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