In stocking my kitchen, I've learned to think as if I'm a commercial enterprise. This has saved me quite a lot of money, as well as provided superior quality, in many items, both in foods and in equipment.
I received an email from a reader yesterday, asking where I bought these containers
This reader understood that these were repurposed containers, and was hoping to buy some just like these, and wanted to know where I bought them, and what they'd previously been filled with. I told her what item these containers came with and where I purchase that food (these are the containers for imitation bacon bits, in 3.5 lb jugs). But as she'd said she had looked high and low for something just like this, I went just a step further, and did a quick google-search for purchasing similar, but empty containers, in case she didn't need 17 lbs of bacon bits (to get 5 of these containers). My thought process was, "where would I purchase similar containers, in bulk, if I were packaging my own product to sell?"
I searched with the terms: "plastic containers wholesale". Once at a page for wholesale containers, in their search bar, I entered: "food storage handles". It brought me to a page with clear, food safe containers about the same size as the ones I own. These containers could be ordered 1 at a time, or in bulk, for a discount.
In addition to finding this container at that website, I also obtained the particular item information, manufacturer, measurements, etc. If I were serious about ordering some of these for my kitchen storage, I could take this information and google-search this product for other wholesale sellers, and do a price comparison. And I could take the pricing and check my local restaurant supply store.
Purchasing these containers through a wholesale seller online offers a great price (about $2.50 including lid, but not shipping). In comparison, if I went to a retail container store like Storables, I would pay $6 to $8 for a 1-gallon food storage container.
Not all wholesale merchants will deal with the public. But by shopping online, I have a large number of merchants that I can look at, and hopefully find a couple who will sell to me.
Shopping for the durable equipment, like pots, pans and bakeware
When it comes to purchasing equipment for my kitchen, again, I think like a business. In this case, a commercial kitchen. I could buy pots, pans, utensils and small appliances through a department or kitchen specialty store. And they would all be very pretty. (Williams-Sonoma, love browsing in there.)
But in a commercial kitchen, appearance comes second, after effectiveness and quality. Commercial kitchens put their equipment through its paces, day after day, month after month. That's the kind of equipment that I want to own. So, where does a restaurant or institutional kitchen purchase its equipment? In my area, I have 2 good choices. There's the durable goods section of the restaurant supply chain, Cash & Carry, or Bargreen's, a chain of food service equipment suppliers scattered across the western US, Hawaii, Alaska and Canada.
In addition to shopping in local stores, I've also shopped online for some items, like my bread pans. I go for commercial quality. About 15 or 16 years ago, I was in a small, local bakery, and I inquired about the bakeware they used. The owner showed me some of her baking pans, and suggested where I might find them. These bread pans are very sturdy, distribute heat evenly, and are fairly priced for their quality, but they won't win any beauty prizes. However, I expect that I will be handing these down to my children, in another 20 or 30 years.
By the way, my bread pans are Chicago Metallic, uncoated, heavy-weight, aluminized steel, with folded corner and wire-rod construction. They are commercial quality, and have a lifetime warranty. I bought 6 1.5-lb loaf pans all those years ago, and expect them to last my lifetime and beyond. These sell on Amazon for about $13.50, or through Chicago Metallic for $14.95. In comparison, Williams-Sonoma carries a very similar loaf pan, retailing for $18.95. The Chicago Metallic pans saved me several dollars per pan, and deliver excellent quality in baking performance.
Shopping for food
With food, once again, I think like a business. You all know this about my shopping. I don't buy 1 week's worth of sugar or flour or oats, or any other pantry staple. I don't even buy 1 month's worth. I think in terms of a 1 year supply for most items in my pantry. When I'm at Cash& Carry, I find it interesting to look at the carts for restaurants, in the check-out line. We have a lot of small Asian restaurants in our area. These restaurants don't just buy 1 gallon of soy sauce at a time, they buy a case of gallons, or a 4-gallon cube, or the 5-gallon bucket of soy sauce.
After church, on Sunday, I was talking with a couple of women about buying pork roasts. One of the women said she buys the 4-pack of 2-lb pork roasts at Costco. She said she saves a lot of money buying the roasts like this. This is definitely the easy way to buy in bulk at a good price. I told her how I buy pork roasts, by the full loin. I then cut the loin up into individual roasts, myself at home. I do this with the 10-lb rolls of ground beef and 20 to 25 pound pieces of top round. I divide or cut this beef up and repackage into family-size amounts for the freezer. On some items, shopping where the restaurants shop, I save a substantial amount of money. Last week, I bought a 10-lb roll of 80/20 ground beef at $1.88/lb. I can't even come near that price at my local supermarkets. Even in the discount meat section of Fred Meyer, the least I have seen ground priced is $2.49/lb. On top of the savings, on many items, the quality is excellent, and sometimes exceeds the quality of supermarket food items. (Just an example -- I buy whipping cream with a higher butterfat content at Cash & Carry than the whipping cream available at Fred Meyer.)
Sometimes, these sizes are not as convenient to use. For example, the vegetable oil that I buy comes in 35-lb jugs.
These are indeed heavy, when full. To use them, I fill a 1 gallon jug with oil, from this container, as needed. Not quite as simple as buying a ready-filled one-gallon container of oil. But I save several dollars per gallon with the 35-lb container.
I realize that not everyone wants to think of their kitchen as if it were a business. But by doing so, I've been able to stock my own kitchen very well, while spending less.