Monday, March 24, 2014

Stocking Up The Pantry: A Caution

I like the idea of stocking up, even though the phrase bothers me because of the preposition at the end.

But you need to do your research.

Stock Up! Save! Low Prices! is all very well and good, IF it's a savings, IF it's things you usually use, IF they won't be wasted waiting for usage and IF you have room to store them.

I 'stocked up' on some tinned fish once upon a time, in roasted tomato sauce and spicy mustard sauce. The dog ended up eating most of it, because the kids wouldn't and I got tired of it. One of the Low Prices! displays featured canned goods at half again what I customarily pay for them. I have Save!ed boxed mixes (cornbread, biscuits) long enough for them to become inhabited and unusable. I think you know what I mean.

However, on a recent trip to the market (which we had to ourselves and managed to NOT buy Snowceries), there were items that appealed to me. For example, the boxed pasta at $.99 each- that's what I pay at the Aldi, and sometimes more for the fancy shapes like spirals and bow ties. I chose 2 each of 4 varieties- not angel hair, because the Aldi always has that, but the fancy word that means "little mustaches" and ziti and the fancy word that means "spiral". I bought several cans of stewed tomatoes. There were jars of red sauce for $.95 each. If it had been my usual brand (Priano, $2.79 at Aldi), I would have bought MANY jars, but it wasn't, so I limited myself to 3, in case they weren't very good. (They're not. Too sweet.) When I see Ragu displayed at 2/$6, I pass. On sale it's more expensive than my usual stuff, and the family doesn't like Ragu.

Another caution about Stocking Up: I tend to keep X cans of This, Y boxes of That, and Z frozen packages of The Other. BUT (it's a big but) if I get out of the house with the Meal Plan and a list of Out Ofs, and I did NOT check my stock first, I usually will buy all the needed ingredients for the meals on my Plan. I tend to end up with X + 4 cans of This, Y + 2 boxes of That, and Z - 1 frozen packages of The Other. For example, I use red beans very often. So I keep red beans in the house. I buy them whenever I think to. And they pile up. They pile up so much that I say to myself, "Self, stop buying red beans until you use most of these," and I do that, because sometimes I listen when I give myself advice. Then I forget that I have Used Most Of These, and I plan a meal that includes red beans. Like chili. And I find out when I'm about to put stuff in the crock pot that I'm down to ONE  lonesome can of red beans and that's just not enough to make chili. I recently planned to make chicken pot pie (yeah, remember that?) and didn't, partly because even though I had a can of cream of chicken soup, I had no cans of chicken meat. Whoops. The other part, well, you remember. So yeah, Stocking Up can cut you both ways- if you usually have it, you may forget that you don't, and if you keep buying it, you'll soon be keeping it in your coat closet.

If you'd like to Stock Up, here are my Guidelines:

1. Know what you usually pay for your basics, so you can recognize a Real Bargain! from a "Real"! "Bargain"!, if you catch my meaning

2. Take Inventory. Even if you don't have Red Beans on your list for this week, try to notice whether you have some, and how many.

3. Do not believe your Labor Force when they say "we have some of That in the downstairs freezer" or "no, we don't have any of The Other, and need to buy some." They did not actually check, and (they'd deny it) their memories aren't that much better than yours. Try this: ask them when was the last time they changed their bedsheets. I bet you know, and they don't.

4. Keep a 'backup meal' on the shelves, for days when nobody (even you) wants what's on The Plan, or in case you didn't do Inventory, and find yourself without a crucial ingredient. My go-to is ravioli in a box and a jar of red sauce.

Happy Stocking, y'all!

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