Affording Real Food · Routines

The Pantry Principle – What you’ll need to get started – Part 2

Last week we talked about how to save lots of time cooking for your family by starting and maintaining a pantry. If you haven’t ever approached shopping in this way before you’ll certainly be wondering where to start. A few things are obviously missing from your household setup, most likely.

Getting Started

Let’s say you are starting completely from scratch as I did many, many years ago. I had just a tiny apartment kitchen, a few pans scavenged from my Mom’s rejects, and some old tupperware. I had little to no extra money. My kitchen lacked pantry space, storage containers and freezer space. What to do, what to do? Start small with baby steps. Begin by adding inexpensive additions in small steps. For instance, storage containers. It’s pretty cheap to buy glass canning jars for kitchen storage. Walmart, hardware stores, and often your local grocery store has them at about $7 a case for quart jars.


Investments that pay off – The Snowball Effect

So what are the first things you should invest in? What are the ones with the highest and quickest pay-back?

  • A small freezer (larger if you can afford it and have space)
  • Storage containers for holding bulk buys of flour, wheat, rice, beans and whatever else you might like to store that doesn’t require refrigeration.

Once you have it clear where you want to start comes the next question: Where to get the money? This is where the Amy Dacyczyn‘s snowball principle comes in. Take a portion of the money left after paying the bills and apply it to tools. Make sure that they are tools that will help you save money over time. Save that money and apply it to buying more tools. Your savings will then accumulate like a snowball getting bigger as it rolls downhill. Here’s a paraphrased example from The Tightwad Gazette (in 1992 dollars):


Craig and Susan Albright have goaled themselves to save up a down payment to purchase a house in 5 years. The first year they are able to save only $100. $100 Savings
They put $50 in savings and spend $50 on cloth diapers. The weekly savings of $6 enables them to begin bulk purchasing sale items at the grocery store. The cloth diapers save the family $312 and bulk-sale purchasing saves them $600. $100+$312+$600 = $1,112 This years savings
$50 Last years savings$1,162 Total Savings
They then spend $400 for a used sewing machine and a used freezer. By freezing bulk-purchased meat directly from the farm as well as garden surplus, they are able to save an additional $600 on their food bill. They use the sewing machine to repair clothing and make Christmas gifts to save a total of $200. $1,112 + $600 + $200 = $1,912 this years savings
$1,162 – $400 = $762 last years savings
$2,674 Total Savings


It may take awhile, but doing this will get you where you want to go. Of course, if you have more free cash you can build up much faster. It might not be necessary to hunt for used items, for example, in cases where they can be hard to find. Or you might prefer to go directly for higher-end items that will be likely to last for the duration.

You have more space than you think

Next, you’ll need some extra space. If you’re like most your house feels crowded already. So the first step is to see if the things taking up space in your home are things you’d like to keep or are useful to you. Those that don’t measure up can be helped to find new homes with those you will use and cherish them. Don Aslett has written some great books to inspire some decluttering mania, if you could use a little help.


Don’t just look in your kitchen for space. Designate some space in another inconspicuous part of the house. I still have a postage stamp size kitchen in my cute little 50’s fixer-upper so I have another closet in the house designated for pantry overflow.

In part 3 we’ll talk about what you’ll need for the raw ingredients for the recipes on this site.

Links to this series:


A few links to items I have found useful for storage

  • Vittles Vault Stackable – These are intended for pet food primarily but I have found them to be easy access containers for bulk buys of rice, grains, etc. Anything you need to keep dry.
  • Bormioli Fido Wire Bail Jars– Great for dry storage in smaller quantities. The smaller versions can be used for fridge storage too.
  • Chest Freezers – I find these a bit awkward to find things in but they may fit in your space better.
  • Upright Freezers – These are easy to locate things in and they have quite a few different size to view.