Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Before the Pantry Stock

 Happy Wednesday.  Hope you are all well.

I was asked to give some guidelines to those just starting out with the pantry/freezer thing.  There is much to be thought about, but today, let us talk about the WHY and WHERE!  We all have to start somewhere.

WHY should you have a nice pantry and freezer of supplies?  Well, anything can happen.  You could lose your job and have less or no income for a while.  You could get sick and not feel like going out.  Other expenses could escalate and you need to cut back on grocery budget.  You could have a loss of life in the family and things change.  There are many, many things that could cause you not to be able to shop for a while.  You truly NEED to have extra supplies on hand.  BASIC items on hand that are ingredients that you can cook with and make all sorts of things.

                                                                    Not my picture
You need to figure out WHERE you are going to store items.  If your home has a dedicated pantry - you are very lucky.  You can store in all kinds of places and in all kinds of things!
Cabinets, closets, under stairs, basements (if dry), under the bed, on closet floors, extra rooms, just about anywhere you can think of.
You may need to get creative.  I have seen people store cases of goods behind couches and I have seen 'side tables' made from cases of food and then covered with a pretty tablecloth.  Whether you home is big or small - you need to have a plan.

Think about saving lots of nice jars and tins.  The larger the better.  Glass protects from most any kind of pest.  Plastic is good too - but remember rodents can chew through those. (If you have a problem).
Totes and plastic milk crates are great for storing can goods and jars and boxes of things.
You don't have to go out and spend a fortune on storage stuff.  Look around the house and garage - I bet you find many unused items that you can use.
Scraps of wood - will make extra shelves.  Baskets can hold mixes and packets.  Totes or boxes for under the bed (even old drawers from broken /old dressers).
Big totes and even those old popcorn tins.  Those are metal and safeguard lots of dry goods.  Think pasta or rice or baking supplies!  I keep extra bags of sugar in mine.
Think about making or adding storge behind closet doors.  It can be shallow and it is dead space if not in use.  Lots of people add those plastic/material shoe bags behind doors - they will hold a lot of small items.  Behind your doors is wasted real estate!!!!!!
         See these shoe bags work well for small items. Behind a door and not out in sight.

Don't forget a freezer.  Whether you have an upright, a chest or just the refrigerator freezer - plan ahead.  Small totes or ice cream containers (gallon size) can make great dividers.  Place like items together - and stack neatly as possible.  Stacking things FLAT is very wise.  Packages of ground meats freeze flat.  Smoosh out a package of ground meat.  It sure saves space and makes the freezer neat.  Soups or casseroles - in containers (I like square ones - no wasted space).  Mark your packages as well - so you know what is in it and the date you froze!!!

After you have decided WHERE you can store things - start thinking about what you use a lot of.
Make a sort of makeshift list of those things.   TP, beauty items, oats, baking supplies, dry beans, rice, sauces, pasta, certain meats, crackers, etc.  How much you go through a week or month.
You don't have to do all this before packing the pantry - it will just make things easier. 
Look around your dwelling for spaces and things to use.  Get a smallish plan in order. 
Just a few things to think about before really doing a good pantry stock.  Use what you have for storage.  Ask around for free items (totes, boxes, tins, baskets, etc.).

Now that you have a sort of plan - it is time to shop/grow!
Tomorrow, we will go over some basics on ways to pack your pantry for the least amount of funds possible.  Not everyone can go out and spend tons of dollars at once.  Slow and steady can win this race as well.  It DOES take time and effort - but is sure worth it!
See you tomorrow for shopping ideas!

Anyone have any other ideas on areas to store goods?  Places you use that aren't conventional?
We are here to help those who are just starting out - let's all pitch-in!

Have a good day to all!


  1. Debby in Kansas USAApril 10, 2024 at 9:31 AM

    For me, I started with sales on things we ate regularly. I remember buying a 12 jar flat of peanut butter when it was a great sale. Then pasta and jarred spaghetti sauce. I just watched for sales and stocked up. Before long, my pantry was looking good! Now, I buy just to restock and rarely for an ingredient. I think the whole Pantry Principle in The Tightwad Gazette explains it perfectly.

    If you can't afford a dozen PBs at a time, try and set aside a regular amount of money just for stocking up, even just $5 per week. It all helps. That $5 might get you a months worth of pasta. Next week it might be a couple cans of tuna. Just DON'T buy stuff you're not going to eat just cuz it's a good sale. And stick to real food. Contrary to the ad, Ruffles are NOT "grocery essentials" 😂.

    1. Good tips. We will go over lots of buying and stocking ideas tomorrow. The $5 plan is part of tomorrow's post!!
      These ideas are most assuredly wise and true.

