Thursday, September 29, 2011

The importance of building up our own food pantry

I have been writing for years about the importance of a deep pantry (lots of those links are on the sidebar) and to answer a question I'm commonly asked... no, I am not a Mormon... just a Christian who developed an interest in the subject first through my mother and then through my own experiences.  :)

I have told you that we have gone to a few food pantries each month now since the nurse who helped me with my nutrition plan a few years ago suggested it.  I hadn't even considered food pantries but they do help subsidize our budget.  What we can't use that we are given, we take to the food pantry in our church (like white bread and white rice, sugar coated cereal, etc.).

My husband recently was asked to take part in a study about food pantries and how they can be improved.  One thing he told them in every meeting was the need to have more consideration about nutrition.

So often half (or more) of the foods they give are cheap for them to purchase but not very high quality in the nutrition department.  There are seasons when they have fresh vegetables to offer (and God bless those farmers and gardeners who give the pantries what they have extra!).

That is one of the reasons I use any "extra" money I have to deepen my own home pantry.  As with almost everything, people are far more efficient than the government.  I'd say about everything except I wouldn't be good at putting together a military and the money I'd print would send me straight to prison (with no "Get Out of Jail Free" card).  ;)

There is also the obvious problem with depending on the government in a crisis.  We've seen it over and over (think... Katrina!) that the government is a huge bureaucracy which can only move slowly and not efficiently when a crisis hits.  When we are prepared for a crisis, unemployment, etc. then our personal needs are met with items we know and trust and without waiting for someone to come knocking at the door.

I'd say the generation before mine was the first to not stock up seasonally and even then there were still a large number of people who still knew the importance of the home pantry, root cellar, etc.  It is not something we do out of fear or to hoard but I truly believe it is instinctive... a God given feeling within us which has been there since we were in the Garden... not any different than noticing the change of seasons and putting the hay in the barn for the animals.

As I've said so many times you are now rolling your eyes and sighing... stocking up on food is insurance you can eat... and with inflation rising as it is... stocking essential nonfood items will save you money in the long run.  Not to mention being organized and knowing you don't have to run to the store in the middle of a recipe because you don't have enough sugar or flour on the shelves.

Using what you have now to prepare for tomorrow is a wise investment.  When you think through and write down the food and essential items you need, it forces you to become wise about your purchases (and your nutritional needs!).  As you find good sales on essentials and buy for less, you are stretching your family's food budget and providing a little extra for which to purchase essentials which do not go on sale.

By stocking up in season, you are like generations for thousands of years that gave thought about their food and their supplies... those which were ready for winter's cold and hard times.  It's a part of our very nature... the squirrel-like part of us.  :)

While government run programs are helpful, they are not the best and if you are like us... we don't even qualify for most and I'd just as soon not depend on the government regardless.  Neither government run nor faith based food pantries can provide for your family the same way you can.  They must use limited funds to feed the most people possible and that often means cheap, high carb foods.

What if hard times never come knocking at your door?  The worst that can happen is that you have become organized about your food and essentials and purchased at good prices (when possible).  However, so many "experts" I trust see dire economic outlooks ahead.  How good it will be if you have already put thought into essentials of food and non-food items your family needs and have started stocking up a little at a time.

I can't afford a great deal but I can use "extra" money to purchase essentials.  I've written the How I Stock Up series which explains how I do it but basically I have decided those items which help me put together meals for the family, even if I cannot purchase anything "extra".  I also give thought to items we can use if we have no electricity for cooking (and this year we have had a couple long term blackouts due to weather).

It can be a great family project, getting everyone together and brainstorming what each considers important.  Just a few items I always try to keep on hand:  canned tomatoes, pasta, pasta sauce, peanut butter, Triscuits and other crackers, canned veggies, canned salmon and other meats like tuna and chicken, brown rice, flours, sugars, other baking needs, butter in the freezer (at least a couple extra packages), etc.

When I have a few of the basics on the shelves, I buy the second "layer" that I know will be helpful.  For instance... good quality granola bars (the kind that are more than a candy bar), canned fruits, chocolate chips and nuts for baking, very good jelly and jam (we watch for no high fructose corn syrup when possible), etc.  I also try to keep at least a couple gallons of good water on the shelf but more would be even better.

Then there are extras of essentials that are also only purchased when we can but are so important to have on hand... TP (there is nothing that says friendship as when your friends bring you a big package of TP, right Linda?), dishwashing liquid, laundry detergent, batteries, paper towels (high quality, it does not pay to buy really cheap paper towels or TP), garbage bags, etc.

Of course, we also have to think of those items Her Highness Victoria would need such as kibble and kitty litter and those items we may not buy often but we'd miss if we didn't have them such as the cream for muscle aches, Benedryl, pens and pencils and paper and stuff like that, etc.

