Our Whole Foods Pantry, Freezers and Refrigerator

Real Food Ingredients Resource Page

After several hours of list making, link finding and price figuring, here is the resource I’ve been promising for such a long time! I’ve tried to include everything that typically can be found in my fridge, freezers, pantry and bulk storage. I obviously don’t have all of these items on hand all of the time, but I do try to keep a good stock of most of these items so that I am flexible to put together a variety of healthy meals, as well as open our home to guests frequently.

I’ve included prices I prefer to spend on each item, but prices vary depending on which site is offering a sale. Keep in mind that prices are going to vary depending on where you live as well. Because I live in a small town with very few whole foods/organic food grocery store options, I buy most of my food from local farmers, from online shops or from Azure Standard, depending on where I find a better deal. (Plus, I try to save up most of my Swagbuck earnings to purchase food occasionally for “free” from Amazon.)

I buy almost all of the listed items in bulk quantities because I know we’ll use it. I also try to purchase just about all of the items in this list in organic form if possible.

Because you are all reading from different locations, I also recommend that you read through the comments on this post in order to find a health food co-op or whole food resources in your area. Also, check out LocalHarvest to find meat, milk, eggs and produce in your area.

Hopefully the linking system I used in each section is user friendly! If I linked to Tropical Traditions, Vitacost, Amazon, Azure Standard, or Mountain Rose Herbs, I tried to link each item to the specific product page on those sites for easy navigation.

Keep in mind that if you are a new customer with Vitacost, you can click through this link to receive a $10 credit to use on your first order (order must be $30 or more). It’s a great way to save some serious money on your first order!

And now, without further ado, here is my very long list of grocery items I love to have on hand:

Dairy

In addition to the following products, occasionally I make butter and mozzarella cheese, if I have enough milk/cream/time.

Milk – I am blessed to buy raw, organic milk from local farmers.
Cream – I buy this raw from our milk farmers.
Buttermilk – Homemade
Kefir – Homemade
Yogurt – Homemade
Sour Cream – Homemade
Butter – I usually purchase a case of Willow Made Sweet Cream, Salted Butter from Azure Standard if I can get it for $3.50/pound or less. Otherwise, I just buy real butter from the grocery store.
Cheese – I purchase raw organic Landmark white cheddar cheese from Azure Standard.   It is $5.50/pound if purchased by the case.

Meat/Eggs/Beans

I purchase most of my grass fed beef and free range whole chickens from a local farm – NorthStar Neighbors. Occasionally, I will get it from Tropical Traditions if they have a great sale.

Hamburger Meat
Cube Steak
Stew Meat
Beef Roast 
Chickens (whole) – I try stretch these to feed my family six meals!
Chicken Breasts – I typically purchase Smart Chicken brand when it’s on sale at our local grocery store for $4.0o/pound or less.
Deer Meat – from local hunters who like to share
Tuna (canned) – I buy Natural Value Yellow-Fin by the case either from Amazon, Vitacost, or Azure Standard, shooting for $1.50/can or less.
Salmon (canned) – Rubinstein’s Wild Alaska pink salmon from Azure Standard or Roland’s from Amazon – $3.00 or less per can.
Frozen Fish, sometimes – I live in Nebraska, what can I say? We don’t have fresh fish here. I don’t necessarily trust frozen fish from a regular grocery store, but occasionally I will buy some tilapia or salmon.
Eggs – I buy these from my friend who raises free range chickens.
Red Beans –  Azure Standard – $1.00/pound
Black Beans
Azure Standard – $1.40/pound
Pinto BeansAzure Standard – $0.88/pound
Garbonzo BeansAzure Standard – $0.85/pound
Lentils Azure Standard – $0.49/pound

Grains

Hard White Wheat – I buy this in bulk from Azure Standard – $0.83/pound.
Whole Kernel CornAzure Standard or Tropical Traditions – $0.68/pound
PopcornAzure StandardTropical Traditions or Amazon – $1.25/pound
Rolled OatsAzure StandardTropical Traditions or Amazon – $0.80/pound
Brown Rice –  Azure Standard, Tropical Traditions or Amazon – $1.80/pound
Whole Wheat Pasta – Tropical Traditions or Amazon – around $2.00/pound

I sometimes have Kamut, Millet, Buckwheat, Spelt and/or Barley on hand – purchased from Azure Standard or Tropical Traditions – all less than $1.00/pound.

