What’s hiding in your pantry?

I recently found $600 in a friend’s pantry. We fill our pantries to the brim with grocery items including canned goods, sugar, flour, plastic bags, rice, pasta and other ingredients. Most creative cooks are possibility thinkers. As we forage through the grocery store we are inspired by the varieties of flavors and imagine the luscious dishes we can prepare.

Maybe we stock up so we’re at the ready to bake that double batch of chocolate chip cookies or whip up a casserole to take to an impromptu dinner party. What if there is a power outage? I’m always amused by how food vanishes from grocery store shelves when a storm threatens. The items accumulate until we are without a square inch to wedge in one more box of cereal. In the photo below, I estimate there are three bags of groceries per shelf. Assuming a cost of $50 per bag there could be up to an $150 investment per shelf in this pantry. These are idle assets resting in our cupboards.

Can you find $ in your pantry?

Here is my three step process for recovering cash from your pantry.

Step 1: Empty the pantry, item by item, checking expiration dates. For those items that have expired, set them aside in a bag for disposal. For all other items, determine whether the item is a “keeper” as an ingredient for a future meal. Items unopened and not a “keeper” are candidates for donation to a food pantry. At the end of this exercise you will have three piles of ingredients: keep, toss and donate.

Step 2: Begin to organize your pantry with the items that are keepers. Restock the shelves with three categories of ingredients in mind:

  • Galley cooking pantry staples; these items you will always have on hand and proactively use in your menu planning.
  • Use immediately; these are the items with expiration dates within the next 30 days. Be creative with your multi-day meal planning to identify recipes where these ingredients can be used.
  • On deck; these are the items with expiration dates within the next 90 days. Think of these items as being the next priority for consideration in meal planning once the “use immediately” items are exhausted.

Step 3: Going forward purchase only what is needed to keep your Galley Cooking pantry stocked and your three day meal plan ready to go. This means you will need to shop every three days or so and be intentional about your planning and purchases.

Why not use your grocery store as your pantry and keep your funds in your pocket until you are ready to spend.