Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Pantry Talk: The winter pantry

When I ponder what should be in my pantry, I like to think back on what families considered important before they had electricity and refrigeration. Of course, this requires cooking within the season for the most part (frozen fruits and veggies being the exception in today's pantry). But God, in His wisdom, provided perfectly for each season of the year.

As soon as the temperatures remain cool, I stock root veggies... especially potatoes, onions, and carrots (the latter in the frig). Not only are they incredibly cheap, they form the basis of my cold weather cooking on a very low food budget. I follow my mother's lead with fried potatoes and onions a few times a week (with parboiled potatoes in the frig).

That is the only difference in the way we cooked the potatoes. I parboil the potatoes until "just tender" first and leaving their skin on (improves fiber as well as nutritional benefits) as they are sliced and sauteed with onions until the potatoes are golden brown. Believe me, these are not considered poor people food in our house.... or, should I say, financially challenged? :)

The colder weather draws one into the kitchen and the warmth of the oven. There is perhaps no better way to save money than baking at home. The Holiday season is the best time to stock up on many of these items. I don't bake nearly as much as I once did but I still enjoy making something special for the guys once in awhile... and we give baked goods for gifts.

My winter pantry includes being prepared for bad weather. I remember running out of eggs when we lived "in town" and only blocks away from grocery stores... all because the trucks could not get in and out due to heavy snow... for a week! I now like to always have a few dozen eggs in the frig at all times and they last far beyond their expiration date when kept in their original cartons.

If my freezer is properly stocked (when funds permit), I like to have enough basic meat supplies to cover many of our usual cold weather recipes. You will also find extra loaves of sliced sandwich bread, frozen fruit, and frozen veggies. My freezer may also contain an extra turkey or two as well as a ham... all purchased at great sale prices during the Holidays when possible.

My winter pantry is stocked with canned tomatoes, good quality broth or stock, canned and dry beans, and other items used in the making of soup. You will also find stocked a few "cream of" soups as well as pasta to form the foundation of a throw together casserole. I still have a large container of oats my friend purchased for me from her co-op, before moving to Europe.

A couple months ago I found Progresso's traditional chicken noodle soup for a dollar a can and stocked up at that time. It has been so useful to have the canned soup on hand to open and heat while I have been sick. I almost always keep Campbell's chicken noodle and tomato soups on hand during cold and flu season. Yes, I prefer making my own chicken soup from scratch but not when I'm the one who is sick.

I've found it to be very important to stock the cold and flu pantry this time of year. I haven't been able to do that recently and found myself getting in the car around Midnight to buy Ginger Ale at the gas station where the county road meets the highway ($2.00!) when one of the guys was sick.

I normally stock ginger ale, diet Sierra Mist (for me), chicken broth and/or soup, oyster crackers (great for nausea), peppermint tea, our usual cold and flu medicines, tissues, etc. When I had very young children in the house, I also made certain to have Pedialyte. I'm not sure what doctor's recommend these days. :)

My winter pantry is almost always stocked with good tea and sugar free hot chocolate. I used to always have plenty of coffee stocked but the price of coffee has gone up so much (again) that I tend to only have one container going at a time.

Which reminds me... winter is a great time to have stocked the hospitality section of your pantry. With so many items being sold at Christmas which can be stored for entertaining, it is easy to put back items for unexpected company. How wonderful to be able to offer a treat along with coffee, tea, or hot chocolate when a friend drops by (or a planned get-together).

Cold weather is also the time I love taking favorite cookbooks off the shelf and choosing a few recipes to try... whether old favorites or new attempts... somehow one can just taste the outcome by reading them. The winter kitchen is a wonderful place to spend time.

There was a comment recently, asking if I can still stock the pantry as I write about. No. Not at all. But I did for years and years and years so I know how beneficial it is to have a deep pantry. I use items from the food pantry now and very nice friends of ours gave us canned goods for Thanksgiving and Christmas (nothing says Merry Christmas like canned goods).

