Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Kitchen Inventory - The Pantry

In the Pantry, 1868

        -  Teaching Home Economics to Daughters -

This post is part of an ongoing series to give you an inside look at what I am doing to teach my 15 year old daughter (Amy) the art of homemaking skills. I will also share stories and memories of how I taught my older daughters (currently ages 21 and 22). You can expect to see these posts every Tuesday, here at The Legacy of Home.

Category - Meal Planning on a Budget.

When we owned our country store, we had to keep track of our inventory. We did not want to run out of things like sugar or canned corn. So we kept a list of all the basic items we needed. Please realize, this was an old fashioned, Mom and Pop, country store with hardwood floors and old wooden shelves. There was no computerized inventory. We did things the old fashioned way. We even had a rotary phone!

This is where I got the  idea of keeping a list of inventory for our kitchen at home. However, I only use it as a tool for frugality. I make this list once or twice a month and use it to come up with meal plans to get us through several days without any wasteful shopping. I will explain how this works:

Amy and I Make the List

I sit at the kitchen table with paper and pen. Amy (15) looks through the cabinets, shelves, and refrigerator. She tells me exactly what we have on hand. She also tells me the quantity.

For example - 3 cans of green beans, 28 eggs (she actually counts out the eggs), 10 pounds of potatoes, 10 boxes of pasta, 5 pounds of carrots, 10 cans of tomato sauce, 2 loaves of bread, 6 sticks of margarine, 1/2 can of coffee, 10 pounds of sugar, 20 pounds of flour, 1/2 can of shortening, 1 gallon of milk, 1 can of juice-mix, 10 pounds of burger, 16 oz bag of mozzarella cheese, etc.

Once every item is written down, we begin the process of making menus and creating a small grocery shopping list to make up for needed items (if necessary).

The Menu Plan

- I require counsel for this. (smiles) I always call my oldest daughter, Rachel (22) to help us. I tell her exactly what I have on hand (from the list) and she gives me a ton of ideas for creative, economical meals. Next, I look through my old cookbooks and find more ideas. Then I ask various family members for suggestions, based on the inventory.

As each menu is written down, I cross off the exact ingredients from our inventory list. For example - if we make a dinner consisting of meatloaf, green beans and mashed potatoes, I cross off one pound of burger, 1/2 a stick of butter, one can of green beans, 5 pounds of potatoes, 2 eggs, 1/2 a bottle of BBQ sauce, 1/4 of a can of bread crumbs and a portion of the milk.

We keep this up, planning meals and crossing off the needed items from the inventory list, until nothing is left and  I have enough meals to get us through the required number of days (such as 2 weeks).

The Shopping List

I will often need a few items. This might include: 1 bottle of BBQ sauce, 1 gallon of milk, 2 dozen eggs, 2 cans of corn, etc.  I will only buy the few exact items necessary in order to FRUGALLY clear out my pantry based on the meals we have written down.


I want to stress the fact that I do not create a pantry list based on things I want, or things I hope to have on hand. For instance, even though we love to make homemade pizza, I rarely have the necessary spices -like basil and oregano. So I end up using only one or none. I do not have the money to stock my pantry with basic necessities.  I simply use this inventory list to carefully, prudently and creatively use up what we already have.

**Historical Pantries included canned garden produce, and bulk basics like coffee, grains and sugar. These were mostly farm pantries, where the family was able to obtain eggs, butter, milk and meats from their own animals and land.

Please contrast this with a modern day kitchen - we use the store fliers to stock up on sale items. We also take advantage of "reduced" goods offered for a fraction of the retail price - like yesterday's bread, meat and produce. These food items form the basis of a modern kitchen pantry.**

I'd love to hear about your kitchen pantry. Is it a closet in your kitchen, some cabinets, or a beautiful piece of furniture?

Is there a creative, frugal meal you often make when the pantry starts to look bare?

Mrs. White

Very Hard times - No Income and the Basics of Life.

An Elegant Home Despite Poverty - being thankful.

An Invitation - Subscribe to The Legacy of Home and have it delivered directly to your email.



Catherine (Alecat Music) said...

I'm really enjoying reading what you're writing up for this series. These are very necessary skills all families should have and I love that you're sharing your ideas with us all. Thank you!!

I do pantry/fridge stocktakes regularly also. It's amazing what sort of meals can still be made when you think you have 'nothing'. We've even been down to only flour, a few eggs, some oil and some veg. .. still made a lovely pasta dinner.