As one develops a pantry mentality, it begins to affect all areas of life.  For instance, I found having a small DVD library helpful when we had no other TV reception.  My DVD collection is tiny compared to most because putting together a home library of books was the priority for decades.

Should we reach a point where we know we have what we consider "plenty"... we not only can take care of our own family in a crisis but we may be in a position to help those close to us who do not live in our home.  Stocking up when it is done as a natural part of the seasons and not out of fear for the future... developing that pantry lifestyle... will keep us from being dependent on the government.

I don't know about you but to me that is a very, very good thing.  We purchase insurance for our house and cars and for that I am thankful.  We really appreciated having a fire department this summer!  But when we can do something, even if just a little (and right now my husband and I can stock up only a little)... everything helps whether the crisis is an unexpected winter storm or a job loss or economic collapse.

It doesn't have to be the perfect pantry, start now a little at a time and stock only what your family will eat.  (Believe me, kids who do not eat beans will not eat beans in a crisis.)

I hope this makes sense, I'm truly writing as I think... and that can be very dangerous with my thinking.  ;)


jAne said...

i've not spent quality time at your blog, for a good long while. it takes time to soak in all your thoughts - your posts aren't for skimmers. and that's a good thing. that said, i'll have to carve away time this weekend to only visit here - with coffee in hand and maybe a morsel of something yummy within reach. :o) you're sweet. know that?

Mrs.Rabe said...

I love your pantry posts! We have been building ours and your blog has been a big part of that. That being said, there are things that I need to add to it. A big thing I learned from you was basic and should be obvious, but I was not getting it from other sites is "Buy only what your family will eat." Brilliant!

Thanks for the time you spend on these Brenda...


Anonymous said...

My parents used to buy some canned foods by the case partly because it was cheaper and also, when we lived in the far north supplies weren't always dependable.
Do you or any of your readers know where it is possible to buy things cheaper by the case?

Mama Squirrel said...

We try to keep extra food on hand, but also (as you said) enough paper, pens and other school supplies so that both our grade 5 homeschooler and the two olders (high school and commuting-to-university) can take what they need. You can't always anticipate the needs, though! Yesterday morning while I was somewhat blearily making coffee, the university student wanted sidewalk chalk for something on campus! Luckily we did have some in the garage.

One thing I have been doing this fall, pantry-wise, is baking big batches of muffins, homemade granola bars, brownies etc., wrapping them individually and freezing them in large ziploc bags. They can be put in a lunchbox or grabbed on the way out the door.

Vee said...

You are making perfect sense and I credit you and another friend of mine who always declared my pantry a disaster with my now having a much better stocked pantry. I sometimes surprise myself when I only have to shop for bread and milk because I have everything on hand for weeks at a time. Staying OUT of the store is a wonderful way not to spend money. Thank you for all your efforts and do consider pulling a book together. You ARE an expert now!

Oh, btw, you are so right about nutrition at food pantries...all that sugar, white rice, sugary cereals, and whacky foodstuffs. I don't know how anyone can pull together a decent meal with it.

Aynor High School said...

Good post. Encourages me to start stocking up, something I've often wanted to do but haven't. I recently gave up my full-time position to be a full-time mama. Wouldn't take anything for the opportunity, but it cut our income in half. I'm thankful it was our decision, not an unexpected loss of employment. But It still has been a stretch. This was encouraging. Thank you.

Morning's Minion said...

My DIL was recently asked if her well-stocked kitchen shelves and two freezers were because of "end time issues" or if she is a Mormon.
Neither reason applies!
Have we come so far in a generation or two that this honored practice of stocking up is
considered an oddity?
My grandfather raised potatoes, onions, squash and pumpkins, bought local apples in quantity, which he stored for the winter; he also raised a garden which supplied fresh food all summer, all of this shared with us next door.
My late MIL taught me the skills of canning and freezing produce. When we lived on the VT farm we belonged to a food coop where we purchased rice, beans, baking supplies, cereals, dried fruits and nuts. Our WY years were barren ones as far as gardening, but I was able to keep basic baking supplies and canned goods on hand. During the two years there prior to our retirement move to KY I discovered a service called "Allison's Pantry"--which I beleive was Mormon based.
It makes good sense in so many ways to have on hand a back-up supply of things a household uses--bought when the money is available. If one doesn't "need" to run to the store there is no chance for impulse spending and there is surely a certain security in frugally planning ahead.
I think that for those who are new at pantry stocking your posts are informative and encouraging; for the old hands like me they are a good reminder of why we do this.

Anonymous said...

