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Frugal and Healthy Meal Planning, Part 2

September 19, 2012

In part 1 we talked a lot about our priorities and how you begin to strike that balance between what is optimally healthy and what you can afford to buy.

Once you have figured out your priorities, eliminated the biggest offenders and cut portion sizes to appropriate levels you should make a list of the essentials for your pantry.  What are your staples?

My list looks something like:

  1. Flours (Whole wheat flour, Unbleached all-purpose flour)
  2. Oats (Steel cut and rolled)
  3. Other grains (Millet, buckwheat, barley, etc.)
  4. Rice (brown, white, wild)
  5. Organic sugar (white and brown)
  6. Other sweeteners (Maple syrup, Local raw honey)
  7. Oils (coconut, flax, olive, grape seed)
  8. Canned tomatoes (crushed, paste, chopped)
  9. Seeds (chia, hemp, flax, etc.)
  10. Beans (black, pinto, garbanzo)
  11. Nuts (almonds, walnuts, pine, etc.)
  12. Dried fruits and raisins
  13. Seaweed
  14. Tea (green, black and herbal)
  15. Pasta (various shapes and sizes)
  16. Canned fish (tuna, sardines, anchovies, salmon)

So, if these are the things that you can always, always find on my pantry shelf, these are the things I need to find the most affordable source for.  These are the things that I should consider buying in bulk, because I will always need them.  They will not go to waste, even if I buy a truckload.

Here are a few tips:

When buying a large quantity of things–be it at the grocery store, the specialty store or farmer’s market–always ask what kind of discount you can get for buying a large amount.  You may be surprised!  Last week I got great seasonal fruit at farmer’s market for $1 a pound!  When buying a large amount of meat at the butcher counter, I’ve received a 20% discount.  So, always ASK!  All they can say is no.  So, don’t be afraid.

Try buying in bulk directly from a farmer, butcher or food supplier.  Cut out the middle man.  Sometimes specialty food suppliers (butcher, baker, etc. as opposed to a supermarket) can provide a very competitive price if you can purchase a larger quantity.  In this same vein, is to consider joining a food co-op.  Personally, we love Azure Standard for quality and price.  We source much of our dry goods (including food for our chickens) from Azure.

When the things you really like or regularly eat go on sale or are in season, stock up!  This may require a little work to store it, but it is worth it!  Cut up produce and freeze it in zipper bags.  Learn to can things in order to build your pantry.  Cook up meals and freeze them.  (Use our handy tools to keep track of what you’ve stored, so nothing gets wasted!)  For example, around St. Patty’s day, every store will be overflowing with cabbage.  All the shops will have it at a very reduced price.  That is the time to make enough sauerkraut to last for months!  This can seem daunting (we know!), but once begin you’ll realize how easy it is!

Likewise, during the holidays is the time to stock up on baking essentials such as chocolate chips, baking powder, and yeast.  Other things you might not have thought to stock are canned pumpkin, cranberries, and nuts.  These things store really well.  You can keep whole cranberries in the freezer or dehydrate them.  Nuts can keep for quite a long time in the freezer and still taste great.  The time to make a bunch of pesto to freeze is in the summer when the garden is overflowing with basil.  Then you can enjoy your pesto pasta in the dead of winter!  You get the idea.  By looking at what is readily available and in season and finding ways to make that work for a time when it’s not readily available or in season you’ll be saving your grocery bill a lot of money and not compromising what your family enjoys.

So get out your clip board and print out our pantry inventory.  Take a little time to decide what your essentials are.  And then set a goal to find the best price and quality for those things.  For the time being, don’t worry so much about those occasional purchases.  The things you eat the most are the things you need to concentrate on the most.

More to come!  Click here for part 3.

Chime in: What are the top three food items you always have on hand?

(Linked to The Morris Tribe Blog Hop, Frugally Sustainable and Motivation Monday!)

9 Comments leave one →
  1. knifty mama permalink
    September 19, 2012 1:15 pm

    top three…probably canned tomatoes, ground beef, and peanut butter.

    for storage, we started getting descent sized buckets from azure to store our dry items, like lentils, rice, beans, oatmeal, pancake mix, etc. then i write on them with a vis-a-vis wet erase marker the date and what’s in them. seems to work well for us!

  2. September 24, 2012 6:55 am

    Thanks for this! I’ve been trying to figure out how to work organic eggs/dairy/meat into our budget. still haven’t figured that out yet. 🙂 We don’t eat grains/beans much at all so it’s a work in progress! Thanks for sharing this and your inventories!

    • Daja permalink*
      September 24, 2012 10:15 am

      We are ALL a work in progress! 🙂

      I checked out your blog and am now in love with the idea of gnocchi from squash. It will be on my October meal plans! Why have I never thought of that?! 🙂

  3. September 24, 2012 9:21 am

    My top 3 priorities – meat, fruits & veggies, and healthy fats. I decided this week I was going to make a list of the changes I want to make in our diets and note how far we’ve come with the changes. I have certain tasks I want to tackle during the October #Unprocessed Challenge.

    I would love for you to link up your post in my Motivation Monday linky which focuses on fitness, healthy living, and healthy recipes:

    • Daja permalink*
      September 24, 2012 10:08 am

      Thanks for the invitation! We are linked up!

      I totally understand the challenge of working in times for exercise. I have seven kids and five are now homeschooling. So, very easily I could spend most of the day sitting down, teaching, reading, writing, or on the computer. It takes some intentionality to make time for walks and workouts!

      Thanks for the encouragement!

  4. Elizabeth permalink
    September 25, 2012 7:47 pm

    Top 3 items …that is hard to pin down. I would say good flour…for bread, pie crust, pizza crust etc and yeast…we buy 2 lbs at a time from restaurant supply and store in freezer. And third would be sugar, I think, for baking my sweet stuffs and making jam and jelly.

    My pantry list looks pretty much like yours. Except for seeds…we have poppy, sesame, sunflower, and oil…I like Spectrum brand organic oils…I have canola, olive and peanut. I bought the coconut and am planning on giving it away. I like coconut itself, but don’t like the taste the oil adds and I think it is extra greasy. Spectrum also makes a nonhydrogenated solid shortening for making pie crusts.


  1. Frugal and Healthy Meal Planning, Part 3 « The Provision Room
  2. Frugal and Healthy Meal Planning, Part 4 « The Provision Room
  3. Frugal and Healthy Meal Planning, Part 1 | The Provision Room

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