We urban homesteaders find that making a list and sticking to it helps with the overall running and operation of the urban homestead.

How we went about determining our monthly grocery list is to see what “staples” we commonly use throughout the month and made up a “basic shopping list” that we tack prominently on the fridge. The “basics” of course would be flour, rice, oil, oats, vinegar, dried beans, etc. When we run out, we check the little box next to the item on the list.

When shopping at the local grocer or from the food co-op we really don’t deviate from the “Basic Staples-Grocery List” too much. Why? We find that keeps food costs down and helps with lowering food miles.

There’s certainly a lot of temptations that fill the grocery isles but we have “the list” in hand and we stick to it! Our lives and our diet is fuller because of this exercise against over packaged goods, overconsumption and excess variety. It puts into perspective what basics we need for a good life.

To help with the “Basic Staples List” we referred back to our pioneer counterpart – the Ingalls family. What would the have purchased at their local General Store. What food items would have been available to them? The Ingalls family didn’t have a gazillions brands of this or innumerable food choices from all over the world. So we 21st century urban homesteaders try to emulate their simple food choices in our modern day lifestyle.

And we also have to realize that this lifestyle is all about being flexible. If the food prices continue to go up one has to be willing to cut back/out certain items or be creative and try/grow new alternatives to certain typical staples.

Care to share in an little exercise? When Pa Ingalls hitched up the wagon, what did Ma Ingalls put on her grocery list?

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  1. Ginny says:

    Well, I don’t have the book at hand, but I think there was sugar (brown for everyday and white for company), flour, coffee, and possibly fabric. That’s all I can think of right now.

    We have a pantry system, too, but I am not good at it. I need to try harder. Thanks for the encouragement. Your pantry is very neat and clean and pretty. My pantry is in the basement and it is not very organized. I also have some stuff in a cabinet in the dining room and in the hall closet, etc. LOL! I think I need to get rid of stuff and organize the necessities. When I get time…

    In Christ,


  2. Di says:

    I don’t see any labels on your jars, how do you know whats in which jar? Currently I have a few plastic tupperware type containers but looking to gradually convert to glass jars with metal lids like yours. Much better for the environment. And no leaching!

  3. PhoenixJen says:

    Anais – would you be willing to share your list with the rest of us as a pdf file – that way we could all benefit from your obvious skills of organization!


  4. Anais says:

    Hello Di

    Good question. Like I said we keep our staple list VERY, very simple.


    Beans (mostly black)
    Raw Sugar
    Some nuts, occasionally raisins and powered milk

    With such items I can tell what they are just by looking at them – so hence the no labels.

  5. Anais says:

    P.S. As for converting the pantry over from plastics to glass. It did take some time ( a few years really) and a bit of extra money. But the change was worth it. Small steps right!

  6. Bethanne says:

    I shop for glass jars (and most everything else) at thrift stores. It saves money and the environment.

  7. Michelle W. says:

    Hmmm….I’m going to add lard to the Ingalls list? Also cornmeal?

    I love your pantry picture. I am working to get mine that simplified and streamlined. : )

  8. Di says:

    Thanks Anais! Thinking about it the only thing I’d need a label on is flours as we have a few different kinds. Definitely something to think about! I’ve seen those jars locally and they would look lovely in my cupboards!
    I am however a little bit of a clutz and break glass easily, but then maybe I’d be a bit more careful knowing how pretty and useful these are! lol!
    Like you said, small steps. First I want to clear out the cupboards, so I can SEE what I have, vs what I NEED. Amazing how much stuff you buy on impulse when you don’t have a list. Now I use a list and menu plan I buy 2/3 of what I used to!
    Keep up the good work, love this site!


  9. Melissa says:

    Any tips for keep moths out of your staples? I live in the same region (Pasadena) and during the summer months the moths proliferate and seem very adept at getting inside sealed containers. This discourages me from keeping any grains long-term outside of the refrigerator (where space is limited and energy consumed).

    thanks for sharing! -Melissa

  10. Heather says:

    Have you ever dried your own beans? I’m going to try that this year, as well as split peas.

