I thought I'd write just a quick post of do's and don'ts today... something very simple and straightforward. More detailed pantry and recession posts are available under Recession Ponderings... there are lots of posts in that area and more to come. If you read the first couple of Recession Pondering posts that I wrote, you will see that I learned a lot from my mistakes! I've had ten years of experience helping people deepen their pantries, first as an administrator on a famous emergency preparedness site.
To make looking up websites easier, I am still doing research for a column of links on the sidebar... all having to do with deepening the pantry or preparing for unexpected emergencies (hopefully I will be able to put some in place by the end of the weekend). In my part of the county, we often lose power so perhaps some emergencies are not so unexpected. :)
I continue to deepen my pantry when possible with money available after bills are paid and medications are purchased. Having to actually use my pantry this month has once again shown me what works best for us, especially with the ability to pull meat out of the freezer and items off the pantry shelves to make meals. I've definitely learned from past stocking up mistakes.
Here are a few Do's and Don'ts I've learned over time (all from experience):
Don't... Assume your family will eat whatever you have in the pantry if you are unable to get to a store. There are stories out of war time situations of kids not eating what they hated and actually going hungry. I remember reading a few of these when doing research in the 90s and doubting it was true. Then I watched Christopher decide to go without food a few times rather than eat the food I was serving from my pantry (especially beans)... and this kid was an original chow hound! No amount of hunger would make him like bean soup and he appreciates black beans only in a burrito. :)
This has been proven again this past month. I keep powdered buttermilk and powdered milk for cooking and baking. We all go without milk rather than drink the powdered kind since we're not used to the taste.
Don't... Purchase anything for your pantry in bulk that you haven't tried first. What looks good or sounds good on the shelf may be horrible when you serve it to yourself or your family. Then you are stuck having to use up food you don't like. Ask me how I know. Always sample an item first, even if it means purchasing one item when it first goes on sale and then returning to purchase more before the sale ends.
Don't... Purchase items and then leave them to be put away later so you are tripping over sacks or boxes and (if in the garage like my shelves) attract four legged furry creatures inside for brunch. Also, the longer something sets out the less likely it will be placed on shelves just to get it put away and not with a plan toward using it later. You want to be able to see (whether on your shelves or written down) what you have available.
Don't... Purchase items without a plan if you want to deepen your pantry to have more than a couple of weeks worth of food. You will end up with too much of one item and not enough of another. Also, you will be very happy in the long run if you look through favorite recipes and write down a shopping "wish list" to look for sales.
This has worked for me this time when in the past, I didn't have enough on shelves to make a particular meal and ended up with a hodge podge of items rather than a real menu. Begin to look through your recipes with "pantry" in mind... writing down recipes that can be assembled from what you have frozen, purchased for the pantry, canned on your own, etc.
Don't... Stock up on items you don't normally eat, even if they are cheap or on sale. I once stocked up on canned beef stew and chicken stew, thinking it would be a good item to have on hand. Although we liked them at first, we quickly lost our taste for them because we're not used to eating that type of item. I would have been much better off using the money to purchase canned meats and potato items separately (I do use Ore Ida instant potatoes for instance).
Do... Date items if you are going to really deepen your pantry so you know which should be used first. Most of mine can be kept on the shelf with the oldest in front and placing the new items in the back without dating them. Some items can be purchased by the case should you want to deepen the pantry further, in that case you can date the case and then date cans or such when you open it later.
Do... Keep canned soups and such you know you like on the shelf and premade meals in the freezer if you own one for those times you don't feel like cooking (especially if, like me, you have any situation that causes fatigue). Right now I have a couple Stouffer's lasagnas in the freezer, some bread, and quick breads should I need a meal or want to take a quick bread to someone when I visit (or they come to tea). I still plan to freeze homemade meals but haven't had time or energy and the menfolk do like Stouffers, it is a treat since I don't serve it otherwise.
Do... Keep foods in your pantry that can be fixed easily if the power goes out. I keep peanut butter and jelly, trail mix, mixed nuts, Cheerios, Triscuits and club crackers (with cheese in the frig when possible), Nutella, etc. As you look through food aisles in the grocery, keep an eye on these types of foods. I also have canned meats like tuna and chicken which can make a quick sandwich.
Do... Keep in mind special diets.
Do... Remember the furry member of your family.
Do... Something. If nothing else, purchase one or two items each time you shop at the grocery store. It will add up over time.
More Living Simple Saturdays can be found at the Keeper of the Home blog. :)