In this weeks Target add they had toothpaste for $1. We were in town near it so we bought the toothpaste and walked out. No temptations there! :) They have tooth paste at the 99c stores still but they are the smaller size. As you said, a few things at a time. One thing I learned new from you a while back was to try to have a few things back for an entertainment pantry. I had never thought of making a cake that was easy to thaw or having a box of special crackers or cheese or nice teas set aside for company that comes unexpectedly. Yes, knowing the recipes our family cherishes tells us what to try and always have on hand in our pantries. This week none of our grocery stores had a thing we could get for stock up. Prices were too high. With our pantry the only thing we needed this week was milk. I am hoping some of the advertised things were actually their regular prices...if not yikes! From your pantry posts and the great comments to them I always come away with a new wrinkle to do! Thank you all. Sarah

Tracey McBride ~ Frugal Luxuries® said...

I suppose it's the turn of the season that has put my own mind into the subject of pantry~building...thus...I especially appreciated this post! Of course, I agree with jAne in that your blog is not for skimmers, and I always bring away something of value after visiting here. :) Thank you for the gentle reminder and the valid reasons behind it.
Sending love and good thoughts, as always.

Tracey McBride ~ Frugal Luxuries® said...

P.S. A note to Anonymous regarding buying canned food by the case: We often ask the local grocery store to order canned soups by the case for us and (sometimes) they give a ten percent discount but you have to ask. Trader Joe's is always very accommodating about this (we enjoy stocking up on their canned, organic, refried beans for about one dollar each...and the like). The 99cent store is also a great place to stock up on canned goods and, where we live, it's the only place I can find Anderson's Split Pea we love buying that buy the case! Of course, I always remember to check the dates on the cans so I can store them accordingly (i.e., those nearer their expiration dates get stored up front and used up first). Hope this helps. :)

Anonymous said...

I want to suggest too, that we all plant fruit trees, for a "living Pantry". I only planted 2 apple trees, and for weeks, I have been processing the 519 pounds of apples that came from just those 2 trees. I also grow stevia, parsley, chives, and pepperment in my kitchen windows during our cold winters. I'd love to hear you talk about living pantries. We live in an area with only a 100 day growing season. Linda

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I purchase certain things by the case from You need to purchase at least $25 worth of products of products you can get from them, not others using their site to sell...but we have not found that a problem. And I try to buy only things I cannot find cheaper elsewhere. Remember if the cost is only a tad more, it does save because gas is not free, and time is money...both of which serve to remind me that I must not be penny wise and pound foolish!! Hope that helps. Brenda, I find your advice on the pantry, etc to be very good and most encouraging.
Elizabeth in NC

Nanna said...

I've always loved your post on the pantry, I was just thinking about them yesterday as I was making a tuna salad sandwich how I need t keep tuna, mayo & salad pickels on hand as well as peanut butter lol

Kristi in the Western Reserve said...

A great post, Brenda...I thought I had commented, but I guess not...
I wanted to comment on two comments! One, I can buy many things by the case at our grocery store and get a slight discount but only if I ask about it.

Two - the living pantry is such a wonderful idea. I love growing kale and parsley because you can harvest them far into the winter, even with snow on them.

I love the books by Della Thompson Lutes, and I think in Country Kitchen she describes their pantry in Michigan in the late 1880s or early 1890s. I'm not keeping a pork barrel! but I love reading about these things and do get useable ideas even if they need to be adapted or tweaked somehow.

I think (though I don't have this anymore) that a camping stove of some sort is very helpful in case of some sort of disaster. Even the one burner sort.

Prepared Teacher said...

Great post, it is very important to have a stocked pantry, it is also important to know how to cook from scratch. I not only stock canned good but bulk in buckets, and no I am not mormon but I thank them for telling and showing us how to stock our pantries....It is a good thing because we have gone down to one income and the pantry, coupon shopping and cooking from scratch has helped my family.

Vicki in UT said...

I so enjoy your pantry posts. They are comforting to me. I have stocked a deep pantry for years--it was the frugal way to raise my 5 children. I garden and can/freeze/dry much of what I grow, I can meats that are on a great sale, and I stock up on other supplies such as baking supplies, pastas, etc. It made all the difference to us this past year. My husband has been un-employed for over 20 months now. To top it off, he had emergency surgery, then complications, last winter, which kept him in the hospital for over a month. During that time, I mostly didn't shop, and the money we had budgeted for groceries could be used to pay doctor bills. Even now that he is healthy again, I mostly buy the basics that are on sale at a good price, then shop out of my food room for our meals. It can be a really convenient way of life. I don't generally need to run to the store for a last-minute item, and I can change my mind about dinner at the last minute. My homecanned meats make for quick and easy meals when it might be tempting ot eat fast food. Thank you for your pantry posts.

Sandy said...

This post is so sweet to me, Brenda. I read through about four year's worth of old posts this week and found the very first one I wrote about pantries. It was inspired by something I read here on your blog. Learning the answers to questions I had that day changed the way I think about my life. Also, I love the way you say here that filling the pantry just comes naturally to people. It is not new or strange. Thinking we can get everything we need to care for our families from someone else is what is new and strange! Anyway, just wanted to leave you a note and say how blessed I've been by your blog and how thankful I am you took up writing.