The pantry principle

I recently shared on a message board some tips for food budgeting (I posted about this here in Feb.), and realized by the feedback there that part of my approach needed to be clarified.  Too often, people will tell me, “Food costs more where I live, I can’t get xyz item at that price here.”   First of all, the point is not to use the items that I use or that my recipes are any more affordable than yours.  Use recipes that utilize foods that are affordable where you live.More important than using economy ingredients is the pantry principle. Many foods are usually pricey, but if you stock up when the prices are right, you can enjoy what most would consider more expensive meals while staying within your budgetary limitations. I use some ingredients that tend to be expensive. But for me, they’re not.  Why?  I don’t shop for ingredients for specific recipes – I shop to fill my pantry.  That means when cheese is on sale, for example, as it was this week, I’ll buy a large amount and put it in the freezer for when I’ll need it.  Peanut butter is on sale, I stock up. Etc, etc, etc.

If you were to watch me shopping for non perishables, you would notice that though I usually have a full shopping cart, there are only a few different items -thirty of this, twenty of that. I buy alot of whatever is on sale, usually saving an average of 33 – 50% on my bill from what it would be if I just bought the ingredients when I needed them. I try to keep my pantry and freezer filled with staple ingredients that I regularly use.  When it’s time to plan my menu for the week, I think about what I have on hand.  Do I have a lot of pasta, or a lot of potatoes?  Am I running low on canned tomatoes but have a bunch of canned fish?  Did I buy alot of something perishable on sale that needs to be cooked up and put into the freezer right away (this week it was bananas, last week it was cottage cheese)?

It’s not what you buy that will make the big difference, it’s how you buy!


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