  11. Chicago Mike says:

    I am with Heather on this, if anyone has an idea. We put in scarlet runners and shell peas and I would love to keep them around dried.

    I also read that for most of human history peas were dried and ground into flour. Anybody done that? Any recipes?

    With Best Regard.

  12. Connie Reiersen says:

    My concern with having my dry goods in glass is always the possibility of an earthquake. Already went through one in California. I just feel a little more comfortable using plastic. I don’t think I would like picking glass out of my food. I know some plastics or safer and there are others not recommended for storage. I always check the code at the bottom of the container.

  13. Christine says:

    Very useful article! I don’t have a food storage system now, because I gave away my stuff to someone when we moved. Haven’t done anything since. I used to keep wheat berries in 5-gal pails, with bay leaf sprinkled over the top, for bug problems. Then I shut the pails with a lit wooden match going, as to use up the oxygen. You have to do this very slowly and softly. I never had bugs. If the grain might have bugs, one could freeze it for a few days, and then do the rest. I never had bugs though. I have kept wheat for years that way. But not anymore for which I could kick myself. I just didn’t want my husband to have to carry all those pails and pack them too. Highly regret it now though, as times seem to be highly troubling! Does anyone else feel this? C

  14. Jill says:

    I love this picture of your pantry! The glass jars are so pretty.

  15. Amy says:

    What a great pantry! We’ve been switching to glass jars. I’ve found many in thrift stores, and we also bought a large box of wide mouth mason jars. I use them for food storage, flower vases, juice pitchers…once we even used one for an earthworm “house” for our homeschool science class.

    I know Caroline Ingalls would have packed lots and lots of beans as well as salt pork, cornmeal, flour, and of course Pa could never be without his tea!

  16. Evelyn says:

    For all the fans you can buy The Little House Cookbook. Over 100 authentic recipes of pioneer food from the pages of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s series are included in this book. Or you can go to their website and get free recipes.

  17. Marshall Family says:

    Grocery list would have to include tea and/or coffee.

    Evelyn: do you have the website address for the free recipes. I googled, but so many sites came up I’m not sure which to look at.

  18. Cheryl says:

    Hopefully she left Pa Ingalls in the wagon. Seems like when my husband goes grocery shopping things appear in the cart. Our basic list gets rearranged.

  19. Cheryl says:

    Hopefully Pa Ingalls was left in the wagon. Whenever I go grocery shopping with my husband weird things appear in the cart. The basic list is all changed. Doesn’t help the budget, but I am trying to change him. LOL

  20. gina says:

    Question for Anais – when is the last time you had a snicker bar? You guys are so good and great at sticking with this that I just wondered if you ever cave and go get a candy bar. Thanks!

  21. anajz says:

    Thanks for sharing the photo of your pantry. Unfortunately, I do not have an actual pantry in this old house, but I have added some shelving beside our refrigerator. I have been buying glass jars that look a lot, if not exactly, like yours to sit on my counter as canisters for flour, sugar, etc. I love the look.
    I also reuse empty glass jars to store some of my dehydrated herbs and veggies.

  22. Jennifer says:

    It is amazing how many glass jars you can collect on your own just by re-using the glass jars you have already in your fridge! Pickle jars, jam jars, peanut butter jars, jalapenos, etc etc. Once cleaned and dried, these are great for storing seeds, goji berries, nuts, quite a lot of things that come in plastic bags from the shops and have to be ‘opened’.

    Just to add my bit: my additional staples are kidney beans and rice, baking powder, butter (blocks can freeze)

  23. Mama Squirrel says:

    I get meal moths, too. Our only solution so far has been to liberally use commercial moth traps…no chemicals, just a little strip of female moth hormones and glue strips. It also helps that the cat and the kids go after them, too. I thought they were coming exclusively from our house until I noticed them flying around the grocery store itself…you are probably transporting them in.

    For the Ingalls, I add to Ginny’s list dry beans, salt pork, tobacco, lead (for the gun), kerosene, popcorn, salt, tea, coal (while living in DeSmitt), the occasional can of oysters, and shoes…and this is just what I can think of. They may have purchased dried apples as well. LOL. I’ve been reading the books to my middle child lately.

