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Pantry Philosophy

January 21, 2012
by Erin B

I know there are lots (LOTS) of differences between The Pioneer Woman and me.  She has better photography skills, a bigger better house, and bigger better blog, WAY more land and a bigger better garden than I do, just to name a few.

I should have guessed that one of those differences is in pantry philosophy and this time, I’m not using the adjective “better” just different.

This morning she posted about her staples for having a well stocked pantry.  I can see where she is coming from, but I can’t shop that way anymore.  I also do a big shopping trip once a month or so and stock up for the next few weeks, but the difference is I menu plan and buy stuff to match what I plan on making.

Yes, sometimes the plan goes awry and we end up eating a frozen pizza or batched cooked emergency meal.   This is why once a year I have to go through the pantry and look for stale dated items and try to use up the stuff that got left behind.  But I really think my system has less waste for the average family.  Sure I can’t generally gaze into my pantry and see what new dishes I feel like inventing on the spur of the moment, but I also have a plan to fall back on in case inspiration doesn’t strike.  It also mean that in my selection of cans of tomatoes that I have on hand “just in case” there isn’t the one that randomly doesn’t get grabbed until after it’s best before date.

Purposeful shopping means there is less opportunity for stuff to get lost in the pantry, which means less wasted food and less wasted money.

I wasn’t always like this.  Before Little girls was born our grocery shopping was just an attempt to get useful items that I might use in the next month and cooking was more spur of the moment.  And, to be perfectly honest, we had take out three or more times a week.  We were both working, I had a good income and shift work wasn’t great for cooking dinners.

The Little girl was born and I lost my job and my post partum depression got so bad that I could hardly choose what to eat let alone what to cook.  This was not a time of menu planning.  I got a new job that didn’t pay well and wasn’t in my field and ended up working two jobs just to maintain my license to practice and have enough  income to hold up my end of the bills.  I hated it and still had post partum depression.  Little girl was sick so much, I was constantly being called away from work.  In theory, I was working 60+ hours a week outside of the home, but in reality, I was missing at least a day a week to take Little girl home from daycare when they called because she was sick.

It just wasn’t working.  How do you hold down a job when your child care fails on that regular of a basis?

We agreed that I would stay home during the week and we re-financed the mortgage to lower our payments.  I kept the weekend job to maintain my license so I can go back to work full time when Little girl is older.  One of the things we do to get by on one income (80% of one income after child-support for the big girls) when we bought our house planning on being a two income household was really knuckle down on NO eat out dinners (or almost none) and no wasted food.  Menu planning has really gotten us through.  Home made costs less.  There really isn’t any way around that.

In previous years pantry clean out involved a garbage bag full of stale dated cans.  This year, it was one can of cheese soup that got missed and a couple of weeks of … creative cooking to use up a few extras out of the pantry.  But if you come to my house, I have a calendar with a meal written on every day.  I know what we are having and I can now shop appropriately.

We don’t always eat the menu that is planned for that day, but since I have a whole month planned, I can move meals around if I need a quicker thing tonight or have more time to make something that takes longer.  I also can plan for the nights when I am working and have either something ready to reheat or all the ingredients for something REALLY easy to make so that T (who doesn’t cook very well) has a meal that he can prepare.  That means he doesn’t have to get take out when he is in charge either.

Gail Vaz Oxlade talks about a tight budget can still feed people for $50 per person per week.  Some weeks we pay a little more than that, some weeks it is less.  Our food budget is no longer a disproportionate slice of our life pie.  It was a struggle to get here, but I’m very happy that we did.

The real test will be in April, when we have to decide if our mortgage can go up a little.

 

One Comment leave one →
  1. LAT permalink
    January 23, 2012 10:16 am

    I think the Pioneer Woman’s pantry is really the “ideal” pantry for someone with enough space and money. Probably not a realistic goal for most people though.

    I am amazed by your menu planning. I tend to plan just a day or two ahead and make what we eat fit what’s in the house, which occasionally results in a quick grocery trip on the way home after work for something. I am trying to fight the hoarding instinct. As it is, most of the “staples” like rice, pasta and potatoes aren’t part of most of our meals anymore, and canned veggies are pretty gross, so we make more store trips for fresh veggies than we used to. Problem is that when you pick up fresh veggies with the best of intentions and don’t use them in time, it’s wasted money. And I tend to buy what’s on sale and then when it doesn’t fit what we want to eat… it’s a whole new learning curve.

    I also find that menu planning around veggies doesn’t always work as well, because sometimes I get to the store and the veggies just don’t look great. You don’t get that with pasta and rice.

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