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September's Shopping Plans and Thoughts on Stocking a Pantry

Bulk Foods Smaller Bulk The Prudent Homemaker

What are the holes in your pantry? If your circumstances were to change so that starting in October you would need to live on only what you had stored for the next 12-18 months, what items would you run out of?

This month I would encourage you to strongly consider this question and figure out what is missing in your storage.

For my own family, having lived from our pantry for over a year before, I have a pretty good idea of what I need. I also see gaps where we have eaten items and not replaced them in the amounts we would need if we needed to live from our pantry again.

My priorities this month are those "holes" where I have items, but not enough. I've been working on filling those holes most of this year, but of course, we continue to eat what we have stored. 

My priorities this month are powdered mik, rice, vitamins, yeast, baking soda, baking powder, sugar and salt. 

I prefer instant powdered milk in my storage; you can read my thoughts on powdered milk here

My husband had to make a trip to Chandler, Arizona today (not a normal thing at all for us), and just yesterday I heard about an AMAZING price on powdered milk in Tempe, Arizona, which is very close to Chandler. It is $49 for a 50 pound bag (makes 62 1/2 gallons at a cost of $0.78 a gallon).  I had him purchase 4 bags for us. The store is called Milk N' More; here is the address and store hours. They make the milk powder there! 

For vitamins, I am looking to purchase more children's multi-vitamins, I buy the store brand of children's chewables at Target ($7.79 for 150, which is less than a month's worth for my family).  I often find these on sale for $1 off, and then sometimes find additional $0.75 or $1 off Target coupons, and sometimes an additonal 10-15% off on top of that as a Target Cartwheel offer (I add these to my Cartwheel account and then print the paper to be scanned, since I don't have a cell phone, and it works without any problems). Hopefully I'll find some of these items to lower the price this month. (Update: These are on sale for even less online this month--see link above--so I will see if I can get the same price at the store).

I'll purchase everything else at Sam's Club.

Later this week we'll finally see temperatures drop below 100ºF. This is a great blessing for the garden. As the weeks go by and temperatures continue to drop this month, my cucumbers should start producing female flowers (unfortunately, they only produced male flowers last month, as it was around 107º).

I should also (hopefully!) start harvesting more red noodle beans. As the temperatures drop, they also flower more. 

By the last week of the month, temperatures will hopefully drop below 90º, and I'll be able to plant lettuce seeds in the garden. Be watching for a post on fall gardening very soon! I've been collecting lettuce seeds from the garden, and so I won't have to purchase any lettuce seeds for fall planting, and I have lots of other seeds left from last fall and this spring for fall planting.

I am currently picking pears, apples, beet greens, chard, green onions, basil, chives, thyme, and other herbs as needed from the garden.

Olives 2 The Prudent Homemaker

September is the month where I pick olives. I should be able to go olive picking around the end of the month. A lot of people asked me about instructions for olives last time. I was new to doing them and they take a very long time (weeks, depending on how you do them!) and not all of mine were okay at the end of that time. I learned a lot about what works and also learned that there is going to be some loss.  There are a lot of ways to process olives. Our favorite way was the freshest way, which doesn't last long. I'll make sure to put that recipe up, as it is very simple.  I recommend reading this for complete olive instructions. It's long--26 pages--and I suggest printing it and stapling it to refer to while you're processing olives. For most ways of processing olives, you're going to need lye, and you'll want to make sure it is pure lye with no additives. I ended up buying my lye from Amazon.

I've had some questions about starting to stock a pantry. If you're just starting out, my first two choices in items would be bulk rice and beans. Then, should something happen to you financially, you at least have something to eat. The second items I would add would be bulk flour, yeast, and salt, so that you can make bread. Third, I would buy oats in bulk (which can be used for breakfast as well as for dinner).

After that, look at what you eat for a week. How often do you eat spaghetti? Take the number of times you have that per week times 52 to know what you need for a year. If you only have it every other week, take .5 times 52, and if you eat a pound each time, you'll need 26 packages for the year. Now you'll know, when a great pasta sale comes by, how much you'll need. Pasta sales, of course, include other shapes, so think of how many times you make pasta salad, chicken noodle soup, or other pasta dishes, and stock up on each of those at the sale as well.

Do the same with other items that you purchase, and you'll know how much your family needs of an item, so that when sales come, you can stock up.

For my pantry list, click here.

I wish you all the best in filling the holes in your pantry this month!





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Tagged in: Grocery Shopping


  • Hilogene in Az September 02, 2015

    Brandy, thank you, this is a fantastic post! I was hoping you could cover this topic soon, so thank you again for making the time and organizing the information so clearly.

