How to Build a Pantry that Works for YOU

The following post is from Jessica of GoodCheapEats and LifeasMOM:

source: Good Cheap Eats

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been “eating down the pantry“. What this means is that instead of grocery shopping as usual, I’m spending time and effort to use up what we have. Not only does this help me save money on food costs and prevent waste, but it is also teaching me how to build a better pantry.

By focusing on what we already had — after the excesses of a busy holiday season — I have been able to take stock of what items my family really enjoys (the ones that we’re now completely out of) and which things I should probably avoid buying in the future (the things I’m dying to use up and be done with already).

In essence, this experience teaches me how to build a pantry that works best for our family.

If you feel like you never have what you need to cook or if you’re overwhelmed when you look in the cupboards, I highly recommend a pantry challenge. You don’t need to spend a whole month doing it, but you may find that you can eek out an existence on your food stores longer than you think. A week or two is probably good enough for you to get a grasp of how you could shop and cook better for the life you live.

1. Focus your meal planning on things that you already have.

Instead of making a menu plan on what you want to eat this week, shop your kitchen to see what you can make with things on hand. Every meal doesn’t have to be perfect. Taking an inventory can really help you in this process

2. Keep a log of what you serve and how well (or not) that meal is received.

Print out a simple calendar to keep track of the meals that you come up with. Determine some kind of record like a happy or sad face to track if that meal was a hit or not. Make a mental note to revisit all those happy faces again in the future.

source: Good Cheap Eats

3. Keep a running grocery list of things to restock.

This list should contain the things that you run out of that you really want and need to keep on hand.

For instance, I was pleasantly surprised by an enchilada meal that I was able to throw together earlier in the month. One of the keys to its success was that I had corn tortillas and a jar of our favorite salsa verde on hand. These are easy things to buy that last quite awhile. I want them in my bag of tricks at all times now.

4. Make note of the things that you really don’t need to buy again.

As you get to the dregs of your food supply, you’ll come across things that you really wish you didn’t have. Like the blocks of Crisco that I bought a year ago to make chocolate-covered Oreos? Yeah, don’t need that, especially when coconut oil would have worked just as well.

The 2 cases of organic pumpkin that I bought two years ago? Yeah, that was probably a little too much as well, especially since I get deliveries of squash all winter long that I need to use up.

A pantry challenge helps you analyze your shopping and learn from your grocery shopping purchases. It equips you to make better choices in the future, enabling you to eat well and save money.

You can follow along with the Pantry Challenge, share your experiences, and get help on how you struggle to use items that you’ve purchased in the past.

What’s a MUST HAVE on your pantry list?

A foodie at heart, Jessica Fisher has learned to reconcile a tight budget with her love for great food. As a busy mom of six voracious eaters, she regularly shares healthy, delicious and budget-friendly recipes at Good Cheap Eats. She also writes at her parenting blog, Life as MOM. Her first cookbook, Not Your Mother’s Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook, will be released in November 2012.