    2. Also, have a general idea of the shelf life of what you purchase and rough idea of how much you use in a year. I've had extra jars of peanut butter go rancid. So, if you don't go through 3 jars of PB a month, you might want to rethink buying an entire case. (I am a household of 1 and if I go thru 3 jars a year, including in baking, that's a lot.)

  2. I keep a black sharpie in the drawer next to my fridge so that I can mark the container as I put it in the fridge or freezer. That way I'm not tempted to skip labeling because I can't find something to write with.

    It is amazing how many storage containers I can find just in my house. I've decorated shoe boxes and even sturdy paper shopping bags to dress up my storage. A lot of times food will come in useful containers I can save and many fit nicely in the fridge or freezer.

    1. I keep a marker in the drawer right next to the frig/freezer as well. Makes marking a usual and easy thing.
      Yes, so many options for storage! The re-usable bags are nice too - I always have plenty of them.
      Good ideas.

    2. I prefer to mark (with markers) my containers with paper and put that paper in the container where it can be read without opening - many containers are pretty much see-through. I also like to add the date.

      In fact, dating things I use often (like coffee or sugar or flour) helps me gage how much I need to have on hand, how long will this container last? Almost everything has a date, either when I bought it, when I opened it, or the BB date. Just very helpful guides. :)


    3. Good idea. I often mark things when I open them as well - some things take a long time to go through for one person (like toothpaste), and I can gage how much I need to keep.

  3. Marking frozen packages of food is vital. Also the flatten it out bit. Saves a bit of room and the meat etc. is easier to thaw out. Organizing the freezer(s) is another important part. We are still finding things we didn't know we had. Eat up the older stuff first and then replenish the supply. We have several five gallon buckets with the gamma lids and I marked the top and the front with 4x6 index cards with the items. Buy what you will eat. I agree with Miss Margaret: keep sharpies at point of use...also scissors (I just added that one..ha!)

    Overcast day but fairly warm. It's April in Indiana!

    1. Yes on the freezer ideas - great minds think alike!
      I forgot about the big buckets with lids. They hold a lot of food. Good thought.
      Yep, just a spring day with rain coming in. April showers bring May flowers!

  4. I agree with Donna about the scissors. I keep several pairs around. The thing is if you make it convenient to use the marker or scissors then being frugal seems like less work!

    I also keep rubber bands nearby. Sometimes those zip bags of frozen food won't zip after opening! I just roll the bag down and put a rubber band around it. Same with the zip bags I've saved and washed. Sometimes they lose their zip!

    1. You guys are good. My marker, scissors and rubber bands and bag ties are all in a drawer right next to the frig/freezer. So handy.
      I use rubber bands in the freezer a lot on commercial bags of things.

    2. Binder clips are also good to have handy. I feel they hold tighter than your regular bag clips.

  5. I moved into a house that had bug problems that were not evident. The church solved the roach problem in this parsonage. Several months later, I found weevils in the tin cannisters in flour, sugar, corn meal. I tossed everything in the pantry that was not in glass. I even tossed the cannisters that were tin and pretty. I never trust the tin popcorn cannisters, either.

    1. Weevils and such can be in any food product with eggs. That is why I freeze certain things like flour and cornmeal products for several days. It kills the eggs. I have never had a problem with tins at all. If the eggs are in the product when you buy, they can show up in any container.
      Wow weevils in sugar - I have never heard of that.

    2. Weevils were in pantry when I moved in. Yes, weevils can come in things and yes, i freeze them. But, the point was that tins are not bug proof.

    3. Got ya. Sorry you didn't have luck w/tins.

  6. Great post Cheryl. This is such an important topic for people just starting out in life. I grew up this way so I always have stocked up but I know a lot of people didn't. It just always made sense to me. I use the food grade storage containers for rice, flour and sugar. Most everything else is in glass canisters or jars. A little bit of extra adds up quickly.

    1. Thanks. It is important for those starting. You must have grown up a lot like I did, it was just the way of life. We didn't have a lot of money - but we always had plenty of food.
      Good choices on containers.
      It sure can help in a pinch.

    Cheryl thank you for the post, it is fantastic. So thoughtful and detailed and I am sure it will be so handy for those starting out.
    Thanks to everyone who has left comments with all their ideas as well.
    And Sarah ( because I know you are reading this) this is a great community, and you will learn so much here.
    Thanks again to all, Louise

    1. Well, you got the ball rolling - so thank you! How cool that your friend might be reading this.
      There is much to teach, but these ideas help someone gain a little knowledge why we do this and where we tuck it away.
      More to come tomorrow!!!!! Stay tuned!
      Hi Sarah

  8. Thanks for a lot of good reminders, Cheryl. I converted a broom closet to pantry storage using adustable shelving and a rolling cart with pull out baskets. A couple of additions, if I may? FIRST, freeze in quantities you will use. No sense in freezing a full quart of fruit if you use it in 2 cup increments or less; if you make a recipe regularly, freeze it in the quantity required for that recipe -- 3 c. zucchini in a pkg, since that's what I use in my zucchini bread. I freeze my ground beef in 1/2# packages, because that's what I use most when cooking for one. I can always thaw 2 pkgs if I need to use a full pound. SECOND, when labeling items for the freezer, in addition to the date, product, and quantity, I also include the name of the store where I purchased the product in some sort of shorthand -- Jwl, Mjr, Berk, Aldi, etc. In the event that there's a recall, I can more easily identify any potential recalled product. And YES, freeze your ground meat flat. It thaws significantly faster in thin flat pkgs.

