I had a bit of a surprise recently when I started to pull together my grocery list. I had more in my pantry than I thought and, as a result, my grocery list was considerably smaller (i.e. cheaper) than I had anticipated.
Yes, I refer to my pantry as ‘The Magic Pantry’ because of the magic that I can create from the contents. I keep a variety of pastas, proteins, and vegetables, in addition to rice on hand. As a result I’m not locked into a specified meal plan, I can pick and choose what appeals to me because I’ve stocked the things that I need to make the meals I enjoy.
It really is magic!
To be clear, I’ve tried a variety of meal planning ideas and tools but I don’t care for limitations. As much as I enjoy leftovers, there are times when I really want chicken and rice. Or a nice pasta with a simple sauce. Having a well stocked pantry allows me to create a meal that appeals to me rather than something I have on the day’s menu.
How did I get here? I often add an extra something to my grocery shop. An extra jar of my favorite pasta sauce (Rao’s) along with an extra carton of pasta. I make sure to have a variety of cheeses in the fridge (you never know when you want macaroni and cheese). I have a particular fondness for canned green beans, so I make sure to pick up an extra can every once in a while.
I don’t do all of that at every shopping trip, though. That could potentially blow the budget. When I prepare my grocery list, I look for those things I use a lot: Butter. Milk. Cheese. Chicken. Pasta. Pork. I build menus around those items and if I don’t use them up, they go into the pantry for a later meal.
One thing I try to do is purchase some items during off times. For example canned pumpkin or cranberry sauce. The prices go up during the holidays, so I try to make sure I have what I need on hand well before the holiday shopping commences.
Lately I’ve found myself not being all that interested in salads but really looking forward to simple pasta dishes. I don’t eat bread a lot, so I don’t buy it often. If I get the urge, I have the things I need on hand to make bread.
When you consider building your Magic Pantry, I’d suggest sitting down and making a list of your favorite meals and then creating a list of ingredients you need to create them. Focus on that list and soon you will have what you need on hand for a last minute ‘what’s for dinner?’
It goes without saying (or at least it should) that you always look at sales to see what you might pick up while saving money. Pay close attention to unit cost – some of those ‘bargains’ aren’t. If you are a small household (one or two people) don’t ignore family packs. They are a great way to save money and stock up the freezer.
Don’t be afraid to try other brands. Many of the name brand foods are packaged at the same place as the off-brands. You could find a lower cost option that you like better. Now that’s a win/win!
I’m really enjoying my Schwan’s Home Delivery service! I get top quality products and comparable prices in quantities that go farther than what I might find at my local market. You can check them out by clicking HERE. I love their Italian Style Chicken Breasts and their Six Cheese Tortellini! And, oddly enough, their tater tots are better than the named brand I used to purchase.
These are all great meal builders.
As we head into Fall and Winter, not to mention Holiday Meal Season, creating a magic pantry will be very helpful and economical. When you start thinking about holiday gifting, and you should be doing that now, homemade gifts from the kitchen might be the most welcome.
Pardon the pun, but food for thought.
Happy planning and cooking!
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