It is the only thing hungrier than my teenage son.

It can gobble up food, time, and money faster than you can call 911!

And it can bring a grown woman to tears.

It's... the pantry!

I have spent the past few weeks battling this beast into submission, and I finally have a routine that has cut our grocery budget by 25%, eliminated stressful shopping trips wandering up and down the aisles and from pasal to pasal, and saved more time and brain power than I can describe.

In the States, it was easy! I simply clipped and organized my coupons and matched the coupons with the sales. My pantry and fridge were FULL! Then when it came meal time, I simply opened the cabinet and picked from my own personal grocery store.

Here, it takes a little more planning. (No planning means extra trips to the store. I hate extra trips!)

So here's the process...

Step 1) The first thing I do is pull out my food list. The hardest thing in the world is deciding what to fix. I hate to stand at a cabinet and stare at it with a Barney Fife look on my face. My food list makes it easy to narrow the options down. I am also adding new things to my food list pretty often. I plan on typing it up when I reach 50 or so dinner options. I am almost half way there.

(I love it when I don't have to think... just pick!)

Step 2) I use the food list to create a menu for the week. With the food list, it only takes me a few minutes!

Menu Planner found HERE.

Step 3) I use the menu to plan my shopping list. I have a shopping master list that I use that helps me think of things I might need. I simply mark the list of things I need.

Master Shopping List found HERE.

Step 4) I go shopping! We pretty much shop for vegetables, bread, and eggs almost daily, but those pasals are near the house. We can literally go right around the corner for these items. For all other items, I make a once a week trip to the store.

Step 5) Pull out the recipe cards each day. I have a stack of recipe cards in simple English (so that our worker can read them.)

Step 6) I post the recipes that match the menu for the day on the stove. This way, no matter who is cooking for the day (the worker or me) the recipe is ready to go. On days when the worker is here, she can quickly see what needs to be done. That eliminates having to answer many questions. Time saved!

This whole process literally takes only a few minutes, but saves tons of time and money!

Steps that I had to go through to establish this process:

1. I had to learn what was available. All the pre-packaged things in the States are not here, and if it is here, it is often too expensive.

2. Once I learned what was available, I had to find recipes that matched! I began creating my recipe cards.

3. Then I had to learn how to make the recipes.

4. I had to teach the recipes to our worker. She learns best by watching as she follows the recipe. Then she likes to try to make it while I observe and guide. After that, she is ready to make it on her own. And, let me tell ya, she is quite an amazing cook!

5. When a good selection of recipes were ready, I was then ready to make my food list and start the menu/grocery list process.

Now, I just add an occasional new recipe for our worker and me to learn. It may have taken eight months to get this process going, but now I am reaping the benefits!