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11/30/11

Save Money While Building Your Pantry

I've made a concerted effort over the past year to lower my family's food budget, while expanding our food storage, or stockpile. It's difficult to accomplish both of these goals simultaneously, but I've developed some tips that have worked for us, and wanted to share them with you.

  • Use coupons. Stockpiling and couponing go hand in hand! Visit Southern Savers and The Coupon Wizards and read up about sale cycles to see what I mean. They cover the subject quite well, and taught me how to use coupons in an effective way (not an extreme way). 

  • Buy a stand alone freezer. My preference is a standing freezer. We got ours at a garage sale & it’s been running perfectly for 6 years now (knock on wood) in our garage. I wouldn’t have been able to build our food storage properly without it. We can buy on sale & store it in the freezer. Even a chest freezer would be helpful, and they’re frequently found second hand. Ours has been such a worthwhile investment, and by having it, we've saved at least double what we paid for it. 

  • Learn what can be frozen & what can’t. Knowing that will determine how much of some items you should buy. Extending the expiration date by freezing items until you need them helps you stock up & it helps you be able to buy more when on sale. Saving money while building your food stores... perfect! I found this great resource on freezable foods & I've found it very helpful.

  • Eat what you have, not what you want. I know, this sounds harsh, but hear me out. I try my best to use what’s in my fridge, freezer & pantry to prepare meals. Stopping at the store for a missing ingredient is not an effective use of time or money. Buy things on sale, buy several to stock up, then don’t buy it again until it goes on sale again! If we run out of shrimp, I might say “I sure wish we had some shrimp, that sounds yummy.” But, we don’t go buy it. Because then I add “I sure hope it goes on sale again soon!” And when it does, I’m likely to buy more than last time since we ran out! It requires shifting your mindset a bit, but it's paid off for us.

  • Have enough options in your own home, so that if you run out of something, you don’t have to buy it right away! For example- we still eat ‘healthy’ breakfast cereal in our house. (And Rice Krispies, cuz I just couldn't pass up a recent deal!) Now, I'll admit- I’m learning more & more that there is no healthy breakfast cereal. And I’m coming to grips with that & slowly preparing my children for this harsh reality. But for now, we still eat it. And that stuff is expensive! We buy lots of it when it’s on sale & have a coupon to go with it. If we run out, we don’t go buy more cereal. It just happened last month. We were without cereal for 4 weeks. We used the oatmeal that I had gotten on sale & stocked up on. We had peanut butter & jelly sandwiches since we had bought peanut butter & bread on sale & stocked up. We would have had eggs but one of my three kiddos loathes eggs. Anyway, we made it through without buying more cereal. When it did go on sale last week, we stocked up again & the kids were extra excited to have it back.



  • Think outside the box. I used to be a by-the-book cook. If a recipe called for milk, I made it with milk. If I didn’t have milk, I didn’t make the recipe! Now, I have learned that I could use half & half, or heavy cream if I have it. Sometimes even sour cream will work. Not only does this cut down on store trips, it cuts down on buying things that aren’t on sale, and allows me to cook a wider variety of recipes! That's just one example. If you think outside the box & be a little creative, you can prepare a meal with what you have, just by adapting the recipe a bit.

  • If one store typically has an item you use at a good price, buy it there EVERY time you go in. We have one warehouse store that has organic sugar at a decent price in a large bag. We’ve tried finding it in bulk, and it’s not available locally. We’ve shopped around for prices & when we saw this store’s price we knew it was great. So we buy a bag of sugar every time we go in to that store, whether we ‘need’ sugar or not. Each store might have an item like this. Our grocery store brand egg noodles are a favorite for us. Not a name brand, the store brand. So each time we go to the grocery store we buy a bag. These examples don’t really go on sale, never have coupons, we always use them, and we know we’re getting the best price at that store. So, we keep those items in mind as we shop & slowly build our pantry by purchasing them as a habit.

  • Repackage some items. Now, this doesn’t make sense for everything. For some foods & pantry staples you’re going to need to have the expiration date for reference. Many of my pantry items are in their original packaging for this reason. It also helps if, God forbid, there were a recall & I needed to find the batch number. But there are some things that we eat often enough, or have so much of, that it makes more sense to repackage. Cereal is like that in our home. We saved old organic brown rice containers with screw on lids and we transfer the cereal into them. It saves space, keeps the cereal fresher, and makes it easier to pour. I have many pretzel barrels with screw on lids saved for this as well. We store rice in those, and I'm about to pour my bags of sugar & flour into them as well. You could also purchase food grade buckets. I'm trying to spend as little as possible, so I'm using what I have.

