Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Easiest Way to Save Money and Time on Groceries

Each week I find myself engaging in a bit of insanity. We go to the grocery store, we buy food for the week, then we come home and I attempt to stuff new canned items and basics into an already overflowing pantry. Why do I do this?

The food in the pantry is good stuff. I bought it all with recipes in mind. There's only one or two items that are "experimental" in there.

The problem is, I simply forget to start my menu plans for the week from what I already have on hand. I always plan menus around seasonal produce, but I forget about the remaining grains and staples I bought for all of those meals. Now that it is winter, and seasonal produce is all but absent, it's time to focus on the pantry — and save a lot of money. Just by doing an inventory of what you have on hand, planning meals to incorporate the stuff you have already bought, you can limit your grocery cart contents to the few fresh items, meats and dairy for the week.

You'd be surprised at what you can build from you staples. This morning, I found a half cup of oat flakes and a half cup of spelt flakes. Neither quantity was enough for cooked breakfast cereal for the whole family, but both together, ground in the food processor, plus some brown bananas made great wholegrain waffles.

Various kinds of rice, couscous, pasta, quinoa clutter my shelves. All of these ingredients can stretch a small amount of protein and some vegetables, especially canned beans, into a whole meal — with leftovers for my brown bag lunches.

Mark Bitten recently published his list of "must haves" for the pantry.

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