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Posts Tagged ‘pantry’

Frugal February

I’ve seen a few indications that other people celebrate frugality and simplicity in February.  But even if it’s not a recognized observance, I’m going to make it my area of focus and resolve for the month.  I don’t think we’ll make the leap into extreme frugality (not even for a month), but there are some things that I can do to help us live a little simpler and cheaper, while still living well:

Making my own bread and rolls.  I love the convenience of scooping up bakery artisan breads and sandwich rolls, but wowsers, they are pricey.  I can make really good rolls and bread myself, and I have the tools and ingredients to do it. It’s just a matter of planning ahead to allow enough time for bread making.

Using up the stuff in the pantry and freezer.  I realized when I blogged about my overstuffed pantry that I have gotten more than a little sloppy in my shopping habits, mainly because I have extra room.  I doubt we’ll find ourselves with bare shelves on February 28,  but I’m going to challenge myself to build our weekly menus around the items on hand before buying any other staples.

Taking stock of cleaning supplies.  Like the pantry situation, my cleaning supply cabinet is overstocked, and I obviously have more stuff than I should. So this month will be used to figure out what’s in there, use them for the purposes I bought them for, and be more judicious before rushing out to buy more.

Getting more out of what we have:

  1. Using up the gift cards.  I carry around several hundred dollars in gift cards, and typically forget I have them.  I’ve taken an inventory and will start using them when I’m patronizing the stores and restaurants I have cards for.
  2. Using those smart cards and discount coupon books.  No, I’m not advocating more spending, but when we do head out to eat or be merry, I will do my best to look for a discount we can use.
  3. Squeezing all the good out of our YMCA family membership.  It’s a monthly obligation of around $100.  Since I started running almost two years ago, we’ve steadily increased our visits to the point that one of us is there just about every day.  (I work out daily during the week and sometimes on the weekends with Mr. Official and Swimmer Girl, who each sneak in the occasional weeknight visit, too.)  We just need to keep it up, and if/when we aren’t using it any longer, cut it off so it doesn’t return to being a waste of money.
  4. Making my magazines work a little harder.  I am embarrassed to admit to how many periodicals we subscribe to.  But worse than that are the magazines that sit un-read.  Starting this month, I will make it a point to make a recipe, cut and use the coupons, and/or use tips or advice from every one of them that comes in the mail.  And if I find some of them aren’t delivering anything useful, they will not be renewed, no matter how good of a renewal deal they dangle in front of me.

Happy frugality!

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Holiday Sprint Week 2: Merely Organized or OCD?

I report, you decide.

But first some background.  You know the saying, “Be careful what you wish for, you might get it.” Well, a couple years ago, I wished for a walk-in pantry. And my awesome husband and dad granted my wish: I have a truly palatial pantry that measures 4 feet by 10 feet (actually a tad bigger than that.)

Now, before you wonder what on earth I could complain about with this pantry, consider how many times most of us have wished for a bigger closet – but know in our hearts we’d just cram it full of stuff? Or a bigger purse – ditto. Or a bigger car, house, whatever. Bigger is not always better. We know this.

And I’m really not complaining – my pantry storage is awesome. It almost makes up for the fact that my kitchen workspace is a compact 9×9 (with another 9×9 for eating area. It’s the smallest kitchen I’ve had since our first apartment, and we’ve lived here ten years – far longer than we’ve lived anywhere else.)

But back to the pantry. Do you know how much stuff you can store in a huge pantry? Let me tell you, it’s a lot. And if you don’t have time feel like putting away all the canned and boxed foods from the grocery store trip, it’s okay – just slide the bags in the pantry and close the door. Channel Miss Scarlett O’Hara and tell yourself you’ll think about it tomorrow.

So my slovenly ways finally caught up with me, and I found myself stepping over week-old bags of groceries randomly scattered on the pantry floor. That makes for an interesting gauntlet to cross when you dash into the pantry for something you need to add to your sizzling dish on the stove, right. this. second.  I’m embarrassed to show this picture, but here it was:

The “before” shot. Now you know why I keep the pantry door closed.

I gritted my teeth and went to work. Combined two boxes of quart-size tea bags into one. Combined the two boxes of individual-size green tea bags into one. Found I had two open boxes of many things (‘Nilla wafers, cereal, snack crackers…the list goes on.) Dug deep and found a headless chocolate bunny from Easter. (It gets better.) Kept digging and found a headless chocolate Santa from last December. (I detect a homicidal pattern, and I’m pretty sure I know which child did it.) Found a can of mandarin oranges had ruptured and spilled down the back of one shelving unit. That was pleasant. Not.

Okay, so all the nastiness was tossed, the drippy stuff cleaned up, the floor under the shelves all vacuumed, the out-of-date items were scrapped, the new groceries were put away and the older stuff rotated to the front. I could stop right there – job done.  I probably should have stopped there.

The “in-between” shot – much better.

But there’s just something alluring about taking organization to that next level – bordering on “Sleeping with the Enemy” kind of tidiness. (I think we were supposed to be disturbed by the scene with all the perfectly arranged canned goods, but I found myself admiring the neatness and organization and wondering if I could replicate it without being creepy. I digress.)

I realized as I began to clean and organize more deeply that I had allowed myself to pile things too deep on the shelves, which meant I was constantly reaching behind (and knocking things over) to retrieve or return something.  So this time around, I ruthlessly sorted and organized in a one-deep layer (except for canned goods.)

See, the labels are not all turned *perfectly* towards the front. No scary music playing.

And just above that, my triumph, my pièce de résistance:  my flours, grains and sugars are now all labeled and stacked in modular containers.

Yes, that is a big bottle of Bacardi.  It is vanilla-in-the-making, for culinary purposes only.

And the pastas and rice are all neatly organized and visible.  (Yes, I buy warehouse-size boxes of macaroni and spaghetti, along with white and brown rice.  We heart carbs in all shapes, sizes and textures.)

I don’t think I alphabetized the boxes…

Now I’ll let you be the judge – is it just good organization, or is it obsessive-compulsive?  Either way, now that I’m done I realize how much food we have stowed away.  Time to stop stockpiling, and see if I can use up a lot of these items – now that I can get to them.  My menus for the next few weeks will definitely be incorporating a lot of the excess buildup I found, and hopefully I can clear out a lot of the surplus before the holidays.

Happy organizing,

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