My friend Cindy sent me this Pin of a dream pantry…
I decided to build it.
“All we need to do….” I started saying to Mr. Matrimony,
He said “no”
(before I was done asking)
Actually, it was okay becauseI really was joking. The only place we’d have room is the bathroom. Then we’d need to rent a port-potty, permanently (would that be a perma-potty?), and we would have to shower in the rain.
Ya know, it may be a hassle after all.
Truly though, when a person is trying to save money on groceries (even if they do not use coupons), they must have a pantry. A “storehouse” is integral to being able to purchase discount, sale, and bulk groceries. Our 100+ year-old house did not have a pantry. Not a big cabinet in the kitchen, not a closet in the hall, nothing. I needed something that would do until I become a famous blogger known for not spending money. Then I will make some money and can have a pantry. Until that day arrives, we did this….
This is just a simple freestanding wardrobe closet. The rod has been removed and two shelves added with “L” brackets. I painted the boards (simple plywood) black. In some of the pictures, the black boards look a little saggy. They really aren’t. It must be an effect of the camera. The cabinet next to the pantry is simply a base cabinet I removed to make room for our big nice refrigerator. Sadly, the upper cabinets were still in the way. Now worries! I can still have a dishwasher installed where the cabinet was… yay me! Now to wait for Mr. Matrimony to install the dishwasher. Until that time, here is our current dishwasher…
I have seen many posts that show beautiful pantries, with matchy-match colors, perfectly poised boxes (whose colors miraculously match as well), and a lot of leftover space! That just isn’t realistic to me. Those of us who buy in bulk, don’t color match our macaroni and cheese with our jars of jelly, and who generally… have a life are not going to achieve such pantry beautification.
In fact, before this blog, my pantry had become a piled-in-as-soon-as-we-got-the-groceries-home mess. It was clean about 2 or so months ago. There’s just been a lot going on. Like sales. On Rice-A-Roni. Here’s the “before” of our pantry….
Now that I take a closer look, it isn’t really that bad. I mean, the doors closed all the way. It just needed a little bit more attention…. and color.
So here is my take on how to realistically organize a pantry….
- Containers… I use everything from plastic drawers to old milk jugs, mason jars to plastic shoe boxes. You can use flower pots, decoupaged cereal boxes, dollar store baskets, or vintage refrigerator bins. I even used a cardboard flat that was with a case of beans we bought! Be creative. Make this fun!
- Spray paint. Those matchy-match people actually have a great idea in adding color to their pantries. I love color. Seriously… when I open my pantry doors, I feel kinda happy! Is that weird? I dunno. The bright orange and blues just feel good.
- Markers. If you don’t like your handwriting, use your printer and some labels. Really though, practice writing. Just a thought…
- Ideas. Surf the web, google pantry ideas, and gather up your Pins. If you like an organizational idea, use it! Even if it’s a huge idea and you have a tiny pantry. Find a way to incorporate ideas you are attracted to. There’s no reason you shouldn’t actually enjoy looking inside your pantry!
- A Plan. Make a plan. Are your canned goods all going together, or will you separate fruit from meat and veggies from sauces? Will all of your boxed items go together, or will some of them go in a big basket? Decide what you want together, and which shelf it will go on.
DISCLAIMER~ We have another, industrial style shelving unit, in the
dungeon basement. On it, we keep our survival storage (I used to feel kinda weird saying that, but now it seems, everyone has one. Thank you everyone.), our bulk overflow, and our case lots. I also keep things down there that I have no business partaking of on a regular basis (ie: soda… What can I say, it keeps me accountable.) I just thought I should make it clear that I have other space, but still I think “realistic” fits within this post.
Here’s how the sections in our pantry are set up…
- Exterior Top ~ Baskets with snacks, muffin mix, and drink mixes
- Interior Top Shelf ~ Most of the canned goods.
- 2nd Shelf ~ Boxed mixes, dried beans, rice, other grains
- 3rd Shelf ~ Popcorn, gelatin, pudding, jelly
- 4th Shelf ~ Pasta, canned meats & cheeses, individual snacks,
- Bottom Shelf ~ Overflow sauces, marinades, dressings
Now for some pictures and explanations….
