While pondering my post for Sunday, I was reminded of what sharing meals and food was all about... far more than just filling hungry tummies!
So, it also inspired my thinking for today's Pantry Post. I have written before how troubled I am when food storage lists only advise stocking a lot of rice, beans, wheat, etc. Yes, one would survive on such food but we humans look at food far more than survival.
The basis of our pantry should allow us to have on hand what we need to put delicious food on the table and at as reasonable a price as possible (ie: stocking up on sale). I love having on hand what I need when I think of a recipe at the last moment and no running to the grocery store is necessary.
As with anything in life, the more thought and effort we put into it will equal the amount of success we have when putting together and keeping up a pantry. I have found it helpful to think in terms of "meals and snacks" when deciding what I want to keep in the pantry.
For instance, I write down various dishes under "Breakfast", "Lunch", "Dinner", "Snacks",, "Baking" and "Comfort Good"... understanding there can be a lot of overlap between the categories.
By thinking through a few recipes for each category, I can prioritize what I want to have on hand in my pantry and from there make a basic pantry list. It really helps to write everything out, too.
Once the basics are there, I can start to deepen the pantry with those items that are essential to most cooking and baking. I do this in a few ways:
First, when I need to replace an item I buy two instead of one (for instance, an item like cocoa or baking powder) and always checking the Use By date.
Second, whenever I am in the grocery store I purchase one item for the pantry. This may be nothing more than a bag of onions, potatoes, or a can of coffee but every little addition helps.
Third, if I am doing my grocery shopping and I see a pantry staple on sale, I'll purchase what I can (given the current state of my checkbook). :)
Over the Holidays I was at Kroger when they had my favorite cream cheese on a 10 for $10.00 sale so I bought ten packages (at more than a 50% off saving). Cream cheese has a very long shelf life and is a basis of so many desserts and appetizers that it is worth the refrigerator space to stock up on sale.
After the Holidays, I saw our favorite sparkling apple cider on clearance for $1.50 each so I purchased a few for the pantry. That is a luxury item that can turn a simple meal into a celebration.
Fourth, when financially possible I stock up a lot on an essential item such as canned tomatoes, pasta, coffee and tea, King Arthur unbromated flour, butter for the freezer, frozen veggies, meat for the freezer, etc.
I've also written before about budgeting our limited funds for good quality cookware and baking pans when possible. I was thinking of this recently as I remembered my terrible attempts at baking a cake, I mean... years of bad cakes!
It wasn't until I purchased two really nice 9" cake pans at a garage sale (or thrift store?) that I finally baked a good cake. As it turned out, it was not a lack of skill but the wrong pans that was the trouble! I had been using two cheap 8" pans which were causing my misshaped cakes!
Of course, you know all about my china
I also love using different china seasonally. For instance, the inherited Victorian china that we use for Easter and other Springtime celebrations (originally belonging to my husband's grandmother) and my brown transferware collection which I love for autumn and winter.
It doesn't have to take much money to set a pretty table. Dishes purchased at the department store are very expensive... dishes at Target are reasonable... dishes purchased at Goodwill are cheap.
So, getting back to food... while it is a good thing to have a really deep pantry, let's not forget the first reason we want to keep items on hand in the first place. We want to provide food for body and soul!
As for emergency preparedness, I have had to live from my pantry before and believe me... if we had to subsist on beans and rice then an already stressful situation would have been made worse.