The pantry is a great help to the homemaker. A well-stocked pantry can be the difference between grabbing a bite at the fast food drive-thru (read: spending money not accounted for in the budget) and driving home with the confidence that there will be something to eat. It is the difference between serving cereal for supper and a one-pot meat, vegetable, and grain dish.
The pantry also allows the homemaker to take advantage of grocery sale prices without limiting the family’s meals to what is on sale that particular week. The key is to purchase enough of a given item when it is on sale to last the family until the next sale.
This is most simply learned by trial and error. Buy what may be needed; if it is used before the next sale, then buy even more next time. The learning curve can be shortened by keeping a paper tally to track usage of pantry and freezer items, and also when items go on sale (most stores operate on sale cycles that may be 6-10 weeks long).
Pantry and Freezer Inventories
It’s important to keep inventories of the pantry and freezer. Without inventories, duplicates are bought inadvertently (“How did I end up with five containers of bread crumbs?), items are forgotten (“I need black beans for this soup, but forgot that I was out of them!”), and food spoils (“How long has this meat been in the freezer?”). It is a waste to buy food that goes uneaten.
Recently, I found a good app through the Apple store called “Pantry Check.” It is free, so not perfect, but still useful. The benefits over a paper inventory are that the items are searchable, easily organized, and the app features a bar code scanner for quick input and search of items.
This Google Document is an example of a pantry inventory I have used in the past. And here is a freezer inventory. These do not have the benefits of a digital list, but are sufficient and don’t require a fancy device. With these, the boxes to the right group counts of two (for ease of counting). When an item is purchased, mark a slash for each. When used, cross through the slash to make an “X.” Simple. These lists are best kept on the refrigerator or even a clipboard hung inside the pantry for easy access.
As the menu is planned and the grocery shopping list written, consult the inventory sheets to make note of missing ingredients for planned meals and items that require restocking.
Surely I am not the only homemaker who starts to plan a menu… and suddenly can think of nothing to cook. It’s as if I’ve forgotten everything I know how to make. Flipping through my recipe box helps, but I found an even better method: keep a list of go-to meals, things the family likes to eat.
Group the meals/recipes by category. Each kid can get their own category, too. When a great new recipe is tried and loved, add it to the list!
A simple peruse of a list like this usually sparks the memory enough to get through any hiccups in planning the family menu.