Top of Pantry ~
These baskets are quite large. One is a locker basket I got for free before anyone realized they would be vintage someday! For the baskets (there is one for snacks in the back, out of view) you can’t see through, I used tags I had in my scrapbooking stuff.
Top Interior Shelf~
I mix (almost) all of our canned goods together. I have a rack that can’s roll into. I like it very much. Honestly though, if space is an issue, and you need every little last miniscule bit of it, you may not want something like this. The cans are organized in type. The ones without labels were in a canning plant sample sale. Things I have on hand at all times (like Mr. Awesome’s favorite spaghetti sauce) are in the back. I know automatically what is back there, so no need to search. Things that are a little more rare, I keep in front. This way, I remember to use them up.
I spray painted the lids of the plastic shoe boxes some fun happy colors. The black with whit polka-dots bin is from the dollar store. There are bags of soup mix in that. I lay my boxed foods down, and stack them. They are easier to see and you can fill every inch of space this way. By putting the bins in front, I can easily remove them to reach the items in the back. That Prego was like .50 cents. I never ever buy stuff like that. That’s why it’s in the front. That’s the same reason I have these items so close to the top. We just don’t “normally” have cake mix, Hamburger Helper, etc. on hand. I don’t want to forget about them! That does happen. Nothing worse, pantry-wise, than throwing away .25 cent boxes of quick fixes.
3rd Shelf ~
These are also things I’ll forget about if they aren’t easily seen. Things like béarnaise sauce and almond paste. They aren’t normally on hand, but I pick them up when they are on clearance. Again, in the front, are items I use on a regular basis that are easily removed. Isn’t it surprising how okay looking a painted milk jug tote can be?
4th Shelf ~
I spray painted the casing of plastic drawers to keep canned meats and cheeses, and snacks (Do you like how I put the individual snacks right under sardines? My hope is Mr. Awesome will stop at “sardines” and quit looking!). I also keep a big container of pasta on this shelf. We really don’t eat that much pasta, but it’s great to have on hand for pot-lucks and when a friend might need a meal. We also have quite a bit of Asian pastas that are a little healthier. Plus, the crunchy fun they add to salad is stellar 🙂
Bottom Shelf ~
This is really my regular items overflow shelf. Multiples of dressings, sauces we regularly use, and Rice-A-Roni I bought for a quarter each. That Coca-Cola container was in the .08 cents pile I’ve told you about before. That Orange tray is a simple cardboard shipping flat we bought canned goods in. I spray painted it bright orange and it’s one of my happy things!
I think the idea for the magazine racks in my pantry came from http://athriftymom.com/. She has sooooooo many wonderful ideas! I discovered her when I started couponing. She has a lot of great thoughts on storing things, crafts, menus, ideas for kids… a great conglomeration of inspirational ideas. Anyways, I use the magazine racks (which were free, I don’t remember from where) on the doors for storing seasoning packages, spice mixes, and other mixes. We also have an inventory list of large items from downstairs in the pantry and a pad of paper to use for menu ideas and grocery lists.
Whether you have a pantry or not, I hope you will be able to incorporate some of my ideas. As always, please feel free to share what you come up with!
Let me make one little disclaimer. I chose the name “Dumpster Diving Darling” because it’s cute. Because sometimes, chairs will be waving their little arms at me to save them from the dumpster. Because old doors are leaning against them as would a grandmother in need of a shower… and a walker. Food, however, no matter how loudly it screams my name, is NOT something I nor any of my loved ones, will ever dumpster dive for… EVER. Ever. If we have to beg, steal, or borrow, I and all of my kin will go hungry before we do that. Take that, Miss Scarlet! By no means is this the complete list of where to shop and what to buy. This is a sampling of what WE look for when we are at our Albertson’s. MOST grocery stores have clearance sales. If you aren’t familiar with any at your favorite store, ask someone what they do with their expiring items. They may just have a place in the store set aside that you are not aware of. One of our local grocery stores is Albertson’s. They’ve been around a long time. I can drive to other grocery stores in nearby towns, but I prefer to stay right here at home. Putting our money into the local economy helps me feel good. It also feels good being a “regular” someplace. I’ve heard people complain about higher prices at Albertson’s. On some things, yes, their prices are higher than say, Wal-Mart, and other stores too. However, sales at Albertson’s are fan-TAS-tic! Even better, are Albertson’s clearance prices. Without fail, every time I’m there, I check on my favorite regularly clearanced items. I’ve even trained Mr. Matrimony and Mr. Awesome to check for our favorite clearance items whenever they are at Albertson’s. There is always a prize. ALWAYS! Items are clearanced for several reasons…
- Discontinued ~ The store is simply not going to carry the item any longer and the value of a free shelf is higher than selling a slow moving product at full or even sale price.
