Affording Real Food · Routines

The Pantry Principle – How to save gobs of time cooking for your family — Part 1

Ok, so you’ve decided to improve your diet. Maybe you’d like to lose weight, or as you’ve learned more about the source of your food you’ve decided to improve the quality of what you buy. Or maybe you, one of your children, or your husband is suffering from a chronic health problem and you’ve decided that it’s likely your diet is contributing. Whatever your motivation, there is always big questions about how to actually go about making a change, from a practical point of view. You have very little time as it is, and how are you going to add on the extra effort to:

  • Figure out what to buy
  • Figure out where to buy it affordably
  • Figure out how to make it so your family will eat it

I’m going to tell you my secret for saving time. I’ve been doing this since I first heard of the idea from The Complete Tightwad Gazette back in the mid-nineties. I was an original subscriber to Amy’s Dacyczyn’s ( a.k.a. The Frugal Zealot ) newsletter and eagerly awaited my issue in the mail with many hints and general principles for saving money. This one has to be my favorite. It not only saves money but it save gobs of time and allows you complete creativity in the kitchen. This tip will help you save lots of money at a supermarket, which is how I’ve been doing it for years, but it becomes vitally necessary if you are shopping locally for the most nutrient dense food you can get. Why? Because local food shows up in big bunches. It comes when the crop is ready to pick or when the cow is ready to be processed. You can buy in small quantities at a farmers market, for example, but this will be the more expensive way to go. It’s much more affordable to form relationships with the farmers in your area and arrange to buy when things are ready. Better for you, better for the farmer.

So what is the Pantry Principle?

Basically, you fill up your pantry and freezer with the most nutrient dense food you can get your hands on when it becomes available. All buying is then done with the idea of replenishing your pantry and not with particular meals in mind. By having a full pantry you don’t need to spend precious time planning meals ahead. You can use up any leftovers as they build up, saving money. You have the ability to walk into the kitchen and say “What should I make?” and be prepared to make most anything that you might usually make. This will save you time by:

  • Greatly reducing trips to store. This saves a lot more time than you might think at first.
  • Having lots of ingredients on hand makes it easy to make things in batches which you can then freeze for times when your schedule is crazy.

In this economy too, there are other benefits. In the event of job loss you have a pantry of food to rely on. Your grandparents would keep a supply of staples on hand to help protect the family from the unexpected.

In this series we’ll talk about:

So, let’s get started!

13 thoughts on “The Pantry Principle – How to save gobs of time cooking for your family — Part 1

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  3. I actually didn’t know that other people don’t do this — the pantry idea was the SOP when I was growing up, so that’s just how I learned to keep a household. Now, for a while when I was really strapped for cash, I’d buy an entire week’s groceries at the first of the month — before the money was gone! — but it was always a matter of buying basic staples so I’d be able to make whatever I needed throughout the month.

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