Jul 212010

Turn your pantry into a tool to help you save money on your groceries. The pantry is the unsung hero of rock-bottom grocery bills. It will help you save money in several ways:

  • When you have enough storage space, you can stock up at sales and buy in bulk. The goal is to buy enough of each non-perishable item at a low price to last until the next time you find a great deal. This saves time as well as money since you’re not running to the store as frequently.
  • Avoid expensive convenience foods and the drive-through window at fast food restaurants.  Keep ingredients on hand to cook from scratch. Also store home cooked meals and your homemade convenience foods for those too-busy-to-cook times
  • The pantry isn’t just for “store-bought” food. It’s a place to keep homemade mixes, jams, jellies and home-canned or dehydrated foods.
  • A well-stocked pantry provides a reserve of food in case illness, financial difficulties or an emergency situation makes it difficult or impossible to shop.

But what if you don’t have a pantry?

But what if you don’t have a pantry? Or your pantry is too small to store much food? No problem. Look around your home to find some space that you could use to create a pantry or several mini-pantries. For example:

  • Kitchen cupboards. Are there infrequently used items in your cupboard that could be stored elsewhere or discarded to make way for food? Can you use shelf dividers, organizers, turntables, sliding shelves or risers to create more usable space in each cupboard? Is there space in your cupboards to add a shelf? Can you put bulky item on top of the refrigerator? Can you free up cupboard space by hanging your pots, adding a spice rank or putting up a pegboard a la Julia Child to hold your kitchen gadgets?
  • Refrigerator and freezer. I think of my refrigerator and freezer space as part of my pantry. Along with the usual items, I keep homemade mixes, gluten–free flours, homemade yogurt, stock, vegetable trimmings to turn into my next batch of soup or stock, home-frozen dinners, pasta sauces, pizza crusts, breads and home-baked desserts.
  • Closets. My everyday pantry used to be coat closet. The addition of shelves turned it into a convenient pantry. The Flylady’s associate Leanne Ely turned her linen closet into a pantry. If you can’t spare a whole closet, is there a part of a closet that you can use? And don’t forget that frequently-wasted piece of real estate—the inside of the closet door.
  • Basement or utility room. As long as your basement doesn’t flood or have moisture problems, this can be a great place to make a pantry. You can use second-hand bookcases, plastic bookcases or metal shelving to store food and supplies. Remember to keep your food away from the furnace. Heat shortens the shelf life of food. Also, food containers should not be stored directly on a concrete floor. Moisture can seep up and spoil the food. Use a piece of wood to raise the containers off the floor. If you don’t have a basement, but you have a utility area for your washer and dryer, is there space to put shelves over the machines or to one side of them?
  • The divided room. Author Barbara Salsbury tells about turning part of her child’s nursery into a pantry. Do you have corner in a guest room to create a pantry? You can use a screen, curtains or bookcases to separate the space.
  • The hidden pantry. An old armoire can be fitted with shelves to make a pantry. Or do you have a spot under a staircase that could be used for storing food? In Smart Closets Makeovers, there is a photo of a pantry created by putting shelves between wall studs. The narrow pantry has a door that matches the paneling in the room. Very impressive, but utterly beyond my do-it-yourself skills. Those who are very space-challenged can use extra-large lasagna pans or boxes on rollers for storage under a bed or couch. Make sure your hidden pantry is easily accessible so that you can use it every day.

Your pantry doesn’t have to be in one space. You can have several pantry areas. I put my a few most frequently used items in kitchen cupboards. Perishables go in the refrigerator and freezer.  But because my kitchen is small, most of my everyday food supplies are in a closet-turned-pantry near my kitchen. Shelves in my utility room provide longer-term storage.

What space can you find to create your money-saving pantry?