There’s Always Grilled Cheese…

A Well Stocked Pantry

A well stocked pantry Pinterst PNG

My mom taught me so much about taking care of her family.  So many little things.  Things you don’t realize until you are the one taking care of others and you find yourself doing them and realize, she did them too.  One of the treasures I learned from my mom was a well-stocked pantry.  With a few staples always stocked and restocked immediately, you will never find yourself with “nothing to eat”.

The best thing about a well-stocked pantry?  It’s a money saver.  There is no need to run out to the grocery to buy something for dinner and it makes eating at home super-duper easy!

So, let’s take a walk through my cupboards…

Some of the items I learned to always keep on hand are baking supplies.  The usual, flour, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa powder and salt.   But also, other items like corn meal and oatmeal are also good to have on hand.  Add just a few extra things to these ingredients and you can whip up pancakes, biscuits (YUM – warm biscuits and butter!), a cake, cornbread, oatmeal cookies, brownies….and so many others!

For quick dinners, I try to keep several boxes of whole wheat noodles as well as a few different kinds of rice on hand.  Diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, canned mushrooms and tomato paste are also necessary staples.  And don’t forget the beans!  I always have both dry and canned on the shelf.  With these, I can whip up several dishes.  A spaghetti with a marinara sauce, or a stroganoff with a bit of sour cream and Worcester sauce, add beans and some yummy spices to tomatoes and you can make a really good chili (with or without meat, depending what you have on hand).

Speaking of spices.  You MUST have a spice cabinet.  And not just salt and pepper, garlic and good ol’Lawry’s…you want things like coriander, cumin, paprika, dried onions, dried parsley, bay leaves, cloves, ginger, chili powder, dill weed and if you are adventurous things like curry and old bay seasoning…You get the picture.  Spices can last for years, so load up your cabinet – they truly make a dish shine. In this cabinet also keep some liquid ingredients on hand.  Oils, shortening, soy sauce, a selection of vinegars, and Worcester sauce.

It’s important to not just keep your pantry stocked, but a few staples in the fridge and freezer as well.  For the omnivores, keep things like shredded cheese, milk and sour cream ready.  As well as easy to prepare meats like ground turkey.  I buy several loaves of bread at a time at the dollar store and freeze them until we need a loaf. We are recent converts to a plant-based diet, so instead of eggs, we make sure to always have an egg replacement, vegan “butter” and almond milk on hand.  We have used them in most meals as a substitute and so far so good.

As a young adult, I remember a friends mom talking about some hard times they had early in their marriage.  The thing she said that got them through those times was knowing, “there was always grilled cheese!”  And though she said it with a smile on her face, I know it was the absolute truth.  I have caught myself saying the same thing a time or two.  There IS always grilled cheese, or a quesadilla, or PB&J…

Part of this financial independence journey is optimizing our spending and savings.  Unplanned trips to the grocery store usually mean extra money spent that was not planned for.  Having no food in your house, makes it more tempting to eat out. By creating a fully stocked pantry, you are providing yourself assurance and INSURANCE that you can keep your food budget in check and on track.

And on those days where you just don’t know what to cook, or you simply don’t want to, remember, there is always grilled cheese!  (Well there is if you have done what I have suggested and kept a well-stocked pantry.)

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Pennies and Styrofoam

Pennies and styrofoam.Pinterest

Growing up, I thought it was so weird, well – if I am honest, embarrassing, that Grandma Florene and Grandpa Willard took my sister and I with them to shop at the “dented-can” stores and day-old bread stores.  I also thought it was weird that in the spare bedroom, of their little 2 bedroom house, was a shelf full of canned goods and non-perishables.

On my high school graduation day, Grandpa Willard handed me an envelope with a $100.00 bill in it.  I knew where that money came from.  For years, I saw stacks of KFC Styrofoam containers with a slit cut into their lids filled up with pennies.  There were towers of them on a shelf by the side door.  I did not know what he was saving up for then, but when I received that $100.00, I knew and I knew how long he had been saving to give me this gift.

What I wouldn’t give now to sit down with my grandma and talk to her about their frugality.  Or my grandpa.  But he was a man of few words.  I don’t know if I can recall a sentence with him that had more than five words.  That didn’t matter – he loved us.  Man, how he loved us.  He never had to say it – the look in his eyes was enough. And this gesture, pennies saved for years, every penny purposefully set aside for me and my sister – we always knew.

I know now, their frugality was born out of extreme hardships encountered during the wars before we were born.  Need we haven’t really experienced as a nation since then.  We have faced recessions, extreme unemployment, the bursting of bubbles and the “great recession” but even so, the marker of our recovery was a pole vault back into the same consumerism all over again.  Frugality didn’t sick  – it hasn’t “stuck” for the vast majority of Americans since then.  When times are hard, we can’t wait to be able to freely spend again.  Which is never really free, it comes at an expense.  Interest, debt, payments over time.

Curt and I have participated fully in all of it.  And here we are.  In a heap of debt. Drastically behind in our savings. But changing.  Not slowly – it was like light switch.  Once we saw what we could accomplish if we “exited” ourselves from the current consumerist undercurrent and into a simpler one, we find “opportunities” daily to spend less, save more and pay down debt.

In less than six months, we have seen our savings rate jump from nothing (a big fat ZERO) to over 20%.  We have paid off several credit cards, a car and other accounts.  Our (negative) net worth is getting LESS negative every month.

It’s like those pennies.  One penny at a time.  Every day.  Turns into stack of pennies, that turns into something big.  Without even thinking about it too much.

I have a coin jar in my office.  Every day one or more of us put coins in it.  Left-over change we find, change from purchases, change I find in the laundry.  I started the jar a few weeks ago and to date we have we have about $25.00 in it.  Soon it will have $100.00.  We intend to then deposit it to be invested into an index fund so those pennies can turn into even more pennies.  Then we will start the process all over again.  Some might think that’s a little weird.  I don’t think my Grandma or Grandpa would think it weird at all.