Using a Pantry to Save Time, Money and the Planet

Yesterday Rebecca wrote about why she doesn’t buy in bulk and now I shall disagree with her wholeheartedly.  I LOVE filling our pantry and stocking our extra freezer with wholesome food!

When I was growing up my mom canned peaches and pears, homemade applesauce and tuna in the summertime to prepare for the long winter months.  While I’m not quite as resourceful as she was, I find that stocking my makeshift garage pantry has actually saved time, money and the planet.

Since we’re conscientiously trying to lower our grocery bill this year, we’ve been amazed by how much money we save by stockpiling.  Our used Craigslist freezer is packed with six gallon-sized Ziploc bags of organic blueberries we hand-picked  for just thirty dollars total.  We loaded up on free organic blackberries and made enough homemade blackberry jam to last us for months.  Friends of mine have ordered part of a free range cow and filled their freezers with steaks and ground beef to last all winter.   Since our nearby grocery stores are extremely expensive and charge two to three times what we pay at Grocery Outlet or directly to organic farmers, it’s worth stocking up. 

Buying in bulk has also helped me overcome the temptation to order take-out when I find myself overwhelmed by dinner. After a very helpful visit to Grocery Outlet, I was able to buy boxes of natural cereals, flour and an Amy’s organic frozen pizza for just a fraction of what they would cost in a regular grocery store.  It remains tucked in the freezer for a frantic evening when I don’t feel like cooking. 

For me, saving time is the biggest advantage to having a pantry.  Since I work over thirty hours a week as a teacher, write this blog, and actively play with my son when we have time together, grocery shopping is my last priority.  With the freezer and the pantry, I can do a big grocery haul every month and supplement with the fresh produce we get weekly from our community supported agriculture subscription.  Roscoe and I go on foot to our local grocery store to keep buy dairy items now and then, but we’re amazed by how much we can do with frozen food and our weekly bags of fresh produce.  

There are also environmental advantages to stockpiling food that go beyond fewer trips to the grocery store.  Buying larger containers of food cuts down on packaging–and buying from the bulk bins is the best eco-option of all.  Someday I plan to get organized enough to bring paper bags for bulk purchases but for now I realize that recycling those plastic bags is far better than buying several small packages.  My cupboard is loaded up with canisters of oats, brown rice and beans.  

To be fair, I’m sure our freezer uses energy that might counteract some of the eco-friendly aspects of stockpiling food.  But in the years to come, we hope to expand our garden and our canning efforts.  Someday we aspire to preserve our homegrown produce along with locally grown favorites and become much more independent of the supermarket. We’ll never enjoy total freedom from grocery shopping, but every little bit helps!

Please feel free to jump in and share your eco-friendly, thrifty tips!  Just click here for directions on how to get started.  Thanks for joining us this Thrifty Green Thursday!

Also, don’t forget to enter our Organic Diaper Cake Giveaway.  Rebecca will choose a winner tomorrow!


  1. It must be so nice to have so many options to choose from at dinner time. I would love not having to go to the grocery store as often. I’ve also read that if your freezer is sufficiently full it doesn’t waste quite as much energy.

  2. I posted earlier this summer about my stockpiling efforts too! My husband just built me a pantry for all my home canned goodies and I love it. Great job!

  3. I would love to have a pantry that big! That pantry is bigger than my kitchen. 🙂 I can see the benefits of having a stockpile. Living in an apartment does not allow me to stockpile the way I would like, so I “stockpile” usually for a couple of weeks. By the way, I like the how you did the two points of view posts this week. It’s nice to see two sides to a topic!

  4. You’ve made some good points, Joy! I have to admit it sounds great to have all those berries bagged up for the winter months ahead.

    You mentioned that the energy used to run an extra freezer may counteract some of the advantages of stockpiling. According to PGE’s energy calculator, a 15 cubic foot frost-free freezer will cost about $30.00/month to operate, or $360 a year. You would want to be sure your savings in food go well beyond that amount to save any money. As for the environment, perhaps being able to stockpile local foods would offset that extra energy?