We used to take the money I made by working the beginning and end of semesters at the bookstore to stock the pantry but I've been unable to work for awhile now. I wrote a series of pantry posts earlier this year about how I stocked the pantry. They can be found... here.

My wish for you this Season is to enjoy the wonders of Christmastime in the kitchen. This is the stuff memories are made of and these are the good old days our next generation will remember. :)

Picture: Christmas Glow; allposters.com


Storybook Woods said...

You are sooo wise to have a winter pantry, it saves one money, time, stress. There is a sense of peace because I know if need be, there is always something I can cook for dinner without going to the store. I am planning after Christmas to focus on filling my freezer with healthy muffins, quick cakes, biscuits. We are doing a lot of baking right now but it is a lot of sugary treats. I want to have healthier baked items for the winter xoxoxo Clarice

Lallee said...

Brenda, your posts have been centering me in to Christmas and God's grace each morning. Your sister and family have been in my prayers, and for your BIL to pass on peacefully. I hope your meds help you feel better and do the trick you've need for better health.

Manuela@Pleasures of Homemaking said...

Hi Brenda, I hope those meds are kicking in and you're starting to feel better.

Now is a great time to stock up on so many things that it's hard not to go over budget! I do plan on picking up some extra hams as those really go so far.

I'm not a big canned soup person but I've found some of the Progresso Light (low sodium) soups that are quite good and are very handy to have when you're ill.

I've read for years that you can freeze whole eggs by cracking them into ice cube trays. But I've never tried it. I've also never tried powdered eggs. But that might be handy to have on hand for baking. I suppose egg substitue can just be frozen in it's container like milk? I just tried freezing flavored creamer and that worked out just fine.


Jan said...

Oh Brenda,
This is a great post. I live far from the grocery store (40 minutes) and these days am unable to drive as much as before. Your ideas are terrific. Now to put together my list!
Jan from Maine

Beth said...

What a nice post! I also really stock our pantry! It needs stocked again since I haven't really been grocery shopping for a while. I also have been sick with a nasty virus that just won't give up! I hope you feel better soon!
By the way, you mentioned that you keep the skins on when you make fried potatoes. I also do that when I make mashed potatoes! We have a pretty large family and it really saves a LOT of money to keep the skins on. I was given lots of pumpkins this past fall and I cooked them and put them in the freezer in bags. I have been adding a cup or two to our mashed potatoes and it is really good! I have lots of zucchini frozen (thanks to your posts!!) and I am adding it to many foods! I added it to chili this past weekend and no one really seemed to notice but it added nutrition and extended the amount I made!
I hope you feel better soon!!

scrappy quilter said...

Wonderful post. There truly is a sense of peace when one has a well stocked pantry. Great info here. Hugs

Mrs.Rabe said...


This post is such an encouragement to me to keep on stocking up when able and to just do what you can do!

Thanks for sharing what you've learned over the years!

Trust you are feeling better...


Sallie @ a quiet simple life said...

I'm not a big fan of canned soups either, but I stock up big time on Progresso's Tomato Basil when it on sale. It is very good with a toasted tuna sandwich and Caroline loves it. :-)

I hope you feel better soon. Our Christmas has been very quiet and low key as well. :-)

nanatrish said...

I loved it when you mentioned the friend potatoes. They sound so good. My mother used to make them with onions, fried eggs and mustard mixed in. It was delicious. I love being all cozy and having yummy food to eat and a great book to read. We are so blessed.

Lisa Richards said...

With just hubby and me left at home I find we can get by with very simple meals. We feel like we're really splurging to make hamburger patties instead of always making a casserole out of the hamburger to make it go further! =0)

Tea is one of our necessities to enjoy by the woodstove to help warm us on a cold morning when the woodstove hasn't fired up enough to take all the chill off.

I love the fried potatoes and onions idea. I always forget to make that and it's SO GOOD.

Thanks for sharing all this good information and hope you're feeling better!

Beth said...

Just a note to wish you a very Merry almost CHRISTmas!!!! I hope your holiday is a blessed one! Thanks for the "gift" of your posts! I really appreciate you!!