Simplicity by Choice

Off-Grid Living & Self-Reliance

Pantry Building Cheaply February 16, 2013

Filed under: cooking,pantry building — ourprairiehome @ 3:33 am
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For some time now, I have wanted to start sharing more practical tips for living more simply. It surprises me to see the level of interest the topic has, yet the sheer number of people who are not willing to make even the smallest of changes in their lifestyle. These same people want to have more money, less stress, more time with family, etc. They truly want to learn how we are doing it in our family. Once they talk to us and realize that it takes change on their part, they are beyond reluctant. They simply say that it is too much work or that they are not willing to give anything up.

Living our lifestyle is not something that we think everyone should do. Some families have a passion for a simpler lifestyle while others do not. That is okay. We have never felt that our way is the only right way. It is just the right way for our own family. If it inspires others, then we are happy to have done so. There are many ways that someone can adapt what I talk about in the blog to fit their own situations.

One of my favorite topics is stocking the pantry. It is something that affects all families in at one level or another. It is one of the biggest expenditures in a typical family each month. It is also one of the easiest to cut down to a fraction of what you may currently be paying. We are a family of 4 in our home. There are 2 adults and 2 children, ages 5 and 7 years. My darling husband is on the truck most of the time, but takes enough food from home that I count him in my monthly grocery shopping. There was a time when we spent nearly $500 per month in the grocery store. Today, I pay no more than $200 per month. Most months I spend closer to $150 per month. That is a huge savings!

The largest expense in grocery shopping is meat. Luckily, the kids and I eat primarily a vegetarian diet. This has significantly cut down our spending. On the days each week when my husband is home, I have meal containing meat. If we were lucky enough to get hold of some deer meat, I would cook meat more often. Unfortunately, I cannot eat commercially raised meat very often or it causes health problems. Until we are able to hunt deer, I simply eat meat as sparingly as possible. Thankfully, the kids enjoy the vegetarian meals that I make.

When I do purchase meat, I have learned to shop around. The only grocery store in the nearest town is expensive. It brings me to the problem of either paying the higher price or saving up my meat purchases until I am at another town where prices are more reasonable. As it happened, I found a tiny little convenience store that has a meat deli. The store is a real blast form the past for me. I remember going to a small store like that when we were going to visit my Grandma when I was a kid. As you walked into the store, there was a small butcher shop style deli in the back. We always bought meat there on the way to Grandma’s home. The store in town is very similar. The butcher/deli area is small but well stocked. Their prices are significantly lower than the larger grocery store. It is now where I go to buy meat when my husband will be coming home. I save on average $1.25 per pound. Some sliced deli meats are as much as $2.00 per pound less than the larger store. The meat quality is great. In this one shopping choice, I can save about $25 per month. Of course the savings would be much higher if I bought meat more often.

Another area that is a grocery budget buster is convenience foods. Wow! This one really can pack a wallop on your monthly costs! What I consider to be convenience foods are the boxed meals, canned meals, frozen dinners, and hot foods from the deli. Pay attention to any person’s shopping cart and you will see that most people buy a large percentage of their groceries in this form. You can easily cut back on this expense. A quick online search will give you a plethora of websites containing recipes for homemade mixes. I have found everything from flavored rice pilaf to homemade cake mixes. Even your basics, such as the biscuit mixes, can be easily made at home for far less than the packaged versions. Quite often, our family found that the homemade versions are more flavorful than the packaged.

When I first began making my own “convenience” foods, I was thrilled to see how quickly they are to make. In two hours, I am able to make enough homemade dry mixes to last over a month. The amount spent on the mixes cost much less than expected. I had thought I might save 50% if I were frugal. Turns out that I had a 75% savings on average! That was significant enough to excite us into keeping the mixes as a pantry staple. A couple of my favorite homemade mixes are listed below. I hope that you will enjoy them also.

Homemade Rice Pilaf

1/2 cup of orzo pasta or spaghetti broken into small pieces
3/4 cup long grain rice
14 ounces of broth (any flavor)
2 Tbs butter

To make the pilaf, melt butter in a pan and lightly brown the pasta. Add rice and broth. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to simmer. Cook until all liquid is absorbed.

Tabbouleh – Most recipes for Tabbouleh contains wheat bulgur as the grain base. I changed this to Quinoa for my version. Being predominately vegetarians, I wanted to have the addition of protein to the recipe. Like the wheat bulgur, cooked Quinoa blends well to any flavor added to it.

1/2 cup Quinoa
1 cup water
2 bunches of fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 Tbs. fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
6 roma tomatoes, finely diced
1 teas. sea salt
1/2 teas. pepper
6 Tbsp. Lemon juice
6 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Bring water to a boil and stir in Quinoa. Remove from heat, cover and let set until all water is absorbed. In a bowl, mix quinoa and all ingredients until well blended. Chill for a couple of hours before serving. (I usually make it a day before I want to serve it.


4 Responses to “Pantry Building Cheaply”

  1. Diane Tibert Says:

    It is surprising how many people want to learn how to save money at the grocery store, but bulk at the idea of doing a little extra work at home. It confuses me. To make six months worth of laundry detergent for under $5 takes me about half an hour in total time. I save $60. That’s a $120 an hour savings in ‘work time’. If worked for minimum wage (in Nova Scotia), I’d have to work twelve hours to pay for all that soap.

    Over the past few months I have learnt what you have: convenient foods suck the money out of the pocket. I spend on average $75 a week for a family of five (two adults, three kids (aged 15, 14 and 10). It takes planning, but a year ago I was spending twice that much. We don’t eat a lot of meat either, but have–like you–a wonderful butcher shop where I can buy a ‘box’ of pork chops to do me six months. We also had five chicken in the freezer of slaughtering the extra roosters in the fall.

    I’m planning a larger garden this summer, so that will reduce the bill by even more, and we are a month away from producing our own milk. Our first goat birth on the farm. We’re excited. Organic milk, cheese and yoghurt will be in our backyard!

    My drive to cook at home is two sided. I did want to save some money, but the main reason was because I wanted to provide healthy food for my family and avoid many of the harmful ingredients added to food today.

  2. aumcchildren Says:

    You’re not the only one who is amazed. We are a family of 4 also. We have an 11 and a 12 year old and they are home all day because we homeschool. Our bills have been close to $200 a week, but I have always canned my garden veggies. This year we cut out all processed food except chips and condiments. I have switched to bulk buying and making everything from scratch. It saves us so much that we are now able to buy organic fruits and veggies all winter long. We average about $50 or less for everything we need- food, toiletrees and whatever else. We eat deer a lot and raised lambs last year. The initial cost of the lambs was $200 for both but they ate only grass and I butchered myself. I also asked friends for the cuts of meat they wouldnt eat from their processed animals such as ox tail, tongue, heart, shanks, hocks..and got a bunch of meat for free. It has lasted us all winter. We raise our own chickens as well. We only live on 1 acre and people are amazed on how little we spend on food and items. It’s all in how much time you want to spend doing it. Everyone no matter where they live can have a few vegetable plants. They dont realize that 33 cent seed packet just saved them $’s in the long run.

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