    When I was keeping track of our expenses (saving receipts, adding everything up, etc.), I found we spent $120/month on groceries for three people. With food prices rising, I estimate we spend more like $150 these days. I don’t think there is any way that I could make a freezer save me more money. It would mean my grocery budget would be something like $80/month.

    So, you stockpilers . . . what do you think?

  5. At first I found myself totally flabbergasted by the $30/month. That’s quite a lot! After a bit of research though, I found that according to an Oregon State University study and the Energy Star label website , the cost is really more like between $7-$15 dollars per month. So if I save that much just by using the freezer, it’s worth it. At this point with fewer trips to the grocery store and the ability to buy on sale and stock up, i know we’re saving at least that much. A chest freezer cost even less to run, but I know I’d lose things in it’s depths.

  6. A chest freezer runs more efficiently if it is fully stocked.

    It makes sense to me to stockpile items like meat and to preserve fruit etc.

    If that is your pantry Joy I’m jealous 😉 I would love a walk in pantry.

  7. Joy, you can figure out exactly how much you spend by looking up the model of freezer you have on the Sears website (or wherever they sell the brand you have). They will tell you how many kWh your freezer uses in a year. If you are paying just $7-15 more a month, it would certainly be easier to make up for it. If it does cost $30, I’d rather just go out to eat more often!

  8. I would also love to stockpile food in bulk. But unfortunately i’m in a teeny tiny apartment with probably the worlds smallest pantry. My freezer is always packed with cooked beans, fresh fruit and prepared meals. I love canning but my pantry doesn’t allow space for all those jars of goodies. We’re shopping for a house now and one of my biggest “needs” is a BIG pantry. I buy dry goods in bulk but have bags over flowing from the small shelves, my canisters just don’t fit! Overall i have to agree that buying in bulk works to cut down on trips to the market and lessens packaging. Sorry Joy i’m with Rebecca on this one, bulk buying is a good thing 🙂

  9. Donna and Penny:
    I too would love to have that pantry! My pantry actually consists of a shelf just above our freezer in the garage. I put dry goods in a big rubbermaid bin so that we don’t get little furry visitors, and stack canned goods next to the bin. Our kitchen is the size of a postage stamp with no dishwasher and very little cupboard or counter space so it was relief to stumble on the garage solution.

    You’re actually on my side! Rebecca shops more frequently and buys fewer items whereas I do the monthly haul. Still, I admire Rebecca’s approach–I just feel far too swamped to follow suit! She also has a smaller European style refridgerator which also cuts down on costs and emissions.

    Honestly the whole bulk thing has been a huge revelation to me just in terms of making my life far easier. I only wish I would have discovered it a decade ago. How many hours of my life have I unnecessarily spent in supermarket aisles?

  10. Here’s my confession: I enjoy grocery shopping. I don’t ever think of ways to spend less time in supermarket aisles! So I do like to shop every few days and buy just what I need. I also have more time to do this than Joy does (obviously).

    I will also admit that I don’t have a “European style refrigerator.” We have a 16 cubic foot fridge, which is a little smaller than the average American one (which is 20 cu ft or bigger). Most Europeans seem to have what we’d call a dorm fridge with no real freezer. Now THAT’S energy efficient!

  11. I love stocking my pantry too. I always buy in bulk since we only grocery shop once a month. It saves so much money and time!

  12. I loved your post, and it’s funny that I’ve been trying to do the same thing at my house, particularly with the economy right now. I’m afraid food prices might go up due to inflation, so we’ve been buying in bulk and stocking up. It’s stuff we’d be buying anyway in the next few months so we won’t be wasting.

    Sorry I didn’t get around to joining TGT this week, but I’ll try to do it next week!

  13. What a timely post me. My husband and I have been debating whether or not to buy a freezer (second-hand on Craigslist, of course!) Thanks also for hosting this great carnival. I’m so excited to have joined for the first time this week.

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