Saving money by cooking at home is easier when we have all the ingredients needed at hand. We’re not as tempted to go out for a meal.
Does that mean you should have a well-stocked pantry with every possible ingredient you’d want? No. If you shop once a week or bi-weekly you will stock what you need for planned meals. So planning ahead keeps you in ingredients.
However, bad weather, sickness, or other emergencies can come along to make you wish you had more on hand. We keep canned chunky soup for such occasions as well as frozen meals ready to be zapped in the microwave. Pretty much that handles those times for us. When we’re both sick, we open a couple of cans of good quality chunky soup and throw in a bag of frozen mixed vegetables and maybe some quick-cooking rice. We’ve even added extra beef or chicken that we froze from leftovers. It’s quick, easy, cheap, and fairly nutritious.
I think it’s kind of funny when I see lists of “essentials” you are supposed to keep stocked in your pantry. I think most people develop a pantry over time as they buy ingredients for a particular recipe or meal. When you notice the items that you are using over and over again, you not only buy replacements, but stock up on these items when you see a good sale. Voila! A pantry that works for you!
For example, the linked pantry list suggests several varieties of pasta. I find I use mainly penne pasta, but sometimes I use couscous, lasagna noodles, or angel hair pasta. So I stock a big container of penne (from Sam’s) and only buy the others when I have a dish planned using them. Why have more of an item than you can use before it spoils?
For those of you curious about some of these pantry list items, here’s one from What’s Cooking America. There are plenty of other pantry lists you can find with an internet search, but I think you’ll do well to just buy things you use regularly. As with all food storage, using the oldest items first is important to avoid waste. Use a Sharpie to date each item for the date purchased. When you buy new cans/packages of the same item be sure to keep the oldest items at the front of your storage. We label all our frozen items that way too.
If you keep a large pantry you’ll need to keep an updated list of what you have. That’s a good idea for frozen foods too.
Do you keep a pantry? How do you avoid spoilage? How do you keep track of what you have?