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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Think like a business

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.


  1. with all those jugs you are re-using we have to revisit removing the sticky labels. We discussed this a while ago but I found the answer. Ready? Spread a layer of peanut butter over the sticky stuff and wait an hour or so. It comes off like magic! Plastic or jars.

    I don't need to buy in such a large quantity anymore since we're becoming a smaller family. I even noticed this summer that with our five I didn't go through the stocked up frozen meats like I had thought we would. Kids are moving out this week and they may take anything out of the deep freezer to take with them. They may also come home and shop from my freezer this school year.

    I like 85/15 beef the best so I just visit the local store often during the week to see if they have any marked down. They do that when it's close to needing to be used/sold and then slash the prices. I grab those and since they are bigger packages, I divide into portion sized and freeze. There is always something discounted.

    I also look for any kind of pork and often will grind my own since I happen to love ground pork substituted or mixed in with ground beef. We got a delmonico (two) on Saturday deeply discounted and we fried those up with onions and mushrooms and they were so good that the leftovers were fought over!

    I'm with you though on the cookware. I really need a new electric skillet and a new large frying pan. Maybe I should look at the restaurant supply store. I also want a large cookie sheet (jelly roll pan) that fits all on one shelf in the oven.


    1. Hi Alice,
      I'll try that with the peanut butter. I have 2 jars needing the labels removed, right now.
      I love those really large baking sheets. My largest ones fit sideways in my small oven, and leave only about a 2 to 3-inch margin for air circulation, all around. I would like to have one of the even larger baking sheets, to take up the whole shelf in my big oven. Good luck finding the pieces that you're looking for.

      Have a great day, Alice!

  2. I have the utensils with long Handels from my Moms restraunt. I think of her when I use these. I have slotted
    Spoons,stirring spoons,ladles of all shapes and sizes. I love these they have really long hand!ex so you don't burn
    Yourself. They will last forever. My Mom bought them over
    30 years ago a d they are going strong. She bought part of
    Them at a used restraint supply in San Diego.

  3. My crazy kindle changes what I type.😆

    1. Hi Patti,
      your story is just more evidence of the high quality found with restaurant equipment. I think of the cheapo stuff I bought when I first started out and those utensils fell apart within a few years.

      That's wonderful for you to have your mom's restaurant utensils. A great reminder of her to you, I'm sure.

      Don't worry about the Kindle stuff. Makes reading more interesting, as I find myself wondering what you could sell in a "used restraint supply" store -- used handcuffs, used straightjackets. LOL! See, your kindle's mistakes make me smile, and that's priceless!

      Have a great day, Patti!

  4. That is so funny!😁 It made me laugh out loud.

    1. Hi Patti,
      Just for fun, i just had to see if you could buy straightjackets online, and guess what? You can! It will probably relieve you to know that they are sold on ebay as Halloween costumes. Anyways, just a peculiar funny moment for me, thanks to your kindle.

    2. Lili,
      That is funny! I am glad that they sell them for
      Halloween costumes. It would be concerning if that weren't the case. It is so good to laugh.

  5. Good advice to think like a business. Think commercial quality and bulk quantity. Recently we bought some stainless steel mixing bowls from Costco, and though it was described as "commercial", it sure wasn't as good as it used to be. I have SS bowls from my mother's days, that are much better quality. I'm sure back then, her bowls were purchased at a five and dime and were probably not labeled "commercial" either. We've gone downhill in our standards.

    Have a pleasant evening!!


    1. Hi YHF,
      You are so right about quality having deteriorated over the years. My mom's bakeware was such good stuff. When we first married, I bought some non-stick cake pans that quickly bit the dust. I wasn't really happy with cake pans until I found a pair at a garage sale, just like my mom had always had. Such a shame. But we can find good quality, if we look and if we inform ourselves on what to look for, and don't just assume because it comes from a pricey kitchen store or is expensive that it will be good. And that's why I like shopping at restaurant supply places. Restaurant owners won't put up with shoddy equipment.

      have a great day, YHF!

  6. I have never really explored restaurant supply stores although I have bought somethings from Costco. In particular, I am very happy with some jelly roll pans I got from there. Some of my kitchen pans came from yard sales and are of good quality. As YHF said, they used to make them better.

    Also, I don't buy in bulk like you do. (Although, I will do a bit of stocking up from sales.) I'm not feeding as many people and storage is a problem. But mostly, I don't cook as much as you do and some of the stuff would probably go bad before I used it all.

    The concept of running your kitchen or any other part of your household like a business is a great way to be frugal. The bottom line is the important part of any business and this has to be considered to make it profitable. The same thing has to be considered to maximize your home budget.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      That's a good observation, about only keeping what you can use on hand, and not going overboard on stocking up. Even restaurants don't go overboard on stocking up. It wouldn't be profitable.

      I like to think that by running my kitchen as profitably as possible that I'm "paying" myself a higher salary, with a nice home, a good education for kids and occasional splurges.

      I know you are super busy, I hope you can get everything done. Have a great day, live and learn!

  7. I love bulk shopping and saving the containers. Years ago I invested in two sets of large storage containers for my whole grains and flours. I love them and have never had a problem with them. The cost felt high at first, but I had gone through so many inexpensive ones.

    I do the same thing with my baking pans. Another place to check is King Arthur Flour. Sometimes I can find coupons and sales combined to get their pans down to better prices.

  8. You always get me thinking, Lili. Thanks! Melissa


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