When I first started this blog, I wrote a lot about keeping a stocked and well maintained pantry. This is something I have done for what seems like forever. I grew up in a home where money was tight so, my mom always bought just a little extra of some item that was on sale or she had coupons for. Just to build up her pantry. Of course, she learned it from her parents. My grandparents lived during the Depression so, everything was tight and you learned how to pinch those pennies.
I am so glad that I paid attention to all the little things my mom did to save a little here and a little there. Now, don’t get me wrong, we never went without and we, as kids, didn’t have a clue that money was tight. My mom was able to just make things always work out.
The whole concept was, “You never knew when something would happen and you would be forced to live out of your pantry”. Well, that happened to us about 6 years ago. Troy was in a major accident at work. After months in the hospital and 7 surgeries later, the doctors did not expect him to ever walk again.
It was a horrific time in our lives. I was working full time and ended up having to take a lot of time of work. Eventually, I got laid off. The workers compensation people held back any income from us because they wanted a full investigation. So, for about 8 months, we had little to no money coming into our home. What little unemployment benefits I received generally did not cover even the basic bills. So, not one single penny could be used for food. It just wasn’t there.
When Troy was released from the hospital, we had turned our dining room into makeshift hospital room. He could not walk and was in constant pain. I could not get another job because I was the sole person responsible for taking care of him full time.
Needless to say, it was a living nightmare. However, it was definitely a reinforcing factor regarding keeping a stocked pantry. Because the “disaster” did hit us. We HAD to live off of our pantry. And let me tell you, I learned a lot of valuable lessons regarding a stocked pantry!
A few really important things I learned were:
- Can you create a complete healthy meal from your pantry on a regular basis?
- Do you actually like what you have stocked?
- Do you know how to prepare what you have stocked?
- Can you prepare what items you have stocked?
Number 4 was a real eye opener for me. Here I had stocked things like cake mixes (just an example). But, guess what? When I did buy eggs, it was to be used as a cheap protein not for a cake. A lot of good those cake mixes were to me then. Since then, I have experimented and learned how to use those cake mixes without eggs.
This was when I really delved into the world of thrifty and frugal living. I researched constantly for sources of information. I knew I had a very good thrifty skill set already but, I had to take it to another level.
Getting creative is vital when it comes to living a frugal life style. Everything is a challenge. And being in this situation, you can easily fall into depression. It is difficult to truly “make do” with what you have. For me, I had to turn things around in my brain and make it kind of like a game. The whole “how low can I go” when it came to money became a life style.
Fortunately, over the past few years, I have restocked my pantry. And I used the lessons learned to stock it wiser.
I think the hardest part of having a good stocked pantry in maintaining it. Rotating your inventory is crucial and the biggest pain as far as I am concerned. A couple of years ago, Troy made us a rotating can fixture. I have seen these in stores but, they are very expensive. So, he made one for our pantry. Which by the way is a storage closet upstairs in our home.
Nope, it isn’t pretty but, it works! He wrote a post about how to build one and shows each step on his blog I Refuse to Recede if you are interested in checking it out.
Right now is a great time to reorganize or at least go through your pantry and pull out things that you think to yourself, “Now why did I buy that? We don’t really even like it”. And get all those items together to donate to the food banks. Also check to see what areas you are lacking in.
We all know that we need to stock the basic food groups. So, I won’t go over that. But, here are just a couple little tips on things to stock.
- Keep cooking oil and or shortening
- A good variety of spices and herbs (beans or rice can get real boring after awhile if not “flavored up”)
- Broths and/or Bouillon. I make and freeze a lot of my own stock but, I also keep canned and bouillon at all times. Has anyone ever canned their own stock? I want to give that a try.
- Seasoning packets
- Dried fruits
- Canned/boxed and dried milk
- Honey, jams and syrups
- Fruit and Vegetable juice (canned, dried or bottled)
One of the best tips I can give you is experiment. Teach yourself how to cook from scratch and how to season foods that you make. That way you will know what to stock and what not to stock.
A stocked pantry does not mean stocking up on things that you are told to stock up on for an emergency. It will do you absolutely no good if you don’t like those food and or don’t know how to cook/prepare those foods. They will just sit on a shelf taking up valuable room in your pantry.
Above all, USE your pantry regularly. I know a lot of folks who get all excited that they have this full pantry supply and then don’t want to touch it because it took so much work to get it to this point. They “save” it for that emergency. NO, NO, NO!!! That is not how a stocked pantry works!
I cook from scratch on a daily basis. So, I know what I use and need. Our situation, keeping a stocked pantry is a money saver and was used when we had a financial emergency happen. We all recently witness the devastation of Sandy hitting the East coast. Even folks who did not lose their homes still faced no food at grocery stores. This is a small way we can help prepare for some sort of emergency situation. Not only to take care of our own families but, maybe help out our neighbors.
I don’t have a basement or any large space to create a pantry. I use a closet. No dried or canned foods stuffed here and there throughout the house. You can use a small space and if kept maintained and stocked smartly, you are good to go! Right now, in this small closet pantry of mine, We (a family of three) could probably go between 9-12 months with little to no extra food. Do I want to? No. But, we can.