- Expiration Date ~ Within a day or two, the item will be past it’s expiration date.
- Seasonal ~ The product is only there for a specific time of year, or holiday, and they need to make room for the next season’s items.
- Left-over Sale Items ~ Often, stores will order extra of an item when they are going to have that item on sale. If as many as they planned aren’t sold, they mark it down to move it.
I’m sure there are other reasons. As far as the ones I’ve listed, you need to decide if you have the money and storage to buy the product, and if the reason they are clearanced is okay with you. For instance, if something is going to be past-dated the next day, will you be able to use it before then? Is it something you don’t mind if it’s a couple days old, like cereal? Or is it something that freezes funny, like half & half? My Albertson’s will sometimes have half & half on clearance at one quart for .99 cents. Last time I bought every last quart! It was even organic. TOTAL SCORE! The only problem is, when half & half is thawed after being in the freezer, the consistency changes. It isn’t pretty. It looks curdled… cough cough! Ick. Recipes don’t know that though! I am yet to find a dish my half & half won’t work with after it’s been frozen and thawed. I do not however, serve previously frozen half & half as coffee creamer to my guests… anymore. That was just not good. To this day, I’m fairly certain they think I lied to cover up a curdled cream scandal.
The other day, while Mr. Matrimony and I were buying chili cook-off supplies (more on that in another post), I took pictures of the items that were greatly reduced. Some, we purchased, others we didn’t, but I thought you might like seeing them all as a sample. Below each picture, I’ll give an explanation of the product, sample clearance prices, and how I store them (although, most of them, I freeze). Here we go….
Butter… This is usually my biggest score, price-wise and quantity. I don’t know how long you are technically supposed to freeze butter (or anything else for that matter, so do an internet search if you are going to freeze something). I’ve yet to open a package of frozen butter and have it lack in anything, including taste, consistency, color, and baking quality. Less than two weeks ago, Albertson’s brand unsalted butter was .99 cents… I bought 24 of them! Still, $1.59 is a great price, so I bought 4 more for a friend.
Organic, Soy, Almond, and other wonky milk items. I don’t care what the purpose is, some of that strained, organic, goat-something, grain added milk, is just weird. Not to judge. I’m just sayin… Anyways, every once in a great while these items will go dirt cheap. Conveniently, not everything in the Wonky Dairy Case tastes like dirt, so some of them, I buy. I’ve frozen coconut milk, almond milk, and soy milk. All of it I purchased at .99 cents for a half gallon! It freezes “okay“. Mr. Matrimony likes the soy to go through the blender before I use it after thawing. He says the texture is just “off”. I say it’s soy milk, and the texture of beans as milk is just “off”…
Yogurt is also a total steal on clearance at Albertson’s. Even if it’s close to the expiration date, for us, it’s no biggie. We go through it like slick on ice! Also, it is SO yummy when frozen! If we freeze it, we leave it that way. It does not thaw very nicely, so I advise keeping it as frozen treats. I often find the 4-packs of Greek yogurt for .99 cents a package. Just in case you didn’t stop to do the math, that’s only a quarter each!
Juice is something we drink a lot of. Mostly, we drink orange juice. All kinds of brands of juice often go on clearance because they are close to the expiration date. My favorite kind is “not from concentrate” and when it is on clearance, it’s gone as fast as I can put every container in my cart. I’m not sure about the other types, but as for orange juice, it freezes and thaws great!
