Saturday, October 25, 2008

Living Simply Saturdays: Simple Pantry Do's and Don'ts

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. :)


Angela said...

My first reaction when I saw your new post was .yahhhh!~ lol. I love these posts about deepening your panty. Off to read the link that you left to read up on more. Thank you for helping us to be wise with our days and providing for our family.

Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

All excellent suggestions...there is nothing worse than to discover that those extra dozen cans of green beans are not the favored brand and hence will be given to the Food Bank. Not a savings for this household!

We also have a favored brand of ketchup. This may be slightly ridiculous, but that's the way it is. Yup, those three bottles of Heinz are going to the Food Bank. Oh dear!

You have your work cut out for yourself if planning special links on your sidebar. It sure will be terrific for the rest of us!

Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

I'm baking the cake that Chocolatechic mentions today and had to open a new bag of's Domino and it's as hard as a rock. Lots of sifting in my future. Obviously, I should be taking extra precautions in storing items.

Bernideen said...

These are great ideas...I have the same metal shelves for my backstock in the basement- like 4 of them! Whooo...

the voice of melody said...

Great advice! I've been guilty of buying a new item in bulk without trying it first and then being stuck with it. I'm being more careful these days though.

Many sweet blessings!

Spanish Princess said...

Wow! I was surprised at how much of this I already do. Kind of validated what I do to "prepare for the worse" since our military installation has seen the effects of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike!

judy said...

I so appreciate your posts on "deepening" the pantry. AND I have had the thought -- well the children will eat this if they have nothing else -- so very glad you dispelled that notion. Now my goal is for my shelves to be as neat and organized as yours!

Kelly said...

Thank you so much for the advice. I am planning on deepening my pantry beginning next week when I go to the grocery store again, now that my husband is employed again. I never really worried about this before, but I see the need and appreciate your guidance.

Clif said...

Thanks for stopping by and yes I do wonder how those who do not know God can get on with life. I had stopped by your blog earlier in the day but since I do not know anything about stocking a pantry, I didn't comment. However, I found your post very interesting. You may have already read it, but Hearing God by Dallas Willard is one of my favorite books. I love listening to Autumn Leaves while I'm visiting your blog.

Anonymous said...

Good suggestions! Do you store water? How and where do you do it? Also, how long does the flour need to de-bug in the freezer before putting on the shelf?


Suze said...

Our local Publix grocery store has been offering several "2 for 1" sales since the economy took a dive, plus they make sure their "basics", such as eggs, bread, milk - are lower priced. Publix knows what it is doing. Anyway - when I shop, I always look at the "twofers". If I don't normally use the item, I don't buy it, even though it's cheaper. I only buy what I know we will use - and there have been plenty of good sales. I always keep a lot of tuna on hand. Tuna sandwiches taste good every now and then, so when those are on sale, I grab a bunch. You are the one who has inspired me to take advantage of sales that I can use - thanks!!

G.L.H. said...

I've tagged you for a meme!


Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home said...

I really like the suggestion to shop with your recipes in mind. Though I generally stock my pantry up with a lot of bulk items that can be used in many meals (rice, dry beans, canned tomatoes, flours and grains, etc.) I have sometimes found myself with a whole lot of food, but still struggling to put together recipes that we like. That's a good tip to keep in mind as I continue to work on stockpiling my pantry. Thanks!