Saturday, February 17, 2007

Our Frugal Pantry

Next up, the frugal pantry! Our pantry is a lot less cluttered these days than it used to be, thanks mostly to our cutting back on convenience and prepared foods. I have always wanted a pantry, so I was very excited that our new house had one, and quickly set to work filling it up. It took me a while to get it organized, but we have a good system. I keep bulk spices and other seldom-used items on the top shelf. The next shelf has snacky things: applesauce (mostly used for baking), apple butter, and convenience foods for the kids. We keep stocked up on Clif Z Bars. These are great organic whole grain bars that can even substitute for a meal if you have to rush out the door. (All you Weight Watchers folks, they're also a filling treat for 2-3 points!) We also keep Archer Farms (Target) organic fruit leather on hand for the same purpose. (Again, these were nice when I was counting points-just one point for a chewy snack.)

Next comes the grains shelf. Here we have a few bags of whole wheat pasta for quick meals, brown and white rice, whole wheat couscous, oats, and other grains that don't fit in our fridge drawer. The protein shelf is next. I used to keep loads of canned beans on hand: Kidney, black, cannelini, garbanzo, lentils. Now we keep mostly dried on hand, but I keep a few cans in case I've forgotten to plan ahead. I also keep the miscellaneous extra condiments like tamari and tahini on this shelf, just because there's room. (I'm slowly collecting enough containers that I can keep all of our bulk items in sealed glass, to avoid pest problems. A rogue mouse was once deleriously happy in our pantry before we found him out.)

Our next shelf is the tomato shelf. Next year I hope that this will be filled with home grown jars. We use a lot of tomato products in our cooking: marinara for pasta, pizza sauce for Beo's famous homemade pies, diced for soups and curries, etc. I love Muir Glen products, especially their fireroasted tomatoes. Whole Foods now has 365 organic canned tomatoes which are much cheaper, so we always stock up on those unless Muir Glen is on sale. I used to keep 5-6 boxes of veggie broth on hand, now I just keep 1 or 2 for the occasion that we run out of homemade. I also used to have a whole row of Annie's organic mac and cheese. I don't put much stock in all of the hype Annie's recently generated. The kids love it, and it's a relatively healthy alternative. That said, we have moved away from it a bit just for frugal purposes. The kids love white bean soup so that has taken a large part of the Annie's market away in my house. We've also discovered that the kids are pretty happy with some whole wheat pasta mixed with some beans and sprinkled with a little parmesan and Earth Balance. So while you'll still find Annie's in my pantry, it's no longer a staple due to price and our move to less packaging. Voila, our frugal, whole foods, vegetarian friendly pantry. The great majority of what I cook is easily made from the contents of this pantry and our fridge. Extra ingredients are a rarity. It's nice to be able to pull together a wide variety of meals once you've staked out your basic needs.

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