Thursday, 27 August 2015

Thrifty Thursday: Stockpiling a Pantry

This is my fourth "Thrifty Thursday" post. I want to stay motivated as I work on our family budget--part of that motivation is sharing what I am doing. It can be discouraging to read frugal blogs and see how people feed their families on so little money--I feel like I am trying hard and yet I don't see those results. I am sensitive to the fact that many people are frugal out of necessity and don't have the option to "not succeed" in their attempts. The last thing I want to be is patronizing. Nonetheless, I feel like we are bleeding money around here and there are some expensive things we need to save for. I know there are people who want to reduce their spending but do not know where to I am writing these posts for them and myself :) I hope you are inspired and if you can add any ideas of your own I hope you will comment below :)

If you are a regular reader of this blog (there are a couple of you out there LOL) then you know I talk a lot about reducing our spending, frugality, simplicity, cooking from scratch and making do with what we have. It is important to me that my kids grow up understanding these values (I can't make them "share" my values, but I hope that by being raised this way and discussing consumerism they will think twice about acquiring debt for more gadgets and seeking the instant gratification of more "stuff". A topic for another post, perhaps). It makes sense to me to add having a stocked pantry to the above list. I am in the process of buying a few extras here and there (when they are on special) so that I never have to run to the store (a 25 minute drive) and pay full price because I "ran out" of something essential (flour, etc). There are a few reasons I have always kept a stocked pantry:

  • I live in western Canada and the weather can prevent travel when you live out of town. I am also a home-body and don't make extra trips to town if I can help it.
  • We have experienced power outages that have lasted 3-4 days in the past. I like to have a plan in place for events like that. We now have a wood stove--I can cook on it or my BBQ--but that means having wood available and propane in the tank. It also means having some food on hand for those emergencies.
  • As I mentioned, we live in western Canada. Whether you like it or not, western Canadians depend greatly on the oil and gas industry for their income--directly or indirectly. This is not a space where I want to debate the evils of the oil sands or the long term effects of fossil fuels. Tne fact is if you are a waitress you depend on oil money for your tips, if you are a carpenter you have been busy for years because of the oil boom, and on and on. The drop in the price of oil has left many people scrambling, some have been out of work for months. Having a stocked pantry can help get families through periods of less or no income. Being creative in the kitchen can stretch food dollars to make it paycheque to paycheque. For me, it only makes sense to try to save on food and have extra set aside for the unexpected.
So what are some items that I choose to stockpile?

Baking supplies: I bake most of our bread so flour and yeast, sugar, brown sugar and various grains top my list.
Drinks, including 5 gallon jugs of water: (our well water is not safe to drink) I notice the price of coffee fluctuates week to week. I keep a few extra cans around and buy more when it is on special. I can't be without my morning coffee! I also have an assortment of teas, some of which are medicinal.
Rice: I buy large bags of basmati rice because we love it and it is just a good staple to keep around.
Pasta and lentils: I keep a box of whole wheat lasagna noodles around for when I freeze lasagna to eat later. The kids like pasta and I plan to keep some extra on hand as we go into the winter months. Also pot barley, split peas etc for soup.
Household Supplies: Recently I bought a couple extra bottles of laundry detergent and dish soap that were either on special or had a coupon. Why pay full price because I've ran out and desperately need to do laundry? Toilet paper is something I really resent spending money on. And I don't love
the cheapest varieties. But really how much money should we spend on something that literally gets flushed down the toilet? So I try to keep extra rolls in house so we never have to run to the gas station and pay quadruple, or pay full price at the grocery store. The key is to watch for a decent brand being on sale. I use some shaklee cleaners that I bought years ago. It seems like a lifetime supply because I have had them for years and there is still plenty. While I do try to stay environmentally friendly I also have some cleaners that were the free gift at Superstore as a back up.
Canned Goods: Various soups and vegetables, primarily whole and crushed tomatoes. Last year my garden provided me with several months worth that I had canned or frozen. My plan is to eventually put up our annual supply of tomatoes. I like to have some canned chick peas and other beans on hand for when I've forgotten to soak dried ones overnight. Soup is handy for when we are in a rush or I'm just too busy or tired to make some from scratch.
Cooking oil was an in-store special the other day and I bought another 3 litre jug although I already had one to spare. I also have 3 or 4 gallons of vinegar in my garden shed because I use it to kill weeds. It is also handy to have for cleaning and making my wonderful sweet and sour sauce :) Aluminum Foil is so helpful with outdoor cooking and I got two 50' rolls on sale recently.

There are other things that I hate to be without--obviously toothpaste and shower supplies. We use Epsom salts in the kids' baths and I use them in the garden as well. I have a full spice cupboard that I really treasure. Cutting condiments out of our grocery list is better for the bank account as well as the health, generally, so herbs and spices can go a long way to add variety to our food.

