Saturday, December 08, 2012
Saturday Pantry Suggestions
I'm kinda' all over the place this week do to questions and ponderings. Just hang on and if you pay attention... I hope you make sense of today's Pantry Post!
First, something happened to a good friend that I thought should be brought up here. My friend and I met on our emergency preparedness site in the 90s and she has a great deal of experience with the subject... so this is proof we all can learn something new!
After a recent move, she and her husband were looking for the strong box that held their important documents, money, coins, etc. and it was GONE. Nowhere can it be found so there is a very good chance it was stolen in their move. This is a devastating lost to the family, worse than a fire or flood because people now have access to their financial information.
It made me realize I was not over paranoid whenever our family moved. I kept our "document box" with me in the car I was driving (usually in the trunk out-of-sight), as well as important family pictures and even my recipe box. Sometimes this was in addition to kids, cats, and suitcases... occasionally a husband.
One can never be too careful, these days it is not just a loss of money... such a loss of information sets us up for financial chaos.
I've been asked many times how I stock up on such a limited budget... very slowly and on specific items. For instance, earlier this week I was at the grocery store and I purchased an extra box of orzo and two packages of my favorite Amish noodles (one package thin noodles, the other wider noodles) for the pantry. The noodles have been out of stock for awhile.
Both of these items were on sale and both are essential pantry ingredients. Other items are the most important and what I'll try to keep at least one extra put back: butter (more than one in the frig, the rest frozen); oils - canola, extra virgin olive oil, Crisco sticks for those recipes where they are necessary, etc.; yeast, baking powder, baking soda, etc., sea salt for the salt shaker, kosher salt, pepper corns for the pepper grinder, and any other basic ideas needed to put a meal on the table.
Sometimes I'll pick up an extra bag of King Arthur flour if they are on sale, bread flour if I have plenty of their regular unbleached AP flour in the pantry. When I was part of a food co-op, I'd use my grocery money to stock 25 lbs. of old fashioned oats, a bag of wheat, etc.
When I receive a financial gift for my birthday or Christmas, that is when I can now stock a little deeper... the gift of a well stocked (albeit not deep) pantry. :)
When I do get a chance to deepen the pantry farther, it is with the basics that I begin and then I look for items to supplement them. For instance, dried pasta has a shelf life of (at least) two years if stored in a dry place. It is an essential item and not expensive to stock up on.
However, when I can add to the basic pantry items then I think of things that can supplement the pasta... marina sauce, alfredo sauce, canned tomatoes, Italian salad dressing for pasta salad, etc.
So... concentrate on the basics in your budget and supplement with those items that will turn the basics into a meal. That way if you need to depend on your pantry for meals, you are not stuck with boiled noodles.
This time of year is especially important for two specific pantries... The Hospitality Pantry and The Cold & Flu Pantry. I've talked recently about The Hospitality Pantry but when possible during the Holidays, I like to add Pillsbury Pie crusts (I know but if they are there... I will make more pies), puff pastry, and other such items in the freezer that can be used for making festive recipes. Of course, you can make your own and freeze them!
It's also a great time for buying an extra turkey and/or ham for the freezer with all the store specials. When we had a weekly or bi-weekly pay check, I used to seek out all Holiday sales in local stores and really stock up the pantry at reduced prices.
I've written before about The Cold & Flu Pantry but one of my bloggy friends just talked about putting one together again in Comments. I read about keeping these items set aside for when they were needed a long time ago and have since been very happy to have my own such Pantry.
Mine has been in a Rubbermaid style container, set aside from the regular pantry so the items don't get used (albeit some need to be rotated if not used). In it I kept items suggested by the article read so long ago... large cans of Progresso chicken and noodle soup, Campbells condensed soups (the article said Campbells was good if you have a fever for it is salty... go figure), ginger ale, Sierra Mist, diet versions of both drinks, crackers (I like soda crackers, Ritz crackers, and a good brand of little oyster crackers - kids will eat them)... and basically anything you crave when your are sick.
I used to keep an extra box of tissues, teas I use when the family is sick, and cold medicine in the same box. These days since there are just two of us at home, that is not necessary.
I would also add, if you have no one else at home that can cook should the chief cook and bottle washer become very ill (well, my husband can wash bottles at least)... you will be very happy you have some items in the freezer that can be popped in the oven.
In my part of the world, Stouffer's frozen entrees are good for this... or obviously you can make some entrees ahead and keep them in the freezer, rotating with new items when they are used.
Remember again that pantry items make great Christmas gifts. This is also the time to slip in some preparedness items without being too obviously pushy, hehehe... heavy duty flashlights with extra batteries, an emergency radio that has the NOAA weather channel or a small battery powdered radio with extra batteries, a car charger for the cell phone, etc. ;)
Do you know an elderly person who lives alone? An excellent gift for them (and one which would make a good giving project for children) would be to put together a cold weather kit for them with those items they could need like warm gloves and scarves or an inexpensive throw, items you would put in a Cold & Flu kit, etc.
Another project for families to work on together is to assemble packages for the homeless shelter or a home where abused women and children are housed. Those who manage the shelters can tell you exactly what they need... often basic trial size toiletries, a comb, tissues, a little candy, a small toy for children, a New Testament, etc.
I know Samaritan's Purse (known for the Christmas Child boxes) and Operation Blessing USA are still helping those affected by Superstorm Sandy... and both have great reputations for using very little of your gifts for overhead... by giving to them you are helping others. (Both of these ministries have International offices, too.)
Oh, and don't forget the Salvation Army! I will never ever be able to pay back that ministry for how they helped me as as a child, not to mention it was through the Salvation Army we found out about the program that made it possible for us to buy our "little house in the country at the edge of the forest".
These people do fantastic work and they also have an International ministry. Of course, for most Americans the easiest way to give to the Salvation Army is to drop cash or a check in their red kettles!
Most of my long time readers either know about the Down-to-Earth blog or you found me through it! However, for those who have not read it, this is one of the best sources of information for not only deepening the pantry but living a true Pantry Lifestyle.
I must admit to enjoying Australian blogs in our own deep midwinter... and seeing all that green. It is on the other side of the world from me but the information is still great. You can find Down-to-Earth... here. I thought about linking to just one of the pantry posts but decided it is all worth the read.
This is a new-to-me blog, found by following a link from one I read often. I was interested in the blog post called My Medicinal Garden Part I... here. After I found out the bloggers were medical professionals, I signed up to receive updates on Facebook.
Very interesting blog and the title of Doom and Bloom is very clever. :)