I just got over a tummy thing, and realized that I'd lost control of my pantry once the kids were grown. In the middle of trying to find something to eat that would stay down, I realized that my pantry was stuffed with fun food only. Raspberry sauce, cake mixes, bean soup mixes, desserts and chips were everywhere, but nary a can o' chicken noodle soup!
Well, shame on me.
After realizing that a well run home will have SOME basics in the pantry, I've decided to mend my ways and beef up the locker. We must have saved thousands of dollars over the years, having basics on hand instead of running to the store and paying retail for stuff we know we'll use with wholesale abandon. Here's my list of how to manage a pantry.
You probably know how often you use your basics. I try to keep 3 months supply of these things available either on a shelf in the pantry or a shelf in the freezer. The following is an approximation of what I'd keep on hand for my family of four at any one time (ideally).
At least 10 boxes of tea, your choice. But you need tea for just about anything, sickie tummies, celebrations, or just a warm-me-up.
A case of Instant Oatmeal boxes. Live dangerously, also stock the round containers. Makes for a great cookie recipe and a fruit crisp topping. When empty, the containers make great tom-toms!
I can use up to 10 pounds of rice in a 3 month period, so I usually have a bin of rice with at least that much in it. Rice is so good and so basic. It stretches casseroles, is great food for kiddies with diarrhea, is the basis of all stir-fry recipes, and so much more that having a 25 pound bag is also a good idea. And the money savings between a box of Uncle Ben's and a 25 pound bag of rice is enormous.
A case of cream of anything soup. Ditto for the above, it stretches recipes, flavors things when you don't have time to make a sauce, and just generally comes in handy.
A case of chicken noodle soup. Just how does a kid know his mommy loves him without some form of CNS when they are sick? Go condensed, go dehydrated, go ramen, go anything, but go get the chicken soup when all else fails.
A case of tuna fish, packed in water. Two jars of mayonnaise two jars of sweet pickle relish.
We make a lot of bean soups at our house. A pound of split peas, a pound of lentils and a case of white northern beans and we are well equipped.
A case of dehydrated onion soup mix. It can jazz up anything from casseroles, gravy, sauces, etc, and also makes a nice lunch when you're in the mood.
A jar of beef bouillon. A jar of chicken bouillon. I use it instead of salt in a lot of meat dishes.
A bottle of lemon juice.
A case of mac and cheese.
A case of stewed tomatoes. You can whip up ANYTHING with tomatoes. Add to rice, and voila, Spanish Rice. Add to beans and ground beef and voila, chili.
Five boxes of yellow cake mix. You never know when you'll need to make up something for a birthday, anniversary, soccer championship, etc. To that, add a package of cupcake liners, five pounds of powdered sugar, ten pounds of granulated sugar, five pounds of brown sugar, three large bags of semi-sweet chocolate chips, five pounds of flour, two cans baking soda, two boxes baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, vanilla, three bags of your favorite nuts and 3 months supply of any special flavorings you like. You'll have a mini-patisserie!
A pound of iodized salt, jars of parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, basil, tarragon, anise, bay leaves, caraway, cream of tartar, garlic salt, oregano, and any other spices you use on a regular basis.
Two gallons olive oil. Go to Costco. Buy the oil. You can make almost anything better with olive oil.
Two liters of canola oil - for recipes where olive oil just isn't called for (pastry, etc).
Crisco - to be used sparingly, but I do use it still.
Moving to the freezer:
I bought meat in bulk, then brought it home and repackaged it in zip lock bags that would hold enough meat for one meal.
Ten pounds of ground meat (hamburger, pork, turkey, your call, but enough for three months).
Five fryers. If you can, boneless and skinless.
Ten pounds of chicken thighs (or legs, depending on your kids). Each package holds enough for one generous meal.
Ten pounds of chicken tenders (chicken breasts cut into bite-sized wedges).
Ten pounds of pork chops.
Five plastic bags each of corn, peas, carrots, green beans, broccoli, mixed vegetables, and, yes Roger, frozen squash.
Three nice frozen pizzas. Three freezer meals of your choice (lasagna, mac and cheese, chicken enchiladas are a good start). A box of corn dogs (see, I do love you, Roger). Hot dogs.
Leave enough room in your pantry and freezer for windfalls and left overs.
Notice I left out things like chips, dips, salsas, etc. Occasionally these things are nice, but with the problem of childhood obesity, I'm thinking that we don't need to store ice cream, pies, and unhealthy snack foods. They are nice to have for special occasions, but that's about it.
Obviously I've left stuff off, and I beg y'all to add your two cents worth. But my pantry will reflect the above. Most of these things come on sale periodically and you can stock up on them without paying prime bucks. Now start hoarding!
I think we'd feel at home in one another's pantries, Mollie! Mine has the same contents (only in greater amounts). I make most of our bread so we stock at least 25 pounds of flour at a time, and in addition to what you've listed above I keep the following things on hand:
tomato sauce - cheaper by the case and the basis of any red sauce
Pasta - cases of spaghetti, egg noodles, and elbow and salad macaroni
10 pounds onions
20 pounds potatoes
Canned fruit - pineapple, peaches and applesauce - for baking and impromptu desserts
Case of refried beans
In the freezer I stock giant burrito shells (good for burritos, obviously, but also for making sandwich wraps), frozen fruit for smoothies and a few things like potstickers or frozen burritos that a kid can whip up for a late-night snack. Lance is a positive genius at finding meat on sale - he can buy rib-eye steak for less than chain grocery stores charge for hamburger - so we also have a rotating stock of chops, roasts and steaks. (Usually the poorer we are, the better we eat.)
Of course there's always a stock of hamburger and chicken breasts.
We keep cases of toilet paper, paper towels, Kleenex, napkins and feminine hygiene products in the pantry, along with laundry, dish and person soap. We buy shampoo by the gallon jug and siphon it into smaller bottles.
The other thing we buy in gallon jugs, I am pleased to report, is: Chocolate syrup!