There are probably more things to add to this list, and it obviously doesn't include what I stockpile in the freezer. I didn't include perishable but long-storing vegetables like potatoes and onions but I do always have them on hand whether from my garden, my mom's or the store. As we get better at self-sufficiency these are things that we would always provide for ourselves. Do you have any items to add to my list, or do you stockpile food for emergencies/security? 


  1. well, i'm certainly a regular reader -- although apparently not a regular commenter [tsk, tsk] but i've been enjoying your frugal thursday posts.

    the idea of stockpiling certain items really appeals to me -- and i try to do that as much as possible -- like you, i know that living out of town means that there's no such thing as a "quick trip" to pick up something that you've run out of -- and even though there's a Foodland in the nearest small town [still a ten minute car ride], their prices are obscene and it pains me to pay them.

    i think it's just a discipline that needs to be practiced -- keeping track of sales etc. and picking up the things you know you're going to use when they're on special. i got a bit out of the habit over the summer but now that winter is looming, i'm surveying the pantry and figuring out what needs to be replenished!


    1. Hi Mel, thanks for reading and commenting! We are in about the same situation--nearby little grocery store is 15 minutes away and the prices are criminal. I try to support once in awhile but it's just not affordable. My dilemma with stockpiling is that I might overspend for awhile stocking up then coast awhile without really noticing a drop in my grocery spending. I'm determined though! I want to reduce what we spend on food, increase what we save for emergencies. Thanks for stopping by :)

    2. i know exactly what you mean about the overspending -- and then not underspending! mind you, last winter was VERY lean for us and we had a $50/week grocery budget [i kid you not]. B prides himself on his years of watching The Price Is Right with his grandmother so considered it a challenge to get what we needed and stay on-budget!

      i actually came back to ask if you have the option of buying in bulk? the best bulk food store is a fair drive away from us but i try to work it in as part of other errands and i find it WAY more cost-effective to buy certain things in bulk -- baking supplies mostly, some nuts and dried fruit, rice etc. although, once i bought some basmati rice at the bulk place and it had "bugs" in it *shudder* -- so now i buy the large sack at the grocery store. lol

      okay..done nattering! xo

      ps. i also understand the wanting to support the local economy by shopping at the local grocery -- but truly, it's ridiculous what they charge for things. i'm surprised anyone shops there. so it's only once in a while i'll pick up the odd thing....

    3. Wow...$50 a week is amazing. I really aspire to grow enough food that we could live off that. I just need to be so much more strict with myself. It's great your other half is onboard with budgeting. Mine is as well, but we fall off the wagon! As for bulk purchasing--our town doesn't have much selection (I should ask around, but I don't think there's any). Superstore has a few bins of spices, rice, etc but it sort of gives me the heebie jeebies because I've never seen those bins being cleaned or replenished. I do buy soup base there sometimes and it's significantly cheaper. You've inspired me to check the bulk section out and see what exactly could be bought there at a savings!

      The nearest Costco is a 3 hour drive so the membership isn't worth it for how often we get there. I know my prices pretty good and some things are cheaper but many are more expensive and the temptation is to buy it "since we're here". We like the quality of some of their things, so we did renew and shop there a couple times last year. I don't think we will pay the membership renewal this year but if I could get there with someone who has a card I'd love to price things out!

  2. Although I do stockpile (somewhat) I tend to do it primarily for the winter. Which reminds me that I should make a list of what I need to start buying so I can gradually build it up again. Nothing to add to your list - it is pretty much the same things/categories as what I keep although most likely on a much smaller scale since I am a family of 1 :-)

    1. I agree, Pru, that winter is the time for stockpiling. One reason is the dreaded slog across a parking lot half a foot deep with snow and ice dragging two kids behind. The last thing I need is a cart loaded with flour, sugar, laundry soap, all the heavy things! It's nice to know that if you're snowed in during a major storm you at least won't be hungry :)

  3. I also keep a well-stocked pantry, even though there is just me to feed. I know that if a disaster hits, I can share with my family and neighbors. My daughter laughs, and says, "You can easily feed a family of five for 3 months. " Every time I buy groceries, I first use a mark-a-lot, to tag the expiration date. It makes it so much easier to see the date later. I keep the older dates up front. And a funny thing...I learned this from my mother !! I think there is great comfort in knowing you can take care of your family, when times might get a little tough.

    1. Meggie, it's a great idea to mark expiry dates so that you know you are rotating things properly. I will have to start doing that! I am concerned about emergencies, too. I'm glad to live within miles of my parents and 3 of my brothers so we are never totally stranded. But I also don't want anyone having to put themselves in danger coming to "save" us in an ice storm or blizzard because we are unprepared. It is a comfort to know that between us our little neck of the woods could get along for quite awhile if we had to :) Thanks for reading!