When I was growing up my mom was single with two kids. She was working to support the kids and putting herself through nursing school for a better future for the three of us. Money was tight. We might not have had a lot, but we always had food in the pantry. She made sure we were well fed. Every payday she would go to the store to stock the pantry and freezer. That is something that has stuck with me. I always make sure that there is food in the pantry and freezer. You can do without a lot of things in life, but food is not one of them. You gotta eat. When my budget is sparse, I may hit as many as five different grocery stores to get the best deals so I can to stretch my dollar as far as it can go. When my budget looks better, I try to stock up a little for when it dips back down.
As important as it is to have food to eat, having a full pantry can also give you a little freedom in meal options. When I grocery shop I usually get things that can work for a variety of meals. That gives me some freedom to play with the menu a bit. There are times we want something specific and I buy the ingredients for just that meal, but usually I try to keep a variety of proteins, veg, grains and pantry items. Those are the things I have to pick from for our everyday meals.
When I go into the kitchen to prepare a meal, I usually don’t have a full idea of what I will end up cooking. My first question is, “What protein are we going to have?’ Once I pick a protein I look in the fridge to see what fresh veg I have on hand and look in the pantry to see what else is available. That is when I start to build the meal. For example, we found a great sale on the ground beef we like to eat. Raised and butchered within 75 miles of our house. No antibiotics. It is lean, cooks up great and has a really good taste. It was a really good sale, so I stocked up. We have quite a bit of it right now, so it has been a go to protein for the last couple of weeks. I usually have a variety of beans in the pantry, both dry and canned. I pull the ground beef, grab a couple cans of beans, a can of tomatoes, luck out and see an onion on the counter. Boom, it’s chili time. If we are lucky and there are Fritos in the pantry too, it turns into Frito Pie night, a favorite at our house. We will get into the with or without bean discussion on a post for chili later. I am more of a fan of no bean chili, but my sweetie loves the bean… so I usually add beans to it.
However, with that same pound of ground beef I could have grabbed a can of tomatoes, a can of tomato sauce and a package of dried pasta to make something Italian. My pantry gives me freedom to play with the menu. It gives me options.
When you go to the grocery store… check out the clearance isle and look to see what’s on sale. The clearance isle is great! I have found a lot of things on clearance that I would never have thought to buy, usually because I didn’t want to pay full price for something that I might not like. When I see it for a fraction of the price, I grab it! I once found this box on clearance that said, “Restaurant Quality Plain Puppodums”, I had no idea what that was. It was marked gluten free and looked interesting so I picked up a box. We tried them and LOVED them. They are these crispy, crunchy things that I don’t even know how to describe. It is traditionally served with Indian food but oddly enough we love them with egg salad. Thinner than a wafer, kind of cracker like, but not really. Totally yummy. I went back and bought several more boxes! You really never know what treasures or deals you can find on clearance isles or on sale.
Buy a couple of extra cans of something you use a lot. It will come in handy to have that extra little something stashed in the back of the pantry. You don’t have to go broke stocking up, just a few extra things here and there. You’ll thank yourself later!