  • Myra September 02, 2015

    Thank you for this post! We are working on the holes in our pantry fervently this month so this post will definitely help guide me in what direction I need to be headed. We have a good stock but can always add more.

  • Nora September 02, 2015

    We really like Now vitamins. They are high quality. I buy the Special Two 240 count of Veg Caps. The bottle costs around $25. The recommended dose is 4 caps a day but I only take 1-2 caps a day so the bottle lasts awhile. I'll take 2 caps as a pre-natal and 1 the rest of the time. My doctor approved of taking the half dose as your body can only "process" so many vitamins at once.

    I've bought them on Amazon, Vitacost and at Sprouts.

  • L Hernandez September 02, 2015

    I also enjoy the now brand products! Amazon has very good prices, sometimes even better than when Sprouts has the 25% off discount every few months of the vitamin & beauty products

  • Melanie September 02, 2015

    Thank you for the ideas! I'm working to get the pantry well stocked again before winter. One thing I'll be buying a lot of is canned chicken. I have been pleasantly surprised by how many recipes I can use it in.

  • Melissa September 02, 2015

    Thanks so much for this! I've started stocking up since your original post and now have beans and oats stocked up. I wonder if you have any suggestions about where to get gluten free flour blends in bulk at a reasonable price? I can buy a little over a 2 lb. bag of Bob's Red Mill 1-for-1 gluten free flour for $7.80 at Big Lots, but even though that's the best price I've found, it's not great. There must be somewhere to buy it in bulk.

  • Brandy @ The Prudent Homemaker September 02, 2015


    Click on Cook, Learn, Bulk Foods and Grains for info on bulk items. Off the top of my head, I would check Azure Standard for bulk gluten-free flour blends, but I would also consider making it myself if I were looking for gluten-free flour. The blogs Cannelle et Vanille and Tartlette are great for recipes where they make their own gluten-free flour blends. These are both professional pastry chefs who have gone gluten free and they have some great ratios. If you purchase a new grain grinder (I talk about them on my bulk foods page) you can also grind your own bulk grains for flour to save money.

  • http://Erika September 02, 2015

    As a person who had to eat gluten free for a while, I would suggest checking Amazon too. If you go there daily to check what the prices are you can get some really good deals if you are patient. The biggest problem I found with gluten free flours was if you want to buy in bulk you need a deep freeze to store them in or they will go rancid on you (and I'm sure I am speaking to the choir on that one, but wanted to put it out there to any of the gluten free newbies :).

    But yeah, Amazon is a good option and also try Vitacost. I have had friends that get really good deals on bulk flours there.

  • Sara September 02, 2015

    We grind our own after a suggestion from you a couple years ago. Thanks for that!
    Do you have any suggestions of where to find reasonable bulk gluten free oats?

  • Angela B. September 02, 2015

    The cheapest place I have been able find gluten free oats is Azure Standard - 50 lbs for $62.85. I grind them as the base for my own gluten-free flour blend. I also buy arrowroot starch in bulk from Azure Standard to use in my blend, and sweet rice flour in bulk from My ratio is roughly 2.5 c oat flour/1 c arrowroot starch/1c sweet rice flour, but I play around with it quite a bit. I don't use any xanthan gum. (Tapioca starch could be subbed for the arrowroot starch, but I thought it might be starting to bother me so I switched it out for the arrowroot.). I think I'm going to start making my own baking powder with the bulk arrowroot starch, too, because I need to be corn-free as well and corn-free baking powder is really expensive!

  • Gaila September 02, 2015

    Hello Melissa I am not sure where you live but I saw a very good price on gluten free flour at our NW grocery outlet this week I don't remember the price but it's worth looking into ...Hope you have a wonderful week! Gaila in the NW

  • Molly September 06, 2015

    I have been seeing a GF flour mix at Sam's for about $2 a pound. I think it is the Krusteaz brand.

    The Frugal Abundance blog has something she calls GLAD flour & a whole article on the economics of making your own.

    If you have an Amish or bulk store in your area, that would be a place to buy the individual flours to make your own.

  • Jamie @ Medium Sized Family September 02, 2015

    I used to do a better job at keeping a stocked pantry than I'm doing right now. I do have a 5 gallon bucket (each) of flour, sugar, and rice. Unfortunately, we are trying to feed one of my sons a gluten free diet right now because we suspect he may have Celiac disease. If he does, that will change at least some of my cooking. I count on using my flour and noodles for frugal meal ideas.

    As for the vitamins, have you ever priced them on Amazon? For a while I found that the extra vitamin D I was getting for my kids was cheapest if I purchased it there via the subscribe and save.