Okay ... I seriously need to spend more time reading more of your older posts, lol!! Excuse me whilst I make myself at home for a bit.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mrs. White!
I am really enjoying this series because I am just now getting my little ones started in on helping in the kitchen. They are 6 y/o, 5y/o, and 3 y/o.
As you know we are a military family that moves about every three years so we don't really stock up on many things. I do stock up on canned goods like fruit and such while being here in Italy because the grocery store on base is quite expensive and when they put stuff on sale I buy it. The fresh produce here isn't very fresh so we rely on canned and frozen fruits and veggies. Each week we usually make up some sort of menu and we usually only have to buy our meat, snacks,and drinks. My husband really likes to try out new dishes so once or twice a week we will look through our cookbooks and try a new meal. On these nights I usually make something I know the kids will like as they do not like to try new things. I really like your idea of going through the pantry to make your meals. I may just try that!
Sarah L.

Beth West www.northernskyart.wordpress.com said...

I love how you call Rachel for ideas. That probably makes her feel so needed and appreciated.

Your menu planning strategy is so very practical.

We try to shop once a month for the major items. I begin by taking an inventory of everything I have (and don't have) on hand. This is when I usually deep clean the fridge ('cause it's almost empty and much easier to clean) and the pantry. Then I make my menu for the month, trying to take advantage of everything we already have. Next I prepare my shopping list. Then I shop.

Since food prices have gone up so sharply and our income has remained static, it has been really hard to have the funds to buy for the month, but I do as much as I can, then we try to pick up the extras weekly.

I used to prepare my menu and list every week. Each week I'd spend an hour dragging out cook books and making my list, then 3 hours shopping (the store is 45 minutes away). To shop once a month saves so much time and money in gas. It takes about 20 minutes longer to plan a month's worth of meals instead of a week's and maybe an extra 45 minutes in town.

Deanna said...

Blessings to you, Mrs. White.

Enjoyed this read. My pantry is on metal racks as I wait for a real kitchen in the near future.

I'm actually enjoying the quickness of looking for food in the open spaces!

Though I will sing and dance when my kitchen is completed...I will be very thankful...a real joy!

Hope you are feeling all better since the fall.

God bless,

Joyce Ackley said...

Your method of marking things off your pantry list to plan meals is a unique system. All that fine tuning seems a bit compicated to me, because Math (shudder) is involved!

It's hard to cook for just myself. I do have a favorite dish that I make, and I like it so much I don't mind eating it night after night for a few days until it's gone. It's a tuna casserole, with cream of mushroom soup, onions, canned peas, Minute rice (out of the box) and tuna. It's topped with grated cheddar cheese and pimentos, if I have any. It's filling and a meal in itself.

I also like dried beans, which are economical. Pasta dishes are always filling, too, and can be made with little or no meat.

Soup is also good for using small amounts of veggies and leftovers, but I don't enjoy it in the summertime as such.

Renee said...

I would love to read a post about how you fill up your pantry...and when? I also look at what we already have and try to make the our meals last a day longer:)

What we have a hard time doing is filling up the pantry or knowing how much to buy each month? Do you shop every 2 weeks? Do you then stock up on things or just buy the specials?

Our pantry is near our kitchen it was suppose to be a coat closet that I filled up with shelves...it is so nice to have a lot of room and to be able to see what we have on hand.


Misty Smith said...

My daughter and I did this last night. Wow! We have so much food. to think that we pace the kitchen thinking there is nothing to eat. We have plenty. This post was a help to us in a time of need. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I am so thankful to find someone else who has their daughter help with pantry inventory! My daughter will be glad to know she isn't the only one being "tortured" this way. ")

Actually, though she does not enjoy it, she will be the first to tell you how much she has learned by doing this. In fact, she now makes her own amazingly wonderful recipes!

I will admit that usually I use the information to restock my pantry. There are some basic things we use every month no matter what we make, but we have done just as you said when funds are low, and we have been able to make great meals with what is on hand (one of the great benefits of having a stocked pantry - lean times!)

As for the complexity of it, it can feel like such a task, specially if you wait until last minute, but we have found it to be an enjoyable family chore. The girls have learned so much about homemaking through this activity (how to stock a pantry, menu planning, being frugal, compromising, and working as a team, to name a few.)

I love what you are doing here! Please continue!
May God bless you ten-fold for each moment you spend helping others ")

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this great article! One of our favorite frugal recipes we call poor man's soup. It is cabbage cut up with a pot of water and cut up chicken and with some salt added. (we usually use a whole cut up chicken and then take the chicken out of the pot after cooking and then break up the chicken to put back in the soup) It is so simple, healthy, delicious and very cheap!

I like your ideas for taking pantry inventory and making meals out of what you have on hand.

Lynn said...

With my interest in and achievements in 'prepping'...planing ahead for emergencies....I am concerned for you in that you are unable to stock your pantry with at least 3 month's worth of food stuffs. Could I suggest that you try your best to buy one extra of several items each time you go to your grocery store, etc, to build up your pantry in the event of a disaster, or national emergency...?

Lynn said...

You might add items that are sale.