    I have to keep my husband out of the grocery store as well. The claim is that women live to shop, but it has been proven that men are more likely to make impulse buys… probably a part of the hunter instinct.

  24. Ellen says:

    I read the books a while ago but I do remember coffee, sugar, seeds, hard candy for the children, fabric, and tobacco.

    We use the two gallon glass jars that used to hold pickled eggs, etc. I get them on Freecycle for free. We have our counter lined with them since I don’t have a pantry. I love the style you have, Anais, with the silver lids. I have one of those I found at a tag sale and would love to find a few more as they are the perfect size to hold things we don’t use quite as much (carob, etc.).

  25. Fern says:

    Specialty items came from the store, too, in the Little House books. Laura’s doll, Pa’s overalls, a can of clams or clam soup for some special occassion. Winter coats came from the store.

    More things came from the store for the Ingalls than for the family in Farmer Boy, reflecting the differences in their farmsteads. Ma in Farmer Boy made even their rainproof woolens, for example, while Ma Ingalls didn’t as the Ingalls didn’t raise sheep.

  26. The Purloined Letter says:

    I love your system and use pretty much the same one (but we are way less organized!). We order in bulk and keep the grains in plastic tubs in the basement, then refill our pantry jars when they are empty.

    Son asked for a hand-cranked grain mill for his ninth birthday–it was fairly inexpensive and we’ve really been enjoying the amazing fresh flavor of our flours and flakes. (We do buy white flour sometimes to add with some of the denser flours for certain dishes.)

    Just wanted to comment that I love your naming of Shabbat etc. as “walking the old paths.” We do it for reasons we cannot always explain. But I think you get right to the heart of it here.

  27. Marci says:

    I too use glass jars. It helps you to see inside and see what you have. I have also found if I spread out some bay leaves and I put peppermint essential oil on cotton balls, it keeps away a lot of the pests. Mice are able to get into the room my pantry is stored in right now. I have fought them every year I lived in this house until last winter. I threw cotton balls with the peppermint essential oil into all the corners. We did not see or hear one mouse this past winter. I also try to keep a couple of the pantry moth traps out.

    Do you ever have problems with moths in your pantry?

  28. Anais says:

    Great and insightful comments everyone.

    Gina – what’s a Snickers Bar? Joking aside, we really don’t eat “candy bars.” Our main food vice is chocolate – thanks to our Belgian and French genes.

  29. Jesse says:

    I love the list and your neat pantry! I purchased some secondhand canning jars, the kind with the flip-open lid, and we are using them for all our dried beans and chickpeas and rice. My only stumble with no-labels has been occasionally confusing different grades of cornmeal (like using polenta for breading, or vice versa — makes for a crunchy dinner sometimes!). I’m wondering if you have ever considered planting your own olive trees to try to make your own olive oil? I know there is some olive culture in California, just curious to know if that’s a possibility for you.

  30. Anais says:


    Thanks for the positive comments.

    Olive trees would be nice, but unfortunately we have no room for such a large tree. There are however, olives trees growing throughout Pasadena!

  31. Erin says:

    Your pantry is so beautiful … I dream of having one just like it someday.

    I love using canning jars to store my dry goods. My favorites are the 1/2 gallon size that I got for 75 cents each at a thrift store. I can fit them 2 deep in my wall cabinets so they are space-saving.

    God Bless!


  32. kaythegardener says:

    While growing up in quake prone CA, my dad fastened thin wood strips in front of the open pantry shelves about 3-4″ up. This kept the glass jars from falling off, while they could be removed by tilting them forward.

  33. Laura @ Laura Williams' Musings says:

    I love the simple look of your pantry. Simple but yet very pretty in its own unique way. I have some glass jars I use (old ones with spring clasp closure) and some old blue canning jars (which I love and I inherited). I will have to start looking for a few more jars though to put my stuff in. I love the look and easy to see what’s in them.

  34. Carrie Allen says:

    WOW!!!! Your panty is beautiful. I hope one day mine will look similar!!! I absolutely love everything in glass jars! Would you tell me where you purchased them? Thanks,
    p.s. You guys are such an inspiration to me!!!

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