A Well-Stocked Pantry: Part 2

How to have a well-stocked pantry and how to keep it stocked on a budget.

Stocking a pantry for scratch cooking can be overwhelming at first. But it is well worth the effort and time. Having basic ingredients handy at all times makes creating meals convenient and even fun. I think sometimes the jump from packaged food to whole foods cooking is daunting because you don’t know what basics you need.

If you missed the Part 1 post, be sure to check it out for a list of basics. That will definitely get you started. Then be sure to subscribe and get my free printables. Now let’s start talking budget.

I’m the budget maker and the budget keeper in our family. I value high quality groceries but don’t always (most of the time) have the budget to match. I also want to preface by saying that we have lived well and bought what I wanted to eat and we have lived very poorly and literally waited for dinner to just show up on the table. This post is going to hit somewhere in the middle of those two extremes.

Shop the Dirty Dozen & Clean 15

As long as my budget supports it, I shop from the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15. This is a great jumping off point for creating your pantry list. If I can afford the organic counterparts on the Dirty Dozen, then I purchase those. But if I can’t, I just skip buying them altogether. I haven’t had a bell pepper in quite some time because I refuse to pay $4-5 each!

Shop the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 to help your budget while still eating healthy whole foods.

I also don’t buy wheat or corn conventional. Due to GMO’s and large pesticide use, I stick with the organic choices as well, even if corn is listed on the Clean 15. It’s clean (minimal pesticides) because even the deer won’t eat it. Yuck!

Ditch the Pre-packaged Stuff

Obvious point, I know. But it has to be said!

Most pre-packaged foods are, not only, more expensive but not good for you. And don’t let the “organic” label fool you. It may be organic, but it’s just organic junk. The easiest way to switch over to making your own foods is starting small and building up.

Beans. These are the easiest way to save money. My Instant Pot  is so worth the investment, but you can cook beans in a crock pot or on the stove top.

{Side note: There are investments involved here that save you money in the long run. A little more on that another day.}

Oats. Granola, oatmeal, and oatmeal bakes are filling breakfasts that are easy to whip up in your kitchen without needing the artificially flavored and sugar covered store bought versions.

Condiments. Not everyone is ready to make their own ketchup, but making your own sauces is easy. I make a HUGE batch of spaghetti sauce once a month and freeze it in meal sized portions. Sugar free and taste so much better than the canned stuff.

Making cream of …. soup is also very easy. They all start with the same basic recipe and then you add mushrooms or chicken or broccoli … You get the point. Gravy fits in this category too. Just do it.

Salad dressings are a must to make from scratch in my book. There are so many choices and really quick to throw together (as long as your pantry is well stocked.)

Cookies. Throwing this one out there, because after you’ve made all these changes you need some chocolate. Chocolate makes everyone feel better, right? But seriously, make your own cookies or cupcakes or muffins or what ever sugary concoction floats your boat. Plus I enjoy knowing that I get to pick coconut sugar over the refined white stuff in my homemade desserts.

I can’t list everything here, but I will say I found it not worth my time to make my own mustard, pasta, or chips. And if I want a quick meal on busy nights, chicken nuggets are usually cheaper by the pound than chicken breast. It’s a total cheat though because I consider it a junk food.

Waste Not, Want Not

A huge pet peeve of mine is throwing away food! It’s gonna happen at some point, but I try really, really hard to avoid this. Living on a farm is helpful as I can throw greens out to the chickens and everything else out to the pigs. I hope to get back to composting again too!

Stop wasting food! Feed your chickens your scraps or start a compost pile.

One way I combat wasting food, is recreating meals from leftovers. We have two methods for leftovers. 1) Throw all the leftovers out for lunch and each kid can fix their own plate. 2) Create leftover soup or some other similar concoction.

On occasion the kids get bored of something I just can’t get them to finish it off. This week we had a pot of beans that just wouldn’t end! So before it soured, I froze the leftovers. I’ll pull it out when beans actually sound good again.

Shop In Season & Buy Bulk

There is a reason this is listed last. With eight kids under foot, I just don’t have time to coupon clip, read sale ads or comparison shop. I do try to only buy strawberries spring through summer and oranges in the winter, but I’m terrible at time consuming planning.

I do buy as much in bulk as I can, including meat. I do know that some things really aren’t cheaper in bulk, but then you have to weigh how many trips to the store you want to make. I love the convenience of having bulk foods. But most of what I buy is cheaper in bulk. You just have to check the price per pound. I do this once a year maybe, then stick with the cheapest item.

Azure Standard is my favorite company to order bulk grains from. I also can grab imperfect organic apples for cheap in season, hit up sales on laundry detergent, and find the random gluten free items my son needs. I often compare the Azure price to Amazon, and rarely Amazon comes on top.

Shop bulk foods from warehouse companies to save money and eat healthy.

I also shop Costco. I love the quality of products and the bulk shopping. This is my go-to place for frozen fruits and veggies, chicken breast, butter, chips, carrots and lettuce. I pick up kombucha when they have it, but that is totally a splurge for me. I have also found that each Costco location (I’ve shopped in four states) have different products. I like that they will source some local products, but miss others when we move.

Deals, Sales and Coupons

Because I don’t have time to read sale ads and coupon clip (plus they rarely have coupons for staple items anyway), I use a few apps to help save money. {These are affiliate links, but they are for programs I do use myself!} 

Dosh. This is really an app I don’t have to think about. I link my Debit and Credit cards and anytime I shop at their sponsored places I get money back. It’s not a ton of money, but I don’t have to think about it and it’s nice to get money back. If you eat at Chili’s on a regular basis, you need Dosh. LOL

Ibotta. I get the most back with this app. I do have to check it before entering the store to see what products are getting refunds, but other than that, not a whole lot of work. Plus you can earn bonuses. I reached my $20 minimum before cash out pretty quickly with this app.

Swagbucks.  I’ve been using this one for years! By simply using their search engine I have received many Amazon gift cards over the years. If you want to up your game, you can answer surverys and polls, shop, play games or watch video clips. Swagbucks also gives points for printing coupons, if that is something you want to do.

The last thing I’m going to mention is loyalty programs. These are worth it to me if I don’t have time to store hop. Each time we move to a new location (military life), I have to scope out the local stores. It takes several months to get a feel for the rhythm of things, compare prices and such. But once I do, I pick two to three main places to shop. Then I rack up the loyalty points.

Whew! That was a lot of info shoved into this post! See why I had to break it up into two posts. I only hit the surface of many of these topics. I’m thinking about a FB Group where we could discuss ideas for saving money and share deals and be excited for each other when we found a great bargain. Anyone interested??

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