Baking/Cooking

Coconut FlourAzukar Organics through Amazon (best price!) or Tropical Traditions when it’s buy one get one free – $3.50/pound or less.
Sucanat Azure Standard, Vitacost, or Amazon – $2.50/pound or less
Raw Honey – I purchase from a local bee keeper – or I buy it from Azure Standard
Grade B Maple Syrup – Farmers Market, Vitacost, or Amazon – $17.00/quart or less
Cocoa PowderAzure Standard or Tropical Traditions – $4.25/pound or less
Vanilla Extract – I make my own; read how you can too!
Corn StarchAzure Standard, Vitacost, or Tropical Traditions – $3.20/8 ounce box
Arrowroot PowderAzure Standard – $2.57/pound or less
Aluminum Free Baking PowderAzure Standard or Amazon – $2.65/pound
Baking SodaAzure Standard or Amazon – $1.00/pound or less
Shredded CoconutTropical Traditions– $17.50/gallon pail
Chocolate ChipsHomemade, Vitacost, or Amazon – $4.50/package or less
Butterscotch Baking ChipsHomemade
Active Dry YeastAzure Standard or Sams (if I can get a friend with a membership to grab some for me!)

Herbs and Spices

These are purchased either from Tropical Traditions, Azure Standard or Mountain Rose Herbs. I didn’t link to any specific site for these – where I buy these depends on who has the best price at the time.

Redmonds Real Sea Salt
Garlic Powder
Turmeric
Minced Onion
Onion Powder
Onion Salt
Oregano
Basil
Cayenne Pepper
Black Pepper
Chili Powder
Paprika
Parsley
Cumin
Cinnamon
Nutmeg

Condiments and Sauces

Ketchup – I make homemade ketchup or purchase Muir Glen Organic Ketchup from Amazon, Vitacost, or Azure Standard – $2.70/bottle
Mayonnaise – I like Hain Safflower Mayo from Azure Standard or Vitacost – $5.50/jar or less
Mustard – Azure Standard – $2.35/bottle
Worcestershire Sauce Azure Standard – $5.00/bottle
Soy Sauce Azure Standard – $5.50/bottle Liquid Smoke – Walmart  ;)
Salad Dressings – I make my own, recipes are found here.
Jams and PreservesAzure Standard, Vitacost, or Tropical Traditions – $3.00/jar
Peanut Butter – I make my own, recipe found here

Fats

Coconut Oil, Virgin (tastes like coconut)Tropical Traditions, Amazon, Vitacost, or Mountain Rose Herbs – $18.00/quart or less
Coconut Oil, Expeller Pressed (flavorless) Tropical Traditions, Amazon, Mountain Rose Herbs – $13.00/quart or less
Olive OilAzure Standard, Vitacost, or Tropical Traditions – $17.00/25 ounces or less
ButterAzure Standard (Yes, I’d already mentioned this in the dairy section, but it’s also a fat. Apparently, I love butter enough to mention it twice.)
Palm ShorteningTropical Traditions, Amazon – $32.00 or less per gallon

Fruits and Vegetables

Tomato Sauce, Tomato Soup, Tomato Juicewe grow and can our own supply for each year or I get them from Vitacost when we run out of our home canned goods
Green Beans, Sweet Corn, Peaches, Strawberries, Applesauce – we grow or buy from local farmers and preserve these ourselves each year.
Frozen PeasAzure Standard – $7.70/5 pounds
All Other Fresh Produce – Azure Standard or local grocery stores

Nuts

PeanutsAzure Standard or Amazon – $3.70/pound
Pistachios, Cashews, AlmondsBraga Organic Farms or Vitacost
Dried FruitAzure Standard, Vitacost or Braga Organic Farms

Cereal and Chips (purchased rarely)

CornflakesAmazon or Vitacost – $3.00/box
Rice Crispies Amazon or Vitacost– $3.00/box
Corn ChipsAmazon or Vitacost – $4.00/bag

So that you will always and forever have easy access to this resource list, I have added a link at the top of my site called Whole Foods Resources. I’ve also added this pantry button to my side bar, which will link to this post:

How We Afford Buying in Bulk

I’m working through a series on buying whole foods in bulk!
If you haven’t read them yet, you may be interested in :

Why I Buy in Bulk, Buying in Bulk:  Do You Have the Space? and
Buying in Bulk:  A Year’s Supply. And now:  How To Afford Buying in Bulk:

Guess what? Last Thursday was Maple Syrup Day!  We now have five gallons of maple syrup to last us the year:

The total price tag wasn’t small, and yet, we got an excellent price per ounce on high quality maple syrup for our family. This means that even though we had to pay quite a bit upfront, we just saved quite a bit of money!

I’m sure many of you are wondering how we afford to purchase our year’s supply of maple syrup all at once, or three months worth of meat at one time, etc. Hopefully you took the time to read the following posts:  How I Grocery Shop and Our 2011 Grocery Budget which will answer some of your questions.

