As people, we tend to be creatures of habit.
Our morning coffee.
The daily routine in the shower.
Our favorite pair of jeans that we always choose over every other pair, even when they’re dirty.
As a frugal foodie, that habit becomes a bit more pronounced. We snag an extra jar when peanut butter is on sale. We recognize a great price from the weekly circular and make it a point to finagle that store into our weekly errands.
But these frugal habits work to our benefit, we have good food readily available AND a grocery budget under control.
Of course, there are more benefits to having a well stocked frugal real food pantry other than that, so I thought I’d offer 7 reasons why WE have certain items almost always on hand – so you can see that your kitchen can actually help you on your real food journey.
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Stocking a Frugal Real Food Pantry To Save Time and Money
(1) There’s always something to eat.
We’ve all been there – we open the fridge, browse the shelves and find nothing that sounds appealing.
When you have real food stocked in the pantry, the odds of you truly running out of food are slim.
Dinner might not be glamorous. It might be a bowl of whole wheat pasta with a garlic butter sauce with random veggies from the fridge and freezer (a makeshift pasta primavera).
It could be what’s left of the CSA box, a can of diced tomatoes, rice and a the last few shavings of that wedge of Parmesan (which is how summer squash pasta was born).
The point of dinner isn’t to show off our culinary skills. The purpose of dinner is to fuel our bodies with good food. If you stock your pantry well, you’ll be able to do that at every meal.
(2) Last minute trips to the drive thru become less frequent.
There always seems to be one day of the week that is WAY busier than the others. Whether that’s planned or by accident, I think we can all agree that cooking dinner is the last thing we want to do come 5pm.
But here’s the thing: Knowing you have real food already in the pantry will help keep you from turning to the drive-thru on busy nights.
It’s a complete mind game.
You made a meal plan. You went shopping. You bought and paid for the food. You put it away in the pantry!
And now you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place:
Choosing to ignore the bought-and-paid-for food and spending MORE money by ordering take-out, or choosing to ignore that impulse to splurge, bringing a pot of water to a boil and chopping veggies.
It’s truly your choice, but having the food already in the kitchen means you’re a whole lot less likely to splurge and much more likely to spend 20 minutes inventing a new one-pot meal.
(3) Stocking up provides the opportunity to buy in bulk.
There are about 10-15 items I almost always have on hand. There’s usually a whole grain or two. A couple different oils and vinegars. Healthy cooking fats and few things crunchy.
The key is stocking up in an affordable manner is to not buy them all at the same time. By choosing to buy just few each month (or each grocery budget cycle), you reap the rewards of buying in bulk without breaking the bank.
Here are just a few examples of how we save by buying in bulk:
- Cashews are $5.99/lb when you buy them in bulk from Costco, compared to $7.99/lb from other places when you buy smaller portions at a time. Savings = $4.99.
- Bob’s Red Mill rolled oats are $10.48 from Amazon for a total of 128 ounces. You can get the same rolled oats from Walmart for $8.80, but you only get 64 ounces – half as much! Savings = $7.12
- Organic butter is $3.99 per pound at Costco when you buy 4 pounds at a time. My local grocery store has organic butter for $4.99/lb – a whole dollar more! Savings = $4
The total savings of buying just these three items in bulk is over $16 – I could buy a whole organic chicken with that savings!
(4) Your shopping list is shorter.
No one has storage space to buy their entire shopping list in bulk.
And if you do, can we trade kitchens?
With only so much space, and only so many funds, you don’t have the luxury of having every.single.thing.imagineable in your kitchen.
This is good! There’s a lot less to replenish and your shopping list is much, much shorter.
If we buy cashews, we skip almonds that month. If we buy oats, we snack-y stuff and make homemade granola bars instead. If we bought butter, coconut oil gets put hold until next month.
(5) Meal planning is easier.
You don’t have to decide between brown rice or white rice if you only have one kind of rice in the pantry… know what I mean?
Do you make hearty spaghetti sauce with ground turkey or ground beef? Whichever was on sale.
Find a great deal on whole chickens? Guess you’re having chicken for dinner!
When a full flat of strawberries is cheaper than any other fruit, take advantage! Let them be the go-to fruit for snacks, side dishes and dessert. Just be sure to freeze or dehydrate a batch so you have some when the sale or season is over!
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(6) Cooking is easier.
The last week of our grocery budget cycle is one of my favorite for cooking because my options of what to cook are limited. By default, there’s no guess work for dinner because there’s only so many ingredients left!
Similarly, it’s the same when you choose to buy in bulk. Homemade bread will have whole wheat and spelt. Not kamut or all-purpose because I don’t always have those.
We almost always buy carrots, onions and potatoes in bulk. When I’m cooking dinner, I know my vegetable options: carrots, onions and potatoes!
(7) Prep work is easier.
Building on point #6, if I know we’ll be having carrots, onions and potatoes a few nights this week, I can go ahead and dice, chunk, puree, roast or shred whatever amount I need without having to pull out a dozen different items from the crisper.
I think it’s safe to say that stocked a frugal real food pantry can save time, money and make the world of a difference in your real food journey and every day life!