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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Monday, September 07, 2009

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Using Your Pantry Stores

Frugal Kitchens 101
The past few Frugal Kitchens 101 have focused on stocking your pantry. This is the time of year when many of us are re-stocking the pantry with as much as a year's supply of fruits and vegetables to get us to the next growing season. At the same time we may be trying to use up some of last year's canning goods while taking advantage from the odd excellent sale. Continuing with the pantry theme this week's Frugal Kitchens 101 will discuss using your pantry stores.

The purpose of your pantry is to keep you prepared, keep you out of the grocery stores, greatly reduce eating out and is aimed at saving you money. One big mistake that some make is to continuously add to their pantry stores without using them. In extreme cases this is known as hoarding. What happens is the food doesn't get used within a 2 year period and quite often you hear about these cases when family or friends are forced to clean out a relative's home through illness or death. The sad thing is hundreds of dollars of stocked up food ends up being tossed if this happens. Don't get into this trap. Think of your pantry as constantly evolving to meet your current needs. Foods should constantly be revolving using the oldest foods first with no one food item being older that a year to 18 months old. Once your pantry is stocked it becomes a matter of constantly revolving the food. Armed with your pantry inventory list and personal use list you are now ready to use your pantry stores. Here are a few of my tips.

  • plan to use - If you menu plan and even if you don't plan to use a certain portion of your pantry stocks each week. If you menu plan it is quite easy to know that you are going to use for example 2 jars (cans) of green beans, 2 packages of pasta, 2 tins of tuna as part of that particular week's menu plan. Obviously this is not a full menu but you get the idea. I am not a huge menu planner aside of special events and that is because when I walk into my pantry I'll spot something that ends up being the focus of that night's meal.
  • use what you have - In general if you have stocked to allow for example 1 jar (can) of green beans per week you should be averaging that amount. Don't worry about restocking that particular item until you are down to the quarter mark. So if you started with 52 jars (cans) of green beans when you get down to 13 jars then start watching the sales if buying commercially canned green beans. If you are using home canned green beans this will be the time to assess whether or not you need to put up more jars the following year. If you are home canning and have reached the half year mark without reaching the halfway mark that is likely a good indication you could reduce the amount you put up the following year.
  • be flexible - Your food preferences and consumption changes over time so that may result in you finding you having an excess of a particular pantry item. If you know this is an item you will not consume donate it to a food bank or give it to someone who will use it.
  • be creative - Open your pantry and quickly pick one item. Use that item as the inspiration for that meal. It's surprising how effective this method can be. Use your pantry inventory list as the basis for planning your weekly menu as well.

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