Now that the wedding is over, I need a new project! I’ve decided to research, design, and create the perfect frugal pantry for my family. Over the summer, some of my “fun” reading including re-visiting the Little House on the Prairie series. Now, as a child of the late 1970s and early 1980s, I was immersed in all things Laura Ingalls. I read the books repeatedly and watched the TV series after school. I even had my own sunbonnet and apron and was known to cover the swing set with my mom’s sheets to simulate a covered wagon. Not to mention that growing up in Missouri meant we were near her “Rocky Ridge” farm and a theme park that cashed in on nineteenth-century nostalgia. On more than one occasion, I cursed my fate that I hadn’t been born a hundred years before.
Now with the whole “urban homesteading” movement, I can live out my fantasies through my pantry. I hope to revive the lost art of storing and wisely managing food over a long period of time. Reading the Little House books again, I found Farmer Boy to be one of my favorites. I forgot that part of what made those books so compelling was the level of detail Wilder includes about process. It was easy to track what the family grew, stored, and ate throughout the year. One of my favorite scenes was when the parents went to town for a week and left the kids to fend for themselves. Of course, they binged on ice cream and sweets and were embarrassed by all the sugar they used by the week’s end. In some ways, I feel like we’ve gone through a similar binge. Now that I realize that local, honestly grown food makes me happiest, I’m pleased to put aside all the processed, manufactured food, just as the kids were happy to go back to healthy food after a week of ice cream.
I think this is a great season to start my frugal pantry because there’s so much to harvest and put up. I’ll track what I’m canning and freezing and hope that it will last us through the winter. I plan to still use my own variation of the “Grocery Game” to stockpile toiletries, but I want to start buying beans, rice, grains, flour, baking supplies, and soup supplies in bulk. My goal is to have a three-months supply of healthy food on hand that my family would actually eat. Ideally, I’ll shop for bulk supplies four times each year. Then, at bi-weekly trips to the grocery store, I’ll stock up on meat and cheese that’s on sale, get toiletries on sale, and buy the few perishables that I can’t get in bulk, like milk and spinach. In the summers, I’ll buy extra produce to preserve so that I don’t need as much in the winter. I also plan to build a nice repertoire of easy-to-cook meals that we can eat out of our pantry. I like the self-sufficiency of the whole project, but I also like several bloggers’ suggestions that this contributes to the emergency fund.
Over the course of the year, we’ll track how much I spend and save on groceries. Right now, I budget $100 a month for a case of wine and $400 a month for groceries, plus I spend a little extra at the farmers’ market in the summer, maybe $80 a month. So, that gives me $5040 a year. I’m going to plan $300 a quarter for bulk supplies and reduce my bi-weekly budget to $125, plus more in the summer for the farmers’ market.
Now, my goal will be to at least stay on budget, but of course, I really hope that this will actually save us money. I plan to use the old snowflaking approach here. This time, though, I’ll decide what to do with the saved money next October. Perhaps we can use it for gourmet foods during the upcoming year? Or a foodie vacation? Or monthly meals in new restaurants? Since we can already afford our food budget, I don’t want this money to get lost in general savings. Instead, it should definitely go to food-related treats! What do you think? Do any of you buy in bulk now?