But overall, I would say that we can’t afford NOT to buy in bulk. We are a family of six big eaters, plus we feed a lot of extra people each month. Buying large quantities of many different foods saves us hundreds (maybe thousands?) of dollars each year. I can pay $1.60 for a small 21 ounce bag of organic rolled oats – or I can pay almost half that amount per ounce and buy 50 pounds of organic rolled oats for $35.55. It may feel like I’m spending less if I only pay $1.60 for a bag of oats, but since I’d have to buy so many bags of it, overall, I’d actually be spending more.

If it’s food that will keep well without spoiling and I know it’s food that we’ll eat – buying in bulk is usually the better option for our family.

And now, a little bit more about our budget and how bulk purchasing is possible for us:

We have $550 in our monthly grocery budget, which equals $6600 for the year. Some months I only spend $200, some months I spend $800. It all balances out. I don’t need a bulk quantity of every single food, every single month. Some months I buy a huge amount of wheat and a few months worth of organic brown rice. Some months I buy a case of butter and order several big bags of organic nuts. Some months I hardly buy anything at all, except for milk, eggs and produce. And by the end of the year, all the purchases have averaged out to $550/month.

If you’re just getting started with bulk purchasing, it may feel like your budget is taking a big hit. Here are some suggestions for buying in bulk while staying within your budget:

  • Try to hold back part of your grocery budget from one month in order to apply it to bulk purchasing the following month. For instance, if your grocery budget is $300/month, eat a few less expensive meals this month. Anything under $300 that you spend can be applied toward bulk purchasing next month.
  • If there are other areas of your overall family budget that you can cut back on or skip for a while so that you can save up, be intentional about saving that money for bulk purchases. Can you eat out less? Skip the movie? Pass by the coffee shop? Avoid paying the electric bill? Just kidding. Please pay your electric bill. ;)
  • Begin with very basic staple foods that you know your family will eat. I recommend starting with foods such as oats, rice, wheat or flour, sucanat, honey – any foods that you know won’t go to waste if bought in a large quantity and kept in storage for 3-12 months.
  • Don’t buy everything at once. Maybe pick just one or two items each month to get started. If you buy rice in bulk this month, you’ll be able to check that off your grocery list for the next few months, freeing up a little bit of your budget for other bulk purchases.
  • Buy in bulk according to your family’s needs. I tend to buy 50 pound bags of food because we go through a lot of groceries at our house.  Ten pound or 25 pound bags may be better for your family.
  • If you find a good deal and buy a bulk quantity of an item, ration it if necessary. It won’t save much money when you find a great deal and stock up on chocolate chips, if your family begins to eat way more chocolate chips than normal. Not that this is easy when there are bulk amounts of chocolate chips in the house. Why did I have to use chocolate as an example? I should have brought up baking powder or salt or something less tempting. Yes, don’t overindulge in baking powder. There, that’s better. :)

Next time, I’ll talk more about what food items work well for bulk purchasing, what keeps well in the pantry and what freezes well.

How do you budget for bulk purchases?

Buying in Bulk – Do You Have the Space?

Before I can talk about the foods I like having on hand and the foods I purchase or preserve in large quantities, I think it’s best to let you know a little bit more about our family’s storage capabilities. God has blessed us with a large house that has a large storage room. We have (through the years) invested in not one, but three large freezers. We have a large pantry and a large kitchen and after you’ve typed the word large this many times in the same paragraph, it begins to sound funny in your head. Large. Large. Is it just me, or does the word large sound funny now? (It’s largely possible that it’s just me.)

I say all of that (in large part) to let you know that I’ll be sharing what works for our family – then you can take that information and do whatever will work for yours. Even if your house and storage abilities aren’t as large as mine, you still may be able to swipe some of my ideas (or learn something from all the brilliant minds who leave comments and share what works for them!). But make adaptions based on what God has blessed you with. If you have a small home with minimal storage, you’ll have to get more creative. For instance, you could sell your couch and build your own living room furniture from your bulk purchases.  Fifty pound bags of wheat and oats would make very cushy chairs. Five gallon buckets full of rice and beans could serve as your end tables and you could use jars of coconut oil and canned peaches as book ends. Bags of pasta would be fine accents on your “wheat and oat couches” – you know, like pillows? Adorable

Or not.

Don’t ever ask me to come help you decorate your home. It’s clearly not my strong suit. Moving on…

Why do we have three large freezers? Well, we’ve found that it’s an investment that has saved us hundreds of dollars each year. We bought them used, and if you recall, they are as ugly as can be – one of the reasons we got them for such a low price. Having them has enabled us to purchase high quality meat in bulk quantities. Even more exciting, when we’ve been blessed to get our hands on free strawberries or peaches – when our garden has been producing bumper crops of green beans – when we are able to get a great deal on a year’s supply of corn to put up for the winter – we’ve got the freezer space to handle the quantity. By the end of summer, our freezers are crammed full of produce, much of which we’ve grown ourselves or purchased for a very reasonable price from local farmers and gardeners.  

