Friday, October 14, 2011

Avoiding an Empty Pantry

Have you ever had times in your homemaker's journey when the pantry and fridge were a quiet, lonely place?  I have and I'm not too proud to admit that I've received help from food banks, churches, and even food stamps.  I'm certainly not boasting, but when you're a mother your pride takes a back seat when it comes to feeding your children.  I have always worked (outside the home) while I've received help so maybe that has something to do with not feeling embarrassed or ashamed of it.

The meat is the only item I purchased in this meal.

The reason I'm sharing this with you is because I've finally discovered one way to avoid having an empty pantry.  First, start cooking from scratch.  Quit buying convenience foods and learn how to make the same recipes  yourself.  You'll pay anywhere from 30% - 50% more for food that is pre-cut, pre-cooked, pre-washed, individually wrapped, etc.  The frozen dinner meals where all you do is toss it in a crock-pot, for example, are so easy to prepare yourself. "Ready to eat" foods are full of preservatives, additives, dyes, and fillers... the list could go on forever.  Not to mention the quantity and quality of that type of food is below par compared to the dollar amount you paid.  Start eating better cuts of meat that are not filled with hormones, steroids, and antibiotics.  Insist on fresh fruits and vegetables, not filler starches.  We have found that better quality food is more filling and satisfying because it is a whole food without additives and it meets our nutritional needs more efficiently.  When we fill our bodies with unnatural, unhealthy, man-made, processed foods we have to eat more just to meet our basic nutritional needs.  I know a lot of you are on a shoestring budget and think you can't afford to eat better than what you are eating now, but you can!  Learn to source out the best quality for the lowest price.  Don't be fooled into thinking just because it comes from a big box store or that it's the store brand that you're getting the best price.  If your budget is really tight, replace your drink items with water and use the money saved to buy fresh produce.  I remember when my family was young and I would pop into the store for drinks for the week.  If I bought a couple of Cokes for the adults and juice and milk for the kids we were out $20!  If you saved that much each week, in a month you would have $80 to go towards a healthier diet.  Another big help is to buy in bulk if it's a shelf stable item that will last the time it will take you to use it.  This will help keep you out of the store and away from other impulse buys that may occur when you pop in to get that one thing you need.  However, be sure the bulk item you're purchasing is a better price because this isn't always the case.   Often times you'll actually get a better 'price per unit' or 'cost per ounce' by using coupons to buy multiple small packages of an item.  You'll have to be the judge of what works the best for you in this area.

I harp on all the time about food co-ops, but they really are the best choice out there.  The price is reasonable, if not down right cheap.  Most need volunteers and will give special discounts or "extras" for helping.  Plus, involvement with your local co-op will put you in contact with people who think like you, and before you know it you will have all kinds of doors opening with your family's health being the beneficiary.  I'm lucky enough to have one right down the street from me, but if I didn't I would consider getting a group of families together and take turns carpooling.  I was in a church co-op one time and we loved to do this.  We all got to participate but only had to drive once a month or whatever our rotation was.   

The picture at the top of this story is what our family received for volunteering today.  McClane and I volunteered from 9:30am - 11:30am.  We got all that for two hours of work!  The picture really doesn't do it justice because the fruit and veg is stacked on top of each other.  Here is my count list!

What in the world would I have paid for all that at the grocery store?  Whatever it is, I surely wouldn't have been able to afford it.  In all honesty I almost have too much to choose from when it comes to fresh food.  We all know fresh food will not sit on the shelf for a month so the clock is ticking.  We certainly won't eat this by next Thursday when we get MORE, so I will be busy freezing, dehydrating, canning, and cooking it before it goes to waste!  This is the last step in helping your food budget.... ready for it?!?  

Waste nothing!

Cook and eat it, freeze it, can it, dehydrate it, give it away, or, if all else fails, feed it to the animals or compost it!  Waste not, want not right?  I mean think about it... if you waste, you will want much sooner than you would have wanted as if you had wasted it!

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