Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Stocking the Pantry

J. and I made the nearly 100 mile round trip today to one of two area 'Sams' Club' warehouse stores.
Over the decades, we have frequently 'bought in bulk.'
During the farming years we belonged to a rather primitive food co-op--food was ordered by a group in town and delivered to a converted church building some 30 miles away.  Group members took turns going to collect the orders, then weighing it out and packaging it for distribution.
Available were flours and grains, nuts, dried fruit, oil, honey--the staples of cooking 'from scratch.'
In later years a food coop moved into a sparkling clean building in the county's shire town. Foods were stored in plastic bins and scooped into sacks or containers to be weighed at the checkout counter.  The store had an inviting assortment of 'natural' cosmetics and soaps, candles, exotic chocolates and later added organic cheeses, yogurt and butter.
These items augmented our own garden produce and home-canned fruit and veg.
During the final years in Vermont we also bought a membership to one of the warehouse stores--Costco.
With our son and daughter having nearby households, it made sense at that time to buy in bulk and divide the fresh fruits and such that we bought during the winter months.
In Wyoming, our several attempts to raise a garden resulted in miserable failures.
Harsh wind, the lack of irrigation, hoards of grasshoppers put paid to our efforts.
Daughter G. learned that a young woman in town there managed an ordering service and she brought me a catalogue.  Orders were placed once a month.  There was a good variety of bulk baking neccessities,  large packages of delectable frozen fruits, dried fruits, good pantry staples.
There were also frozen prepared meals.  These didn't tempt us, other than a frozen tomato/basil soup base which proved to be a delicious quick supper.
Since moving to Kentucky we again have a garden with surplus produce to can and bottle for winter use.
We travel about every 2 months to the natural foods store in the Mennonite community
about 30 minutes away.
Mid-summer, with G. along, we drove to Sam's Club in Bowling Green and bought a membership which allows G. to have a buyer's card as well.
She was pleased with the opportunity to buy baking supplies in large packaging.
We bought large containers of olive oil, vegetable oil, big bottles of lemon juice, butter in six package lots--that sort of thing. 
We came home after our shopping today satisfied with the supplies which have been squirreled away in the cupboards, the freezer, and on shelves in the basement.
However, we've decided we won't renew our membership when it expires next summer.
Pricing on most items doesn't show a saving over the same things bought on our monthly shopping run to the Kroger supermarket on 'Senior Discount Day.'
[There are a few benefits to being over 60!]
Much of the packaging at the warehouse store isn't sensible for a household of two.
Produce is sold in lots that would spoil before we could use it.
A huge portion of the store shelves are given over to 'fast foods,' snacks, frozen 'dinners'--a style of eating that doesn't appeal to us.
Laundry detergent in huge dispensers is not cheaper than the smaller jugs--and I don't think I need to hoist a 30 pound jug each time I do a load of laundry!
We did come home with multi-packs of some canned staples that I like to keep on hand: cream of mushroom soup for casseroles, tinned tuna, a case of 12 cans of tomato sauce.
I bought dried fruit, a medium sized tub of cottage cheese, frozen chicken breasts, the quick cooking rolled oats which we use for porridge and in bread-making.  Several bricks of cheese found their way into my cart--I splurged on an assortment of crackers packed in smaller cello packets within a large box.
I bought a large container of coffee--reverting to a decent brand we have used before--when I realized that our preferred brand is now 3 times the cost of the other!
I bought a sack of cat kibble because we were nearly out--but it wasn't a savings over buying locally.  J. heaved two 50# bags of cat litter onto the cart.
In the drygoods aisles I found the heavy wool-blend socks I've been needing.
We stocked up on pure maple syrup.
We spent a bundle of money!
We likely will not shop Kroger next week, having blown the budget and stocked the shelves.
We may possibly go again to Sam's Club before our membership runs out in July--but we won't renew it.
 Kroger is always crowded on senior discount day--and we feel quite young and fit as we watch some of the oldsters tottering about or riding the battery-powered shopping 'carts.'
Kroger's packaging is better suited to our usage and to our storage space--better to buy several smaller containers of some items than to break down the larger amounts and repackage for the freezer or shelves.
Kroger is a mere 30 miles away compared to 50 to either of the Sam's warehouses.
The Mennonite natural foods mart continues to be a source of items which we like that are not as available elsewhere--for instance the unbleached flour which I buy in 50 # bags.
There are inevitably things which I have to buy between big shoppings--something over-looked, or some items for special occasions recipes.
Wal Mart [ similar to Tesco in the UK] is 10 minutes away--the store we love to hate--but handy when one needs ordinary things.
I daresay I'll have to brave the crowds there and the inevitable lack of cashiers for a few things during the next month, but I think it is safe to declare that we won't have to do a 'big shopping' until well into January.
Some of our supplies will last well beyond that time.
We like simple meals, basic foods well prepared, home made bread and baked goods.
As for the cats--I'll happily drive to the other side of town to stock up on kibble and litter at Tractor Supply Company--that's my kind of store!