So, what if you don’t have large freezers or a large pantry or storage space? I was kidding earlier (mostly) about building furniture with your bags of oats, but there really are some great and creative ways for you to make good use of the space you do have. Take a look at how beautifully Jodi has decorated her home with her canned produce

I think this is gorgeous:

A colorful close-up:

Think about the usable areas of your home. Can you slide some food containers under your beds? Are there some closet floors that could house some buckets of dry goods? Can you think of a cute way to stack a few containers in a corner of your kitchen? Any chance you have an open wall somewhere that you could purchase an inexpensive shelf that you can decorate with food like Jodi did?

While you may not have the space to store 500 pounds of wheat (our year’s supply!) like I can, I bet you do have a few (or more) bulk storage possibilities in your home.

I’d love for you all to share your tricks and strategies for food storage in your homes. Share what type of home you live in and how you make good uses of your storage spaces.

And really, can’t you just picture the coconut oil jar book ends?  Adorable.

Cooking for a Crowd

I often feed large crowds, whether it’s just a couple of families joining ours for dinner…or whether I’m feeding an entire soccer team like I’m doing this week. I think it’s rather fun, because apparently weird things like this make me happy. Big pots of food…lots of smiling people eating from the big pots of food…what could be more fun than that? 

Cooking for a big crowd doesn’t have to be stressful. I think the keys for avoiding big crowd feeding freak out are:

  • Make a thorough plan including very detailed lists
  • Prepare as much food ahead of time as possible
  • Keep the menu simple

You don’t have to make a four course meal with fancy dishes to make the crowd happy. I’ve actually found that less is more, both for my sanity and for the joy of the people I’m feeding. 

Like take today for instance. For lunch today, I fed the team Tammy’s Chicken Pasta Salad (a big hit, by the way!) and a big bowl of cut up watermelon. That’s IT. The pasta salad was the main dish, the side dish and the vegetable all wrapped up into one big pot of goodness. The watermelon was a perfect compliment to the salad and the girls raved about it all (like I had made the watermelon all by myself or something?).

Then I pulled out the homemade fudge brownies, homemade ice cream and hot fudge sauce…which I’d made five days before and stuck in the freezer. They LOVED it. It was easy to make ahead of time and wow was it a crowd pleaser. They all left our house patting their tummies and saying, “Thank you SO much for lunch…it was amazing…wow I can’t wait until tomorrow” and all that good stuff. 

You wouldn’t have to serve homemade ice cream…or even offer any ice cream at all.   Simple brownies would have been fine too…I just really wanted to give the girls a great treat. And since I could make it all ahead of time it wasn’t at all hard.

Okay, here are some pictures of my cooking preparations last week. I did the majority of the cooking for the five soccer team meals all in one day. It is making my life SO much simpler this week!!! 

Please take note of all the messes in the background. There’s not really a good way to cook a huge amount of food without making big messes. Oh yeah, and my stock pot is my friend. We have SO gotten our money’s worth out of the stock pot.

I got groceries on Wednesday morning then dumped it all over the kitchen floor…

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This is actually only part of the groceries. Probably only half of it actually. But you get the idea.

I got to work then right away browning 18 pounds of hamburger meat. (Actually, I believe Matt was home at the time and he got all the meat in the pot for me.)  Once it was in the stock pot cooking, I started the ice cream machine with homemade ice cream

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Once the meat was finished cooking (18 pounds took forever by the way!), I separated it and seasoned some of it for the nacho bar, set aside some of it for beef enchiladas and made the rest into lasagna sauce.

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After the hamburger meat was finished, I cut up bunches of chicken breasts and cooked the pieces in olive oil for Tammy’s Chicken Pasta Salad and for chicken enchiladas.

Then, I began to assemble chicken enchiladas, beef enchiladas and lasagnas.

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Assembly lines rock. 

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I borrowed two huge pans from our church kitchen for the lasagnas. 
Now that is a lot of lasagna!

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I baked a gignormous amount of brownies. I allowed them to cool, then I cut them…

crowd_cooking_11

…and froze them in pieces. 
When I served them, I just popped one into a bowl, topped it with ice cream and hot fudge. 
Easy!

It took several hours of work on Wednesday (with a lot of other things squished into the day like reading to the kids and checking handwriting books while meat cooked) but now all I have to do each day is pull food out of the freezer and make the sides to go with the meal!!! 

Now tomorrow, let’s have a little chat about how I compromised a little bit on some of the ingredients I used, shall we? Stay tuned…