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How to create a store cupboard that works for you, your family and your lifestyle?

This post is the second article on store cupboards written by Elaine Colliar from Mortgagefreeinthree.com.

Well, start from first principles – what does your family like to eat? And from that what are the staple foods that can be safely stored?

In our case, we enjoy cooking and eating ethnic cuisines, so we knew that every week there was likely to be a “something” with rice, noodles or pasta.

Come up with a “rough” meal plans for the entire period you wish to create your stock cupboard for. If you plan for a month, you will create a plan 12 times per year. If you plan for a year, then you can just do this the once.

My family’s rough plan looks like this:

Sunday:                      Something (roast) like beef or chicken

Monday:                    Risotto (different every time)

Tuesday:                    A Pasta dish

Wednesday:              A rice dish (fried rice, kedgeree, biryani)

Thursday:                  A grain dish – (Tabouleh, couscous)

Friday:                        A bean dish (Chilli, curry)

Saturday:                   Pizza and movie night

So, knowing that one of our family’s favoured meals is a different risotto every Monday, I can calculate:

Weight of rice needed per week 150 g

Weight of rice needed per year 7.5 kg

I found a bargain: 5 kg of risotto rice for £5.00 from a shop that was shutting for refitting. I got the bag knowing that each week the rice would be costing just 15p for the main meal.

Taking care of the staples early on means I can select throughout the year the extra part of my risotto. At the moment we are eating pea-shoot and lemon risotto as I have pea-shoot’s growing in the garden, soon we will have courgettes and broad beans, then onto celeriac and leek later in the year.

I keep my store cupboard separate from my kitchen cupboards. I have in my kitchen all the day-to-day essentials and when I finish a packet I go to my store cupboard to “shop from home” and replace the item – I find that my store stayed tidier and in order if I’m not rummaging through it on a daily basis.

Store cupboard goods have a relatively long shelf life, but I do rotate my stock, always buying when goods are on offer and storing them behind my older supplies.

And let’s be clear, I don’t spend a fortune, in fact I allocate just £5.00 per week to building my store cupboard. If you keep an eye on the supermarket flyers and offers you will find that their “loss leaders” often rotate around in weekly/monthly or quarterly cycles. If for some reason I don’t spend my store cupboard allowance that week I carry it over; something else I would like to stock up on may come on offer.

Another great way to stretch your store cupboard fund is to look at ordering short dated goods from a supplier like Approved Foods. Everything that is sold in a packet in a supermarket must have a ‘best before date’, even goods like beans and grains that you can safely store for years. Just think, archaeologists have found, germinated and then grown plants from beans found buried in the Egyptian pyramids; going a month or two over a “best before” date, doesn’t make much difference to goods like these.

I have picked up bargains like 12 X 500 g bags of chickpeas for 99 p. In the supermarket 12 bags would cost me £10.06 – saving of £9.69.

It is all right to explore alternative avenues for buying food, such as online websites, collectors, cash-and-carry’s etc. The savings to be made by shopping smart are huge, so decide what your family loves to eat, figure out how much of your staples you need and make a game of finding the best deal on your store cupboard goodies.

So where can you find the space to create a store cupboard? Do you have any space under the stairs? In a pantry? A cupboard in your hall? A wardrobe in the spare room? Get creative looking around your home and you may be surprised at how much under-used space you have.

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