I have a good friend who is gluten intolerant. Having pre-made items like the dough on hand, to use last minute, is excellent. Last year for .99 cents, I scored pie, pizza crust, and cookie dough! The store perfectly in the freezer and I didn’t notice any difference between some I thawed and one I used fresh. When we Bible Study at our place, it was super easy to make her, and anyone else who didn’t want gluten, something yummy 🙂
This is the BEST instant oatmeal I’ve ever had. It’s called “Better Oats” and seriously, it tastes very close to steel-cut oats! So yummmmmy. Sadly, the reason they are on clearance is because my local Albertson is discontinuing the flavors on sale. Sniffle…. My favorite is Chai Tea flavored and it was on clearance as well. Soooo cry-worthy 😦
Odd flavors of snacks. Snack companies inevitably come up with crazy snack flavors that fail. Remember Spicy Ketchup Lays? Right… neither does anyone else! When the ideas don’t catch on, the stores need to free up room for more crazy ideas. Sometimes they really don’t sound all that bad. They just don’t catch on. Vanilla cinnamon popcorn, in fact sounds kinda yummy! A clearance rack is how I discovered the popcorn with marshmallow in it. OMGosh… it was so delicious, I went back and bought all the remaining boxes! The best part is I had some coupons, so they were only like a quarter a package 😉
Specialty foods…. I don’t buy a lot of pre-made fancy-dancy foods. I prefer making them. Plus, the pre-made items that have any taste to them are usually super expensive. That’s where clearance sales come in. Albertson’s has these neat little peelie coupons they use in their meat/cheese/deli department. Sometimes, the product is on sale at the same time it has a peelie. A very cool aspect of peelies is that they are “store” coupons. You can use a “manufacturer” coupon with them!
The meat department always has peelies! The one above may seem super expensive, but it is free range beef from a “local” company. I think it was 92% lean as well, so still a pretty good deal. We really are more into the bulk packs of meat that cost less in the first place, so I keep my eyes on the look-out for peelies on those. Pork seems to be readily available on clearance at our local Albertson’s. Sometimes, the packages are left in the place they are usually located. Other times, Albertson’s puts them at the end of the meat department in a special area. Meat freezes very nicely, as long as the packaging is good. It can not be frozen twice with doing a process to it. For instance, you can freeze ground beef, cook it, and re-freeze the cooked meat. You can not re-freeze raw meat. Another great deal with meat, is to buy it bulk. Many stores will offer specials on giNORmous packs of chicken. Here is how my friend packages the bulk chicken she buys… http://singinghoneybee.blogspot.com/2014/03/how-to-save-money-on-chicken.html?spref=pi
Albertson’s own bakery items, as well as other brand names are restocked daily. The “day-old” (which doesn’t necessarily mean one day) is marked down dramatically and put on a rolling rack somewhere away from the bakery. Donuts are changed out daily. This is where I like to buy specialty bread items. Naan (which we use with Greek food in lieu of pita) is something we purchase even when we don’t “need” any. It freezes great, as do most bread items. I also buy Albertson’s store baked specialty bread from the clearance rack. They have flavors such as Asiago Cheese, Sunflower Whole Wheat, & San Francisco Sour Dough on a regular basis marked down to .99 cents!
Frozen items are much like snack foods when it comes to trying something new. This is another place I look for brand names items. A neat thing about these specialty items is that you can often go online to the company’s website and download coupons. By-the-way, I recommend … even if you loathe couponing … going to the website of companies whose items you know you will be purchasing and checking for coupons. Often, high-value coupons are available. Canned specialty items are often available in Albertson’s as well. Fake cheese in a can, which is a fun extra item for us is super expensive. That is probably why they mark it down… it doesn’t sell in our little town. I don’t know what most other stores do with their items. I suggest you check at your local store(s). Also, find out what days things are usually marked down. Often, the meat department will mark things down the day before a truck comes in. Every so often, Wal-Mart will have roll out carts up at the checkstands with clearance items on them. They have big typed out signs that say “additional 50% off”. Last time we purchased from those carts, we bought Progresso soup for .50 cents a can, gourmet peanut butter for $1.49 (+ a coupon on the lid!), and 2 count packages of half gallon V-8 Fusion for $2.49. With the coffee craze being what it is, ground coffee and beans alike are something store rotate quite a bit. We get quite a bit of cheese with this method as well. When couponing, I use proper etiquette and don’t take all (or even most) of the items. This way, other couponers can share in the deals. It’s just not nice to take it all! However, when it comes to clearance deals that are beyond belief, I DO take them ALL! I figure it’s fair-game because usually what I am buying has been there so long, it’s expiring. Or, no one else wanted what I’m buying, so it is being discontinued. Other people have already had their chance… Now, the deals are mine! 😀