    1. Thanks - you found a great place to make a pantry.
      Great tips. Yes, freeze in package sizes you will use. I do 1/2lb. for ground beef too.
      Good idea to add the store name - you just never know about recalls.
      I do that with zucchini for breads - measure what I will need for a recipe.
      Thanks - good tips.

  9. When I first started my pantry, it was mostly things I canned. Then I gradually started to add a few items to my shopping every week. Now that we have some freezers... Things are much easier to store. I reuse ice cream containers to store meals in the freezer like chili, stew and soups. I started flattening ground meat and pumpkin puree. My goodness things look so much neater.

    I have a large "pantry" in the kitchen and a smaller one in the hall. I am hoping to get some more room in one of the bedrooms come next fall. The way our winters can be, having things on hand when I can't get out due to snowfall is wonderful.

    God bless.

    1. Same here. You start with the canned and dry goods and move up. Oh, flat looks so nice and stacks so well. It took me a while to figure that out!
      It is nice to expand if you can. You are right - with the bad winters you have - you have to be prepared.

  10. This isn't exactly unique, but most of my food storage is in my attached garage, which is drywalled. I store my food against an interior wall. Although I live in a fairly cold climate (USDA gardening zone 6) the garage temperature rarely drops below 40F. If I think it may get colder, I can just throw a blanket over the food.

    I have been storing food for at least 45 years. When I lived in western Oregon--which doesn't get very cold in the winter--I had open shelves in the garage. The garage was unfinished but had drywall on the interior wall.

    When I moved to Lewiston, Idaho--the warmest climate in the state due to low elevation--I had an unfinished room in the basement. My husband was always too busy to build shelves, so I bought boards and cement blocks and put together my own. He complained that this was something "a girl would do" and if I would just wait, he would build the shelves. I replied sweetly that I would be glad when he did this, and wouldn't it be wonderful that we already had the lumber! (He never said another word and didn't build the shelves, either). This is a good solution for renters. I bought 16 inch bullnose shelving.

    Then we moved 100 miles north to a higher elevation area. I took my boards and bricks with me and set up shelves in the garage, which was insulated and drywalled. I kept my pantry shelves on an interior wall and never had problems with freezing.

    After 20 years, we downsized and moved 6 miles away. Another insulated and drywalled garage. Here, I have two particleboard "pantries" that we bought years ago at ShopKo for supplies in our home office. Each one is 6 feet tall and 30 inches wide. I added more shelves inside by having particleboard cut to size. The pantries have cupboard doors. I keep a thermometer next to them but, as I said, the temperature rarely goes below 40.

    In the house, we added a second shelf above each closet shelf. We used L-shaped brackets and bullnose particleboard shelving just like what was already there. We use this space to store TP, paper towels, etc. I am short so I need a step stool to reach this top shelf.
    --Maxine, aka mikemax

    1. You made me chuckle! "Looks like something a girl would do" - well it was and it worked. I had book shelves in an apt. I made like that - couldn't afford much furniture - so it worked.
      I thought about garages - but you never know where someone lives. Yes, you need to make sure it doesn't get below freezing nor too hot (for newbies).
      It sounds like your shelves served you well. I like the way you used the particleboard pantries as well. A little extra storage and insulation around goods.
      I had a ton of room between my closet shelves and the ceiling - so I added milkcrates on the shelf. Open to the front - so still had the shelf space to store and placed a board on top - giving a second shelf. Where there is a will......

    2. A well-stocked pantry originated in my youth when mom would preserve garden produce & foraged fruit. I like the looks of the cold storage room. In the fall, it starts out with full, colorful jars of tomatoes, beans, peaches, salsa, chutney, relish, beets, pickles. In the spring, the empty jars outnumber the full ones. I seldom run out of things. There's always a running grocery list. Shop the sales, stock up on what you use & have the room to store. I use small boxes in the freezer to keep like foods together.

    3. Great tips! It is so nice to go in and look at your pantry or room or whatever it is and see all kinds of options! It is a thing of beauty!!
      A running list is excellent advise!
      Thank you for sharing - see todays post!