If you ask 10 people "how can I save money on my grocery bill?" I guarantee at least 8 will tell you “just buy in bulk!" Yea, that’s good advice - and it’s also pretty useless advice if you take it at face value!
Buying in bulk will only save you time and money if you are following the "Three R's":
Rotating based on shelf life
I didn't follow the "Three R's" when I first starting building my own pantry many years ago. The result was several...interesting...meals.
Eventually, I learned that, whether eating for one or feeding a family, there are 21 items that will save time and money to buy in bulk. These items, taken together, are what I call my “evergreen pantry” because, no matter what I’m cooking, or in what quantity, there is always one or more of these I will put to use. And, because they have a long shelf life, they only need to be purchased, in bulk quantities, once every six months. And that's the first step to really saving money when buying in bulk - select items based on practical use + shelf life.
Maintaining an evergreen pantry has another, equally useful, purpose. Having an evergreen pantry means that you also have an emergency food pantry - without the emergency shopping!
If you live in an area with severe seasonal weather conditions, you’ve probably experienced the joys of the last minute “stock up on food” run to the grocery store. Long lines, inflated prices, half empty shelves, and wrestling that 80-year-old lady for the last jug of milk. Personally, I’ve lived through everything from hurricanes in Florida to black ice in Tennessee to blizzards in Chicago.
I'd much rather be at home munching on freshly baked cookies while everybody else is wrestling over that last jug of milk! If you have this combination of items on hand, you can actually prepare at least 100 different meals, from breakfast to dinner entrees to desserts to snacks to soup. If you're wondering how you can bake without eggs - flax seed meal is both a nutritious and delicious substitute for eggs!
These are the "right items" that make up the foundation of a useful pantry store. Coming up we'll look at best pre-portioning and storage practices and a simple but effective rotation system. Happy shopping!