  • Barb September 05, 2015

    Before you stop gluten and to insure a proper diagnosis, you really need to get your child tested by a pediatric gastro. doctor. Celiac disease and gluten intolerance are not the same thing. My daughter gets tested every year for celiac disease because she is a type 1 diabetic. It is a simple blood test and takes about 2 weeks to process.

  • Julie September 07, 2015

    Also, keep in mind that just because you test negative for Celiac Disease does not mean that you are not gluten intolerant. If that is the case you will still need to be GF. This happened to my kids...we learned the hard way and now being gluten free is what we have to do.

  • Amy L September 02, 2015

    Hi. I am new to food storage and have started slowly buying a few things since July. I purchased the preliminary basics. However, now my box of salt I got from Sam's Club is hard as a rock! Any suggestions on how I should be storing it? Also how do you store pasta for long periods? Do you keep it in the original boxes?

  • Brandy @ The Prudent Homemaker September 02, 2015

    I keep it in the original boxes, but I live in a dry climate. Salt that goes hard is more a problem in humid climates; perhaps my readers in a humid climate can offer some suggestions. Do know that your salt is still perfectly fine; you'll just need to cut open the box, transfer it to a container, and break it up.

    (I know that when I visited my grandpa as a child, he kept a few grains of rice in his salt shaker. I asked him why, and he said it kept it from getting hard in the humidity. He lived in Missouri and I grew up in dry Southern California).

    Most pasta I buy comes in plastic bags. Pantry moths are not an issue where I live, and mice are rare. However, you can transfer your pasta to a food-grade bucket to keep it save from bugs and mice.

  • Tina in the NW September 02, 2015

    I store salt in the original packaging and sometimes it gets hard too. I just open the package and break up whatever I need with a spoon or a dull knife and put it into another container to use. The quality is not affected. I have seen the rice grains in the salt shaker solution as well, but I don't do that myself.

  • Lisa September 02, 2015

    Amy and Brandy, I live in humid Georgia! When I buy boxes of pasta, I individually wrap them tightly with plastic wrap. This keeps the pasta fresh, and prevents bugs from getting into the boxes. I open only one box of pasta at a time, and empty it into a lidded plastic container. We eat from that until it is time to unwrap another box.

  • becky shook in central Iowa September 02, 2015

    central iowa very humid and today humidity makes a feel like temp near 100

    i store bags of sugar usually five lb bags as they are what can be gotten on sale they are stored in the bags either on shelf or in bucket either way doesn't matter but you would not want rodents in it i can tell you that they turn into five lb bricks i go down to basement and get one i drop it on concrete floor front and back and it is good as knew i use to whack and whack on a stud but this is drop and drop and pour into my using jar. i have not had problems with salt i store them in buckets but you could drop as per sugar and i think that would work but you could grate it too make sure that they did not get wet tho we had a flood on the basement once when a sump pump failed and i found two that were solid but it was due to soaking up wet i save those to help on ice in gravel drive way.....saying this you want to put wood between concrete and food as it sucks moisture and bad flavor into your food.....our storage is in basement where we now have two sump pumps one with one above the other if first is ever over taken the other will kick in we also have a dehumidifier running that sents water from air into sump basin which sends it out to pond if i needed to i can water from pond to garden.

    i use buckets i have gotten at bakeries and cleaned out

    flour i do not leave in bags as buggies can live in paper folds and contaminate the whole lot of flour you have i dump them in buckets i usually always buy 25lb bags that amt fits in one bucket i place two bay leaves on top and put the lid and label and date top and on sides in three places as i stack buckets i put two bay leaves in any thing even popcorn. I know that i have two in each so when i get ready to dump the bucket into my using flour can also holds the whole bucket i pull the two leaves out before dumping into my using can. never got bugs all these yrs except in a bag I got from store I carefully open each bag inspect carefully it went right back to store....yes with humidity one can continue to store foods others do so if that salt was not in water of unknown origin take it outside and whack it on the sidewalk if you don't have a basement floor and it will fall apart again good luck and yes continue to build those empty spots in your storage Brandy thanks for sharing this i think if you had to live off it you could take notes what you needed hint we are two empty nesters now and we go thru twenty five lbs of flour a month as i make our bread and cook from scratch so that gives you an idea of what we need for a year if one was storing for a year of course we store wheat too but if you are just starting out i love Brandy's suggestion start with one mo then enlarge to two months...etc you notice that she says then stock what your family likes that is because we all are different and like different things i would eat other things on Brandy's shelf and leave the olives I probably am the only one in the whole world who doesn't like them main thing don't put off getting storage

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