  1. I enjoyed reading about your shopping trip and what you stock up on. Here, if you're running a business (particularly catering/pubs/shops etc) you can buy membership of a Cash and Carry and buy in a similar way. I think Costco has a UK base as well.

    Here, as an individual, you can order Wholefoods from Suma, but only if you live more than 20 miles (I think) from a shop which stocks Suma supplies. Some folk share an order to make the quantities more viable as the minimum order is £250.

    I think there are other outlets now, but as there are just us 2 here now, and one of us is as fussy as all get out, it's not worth bulk buying, though having said that, last year we got a BIG sack of rolled oats for Muesli and I have my bread flour by the big sackload too. This we buy more or less at wholesale prices from our locally-run co-operative shop in Brechfa.

    I can quite understand your having to undertake a longish journey to reach the bulk-buy shops, but it sounds like it almost counts as a "day out" as you can enjoy the scenery along the way and you are still sprightly enough to trot along the aisles once you get there!

  2. We have a membership at SAM's club too, but it's only about 5 or so miles away. The last time we went was in July. I am running out of some things so will need to go again the beginning of the year. I've been wondering about not renewing membership too. I do like buying some things in quantity, like the flour, oats, coffee, olive oil, dried fruit, things like that, canned cat food, to mix with the dry.

    I'm getting in the mood to bake again.

    Hugs to you and happy holidays,

  3. Really enjoyed this post ...I too have found that one does not always save when buying in bulk.
    A friend used to take me to a 'cash and carry' to get large packs of tinned goods and catering sized items ...yes they were cheaper than local small stores but when I did all the calculations it was actually pennies cheaper in Tescos and I only had to buy what I actually needed ...not in 24's or 10 kilos or X-liters....so I stopped going and she was surprized!!I do wish I could get the unbleached and natural goods ...they are so expensive when you actually find them.xx

  4. A good review of bulk buying. I keep a Sam's membership which I find pays for itself in the selected items I buy throughout the year. Another advantage, the store is about 10 minutes away from my home.

  5. That's where I go, Tractor Supply here. Litter, outdoor cat food, and some tinned for my outside cats. Bird seed, etc.
    I wish we had a warehouse here. The prices for groceries here is unreal, even with the Walmart here, you really don't save too much there either.
    I wish we could get a co-op started here, it was tried, but never came about.
    Great post this morning, MM. Have a wonderful week.
    ps. I am vermy slowly gathering some material for a scrap quilt. I'm getting there.

  6. What a lovely feeling, to have the cupboards stocked up, ready for whatever Winter throws at you.

  7. We have just bought a house in the country and made our first trip to Tractor Supply 15 miles away. We had a good wander around just to look at everything-all very new to this "city girl"-it was great! We will probably do our grocery shopping at the WalMart in that town too. The little grocery store in the town nearer to us is terribly expensive! Looking forward to our first winter out here!

  8. I need to stock up on some dried goods before the winter sets in. Cash and Carry amounts are not worthwhile for the two of us, but I try to look for offers as I go around the local towns.

    I can imagine that the food bought from the Memmonite farmers is as good as you can get. Your stock sounds impressive and I`m sure you enjoyed the day out together.

  9. My pantry and refrigerator are now full after my trip to the grocery one mile away yesterday. Cooking for one is not as much fun but I am trying to do better and cook healthier. I enjoyed this post as I do each of your posts!