, having an herb or two you use frequently will help cut costs. Some of the easiest are parsley, rosemary and basil to grow and dry for later use.
  • Beans – I had to change my diet in the past few years to be gluten-free. Looking for alternative meal sides that pack a punch are hard. Dry beans are easy to grow, easy to store, and easy to make. It’s a no brainer. In the past few years, I have grown Kidney, Great Northern and Black beans.
Photo by Calum Lewis on Unsplash

Freezer

We have always had a chest or upright freezer. My husband and I, both come from hunting families, grew up with the understanding you eat what you shoot. When we were first married, one deer would last us all year. Having a large freezer for overflow was an automatic for us starting out because it was a normal appliance in both of our childhood households.

  • Meats – If you live rurally, buying a quarter or half a cow is a common term. Buying meats in bulk to freeze them are a great way to stock up. Local butchers or farmers commonly sell beef (cow), pork (pig), lamb or chickens. Another option is to utilize local hunting and fishing seasons. My husband’s biggest food contribution to our family is two to three deer a year and crappie bass fishing. He stocks our freezer with venison (which we use instead of beef) and fish for the year.
  • Vegetables – Freezing vegetables is a great way to utilize the freshness in your items you grow. One of the reasons to freeze over canning vegetables is time. Freezing is much easier and quicker for small batches. We freeze a variety of vegetables including: peppers, carrots, Swiss chard, beans, broccoli, tomatoes and eggplant.
  • Eggs – This is not necessarily something I would recommend to all, but if you keep chickens or some other kind of laying fowl that you consume their eggs, then freezing eggs is a great addition to your stock. Typically longer days kick off the glut of eggs. They come so fast and so often consuming them all can be difficult. However, in the winter, they almost don’t exist. It is feast or famine.
    We have been freezing eggs the last few years. While the consistency is different, using them in baking though is great! We use them for quick breads, Christmas cookies and anything other sweets we can. It allows us to eat the fresh ones, and cook with the others to ensure we have enough through the winter.
  • Sauce (Pesto) – Having a stock of food is great, but it doesn’t just have to be the staples. What is life without a little bit of flavoring? Pesto sauce is probably my favorite item to make from the garden. Freezing it is honestly the best way in a non-commercial setting. Pesto from the store is not cheap, so having something so delicious is a great treat.

By making a handful of regularly used items, it allows you to do a few family-friendly, quick meals. In our house, I meal plan. At the start of the week, I go through the freezer and pantry and pull out the items that need to defrost in the fridge so they are ready for the designated day or to marinate. There have been weeks that we no longer go out to eat because it is easier with schedules to simply make something at home.

Having the variety allows you to not feel you’re repeating the same meals constantly. That’s one part you need to keep in mind. General staples give you a larger range to utilize. Meats, herbs, vegetables and fruits are all items that you could use in a variety of meals. It will allow you to ensure that you have items to pull out a meal, even on the fly at times.

As you begin the new year, rest assured that you can cut your costs in the food department. Spend a little time prepping your pantry and stock to utilize the everyday staples. You won’t be sorry for the time you spent and the money you saved.

Be sure to check out my follow-up blog, Shopping From Your Own Pantry to Save Money: Practical Tips to Using Your Stockpile. It will talk more about what you need to do to utilize the items you have in your pantry and freezer, ensuring they do not go to waste.

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