  • Chop your meat for meals while it’s frozen. No, not solid, obviously, but still mostly frozen. It’s much easier to get a small dice on chicken, and it slices cleaner & straighter. I’ve done this for over a year, and now refuse to do it any other way. I can cut a boneless skinless chicken breast into pieces so small, that I can use 3 small breasts to feed 5 people, and everyone feels like they got enough. I know that it’s still the same amount of chicken, and it’s all in their head… But they’re more satisfied with their meal when they have 12 smaller bites of chicken served to them, instead of 4 larger bites. I think it would work for beef as well when making stew, or soups. I’ve stretched our meat & saved a lot of money with this simple trick. 

We’ve expanded our pantry using these tips & freed up money in our budget to add to our food storage. I’m always looking for more ways to improve & I’d love to hear your tried & true tricks! What would you add to this list? Please share your ideas & leave a comment!

This post is linked to The Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways Wednesday Blog Hop!

13 comments:

  1. Great site. I am your newest follower, stop by my site for more frugal ideas and read my post on stockpiling too! I would love for you to follow me back.

    Amy @ Pounds4Pennies

    ReplyDelete
  2. Okay...wow! These are amazing tips! Awesome and informational:) I am posting this to my fb wall and I'm going to pin it! Thanks so much for sharing this on Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways!

    Blessings,
    Andrea

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  3. Very good tips!!!! I always love to hear other ways to stretch the creative mind in being frugal yet healthy!

    In Him,
    NobleWomen4Christ

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  4. These are all amazing tips--things I do daily! :)
    --Kat from Hippie Mama Kat

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  5. Awesome tips, thank you so much!

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  6. Yup, yup, yup! I use these to make the $161 I get a month in food stamps, plus WIC for 2 children be enough to feed my family of 5 (6 when my oldest is home for the holidays) for the whole month now that neither my husband nor I are working (I'm disabled but don't receive disability and he just lost his job a few weeks ago and hasn't found a new one yet). I'm sharing how I do it, receipts and all on my X-Treme Food Stamp Challenge on my blog http://adventuresofathriftymama.blogspot.com

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  7. Great tip on cutting the "frozenish" meat, I never thought of doing that.

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  8. I love your blog! What a wealth of great information! :) I became a follower of your blog! Erin

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  9. Thanks for the great article and the sales cycle resource links. I actually use Excel to keep a spreadsheet that indexes all the grocery store sales for the week, and details what coupons I have for stores and products to make a precision, laser shopping plan for the week.

    -Dani
    http://thepioneeringparent.com

    ReplyDelete
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  12. Check around you for food pantry programs that give away free food. Since you're on WIC, you should qualify. Since veggies are cheaper than meat, cook a lot of vegs and a little meat and serve over a bed of rice, barley or noodles. Use a filling side dish with meals, like rice with red or black beans. Ground turkey is usualy cheaper then beef, so use it for chili, and such. A good dash of Italian Seasoning and a small pinch of sage makes ground turkey taste meatier. Save any leftover vegs in a bag in the freezer, and when you get enough, make soup with them. Use potatoes in soup, it makes it more filling. Chicken thighs are often on sale very cheap, make some with some Bisquick dumplings, save leftover stock for soup. Make your own syrup from fruit in season or on sale, it's cheaper and healthier than store bought syrup. There are recipes for fruit syrup online. Serve with Bisquick pancakes for breakfast. Try some Southern foods like hominy, grits, fried bologna, hushpuppies, and mush, they're usually quite cheap. To satisfy any cravings for fried foods, bread some vegs like sauerkraut balls or onion rings with cornmeal batter and fry. Make your own french fries, they're much cheaper than store bought. If you have a store near you that sells salad fixings by the pound off of a salad bar, the meat and cheese are usually cheaper off a salad bar than if you buy them alone. You can raise some herbs, chives, and vegs indoors in pots if you don't have room for a garden outdoors, or it's too cold. Use herbs and seasonings to make food taste different. For instance, mashed potatoes with gravy taste different than mashed potatoes with garlic and chives. Open face sandwiches with sliced chicken or turkey over mashed potatoes on a slice of bread topped with gravy are quite good. If you find sausage on sale make sausage gravy over biscuits. If there's a mulberry tree near you, most people consider them practically a weed. But fresh mulberries are extremely tasty, and can be made into pies, jams, etc, just like other blackberries or raspberries. Try hitting a farmer's market at the end of the day, and see if you can get the things that will go bad before the next one for free or really cheap.

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