Saturday, June 22, 2013

Living the Pantry Lifestyle

My pantry ponderings this week were inspired by the Survival Mom blog (link below).  She gave a list of foods to NOT store in the pantry, learned from experience.  My list is not exactly the same as hers but there is an overlap.

Oh, my... I have learned the same lessons through the years the hard way.  But I think all of us who keep a pantry have had failures as well as successes.    Today I thought I'd list some of mine and I'd love to hear what did not work for you.

By the way, the comments on Saturday offer such great advice.  For instance, many people have found the blue Ball jars at Target.  I hadn't looked there!

My Pantry Failures (or food we didn't even eat when hungry)

Dried Beans
Everyone stocks dried beans, don't they?   I have learned two lessons about stocking dried beans.

First... I didn't use the beans I bought in  bulk at all!  This was in the late 1990s when I was deepening the pantry for the possibilities of y2k.  (I learned a lot what worked and what did not from that experience!) 

When I realized I wasn't going to use them, a good friend took the beans to people she knew would love to cook with them, so at least they did not go to waste.

Second... I did (and do) use dried beans in packages but I don't need an entire cardboard box full of them!  The first lesson came from y2k stocking as I did use every package of dried beans I'd collected.

However, the other realization came as hubby brings home multiple packages of them from the food pantry and I realized I didn't need that many

Dried beans have a very long shelf life so they are great for deepening the pantry.  But even they need to be rotated for the older they get, the longer they need to cook.  If you grind beans for flour, use your oldest beans for that use.

Canned Tuna
Tuna is one of the most common items in a pantry but I've read it doesn't store well.  About a year ago I gave most of the tuna on my shelves to a food pantry so it could be used quickly.

I still have cans of tuna on my shelves but 1) I prefer tuna packed in oil and I had a lot that was packed in water, and 2) even then I don't use it a lot.  I am the only one who eats tuna salad sandwiches so it mainly gets used for the rare tuna noodle casserole.

I do use a lot of canned salmon to make salmon patties!

Canned Processed Foods
I suppose if I am really hungry I could eat canned beef stew.  I've done it before.

However, through the years I've found the quality of such foods have diminished and their sodium content increase.  Hubby brought home a can of chicken stew from a food pantry last year that was so bad I threw it away.  It was about 99% gluey noodles in a little chicken broth.  Blech...

Now, I expect there are high quality brands of such foods available that I'd like but they have not been on my shelf recently.

Another thing about canned processed foods like stews, they tend to be expensive and may feed two people if stretched.  Not a great use of pantry space.   My friend, Linda, uses high quality canned soups warmed up and poured over rice and noodles... they taste much better and are about half the price in many stores.

Convenience Mixes
I don't use Hamburger Helper, Tuna Helper, etc.  So even though they are tempting to keep "just in case" when Hubby brings them from a food pantry, in my home they go into the stack of items we give to the church's food pantry.

Every brand I've found are full of chemicals Hubby cannot eat (and I don't need) and it is ever so easy to throw together a one dish meal with hamburger or tuna without the box.  Instead I have lots of boxes of various shapes of pasta, cans of tomatoes, good quality canned soup (already mentioned), and yes, I admit... some cans of "cream of" soup when I'm too tired to make it from scratch.  My diet is not perfect.

I do use items like good quality instant mashed potatoes, mac and cheese (I prefer Annie's), and other good mixes when they do not have chemicals.  For instance, I have a few boxes of a Middle Eastern mix that was given to me (that is from a health food distributor) on the shelf.

Saltine Crackers
This is one of the items mentioned on Survival Mom's list that I certainly agree with!  I think I recently shared about having to throw away saltine crackers.  They have an extremely short shelf life if stored in their original boxes.

I just don't use a lot of saltine crackers.  I find I can rotate other types of crackers (Triscuits, water crackers, Ritz crackers, etc.) before they go rancid.

Whole Wheat Flour
I've always used my unbleached white flour (King Arthur unbromated unbleached All Purpose or Bread flour when possible) before it diminishes in quality.  I let it sit in the deep freeze for about a week when I first bring it home and I'm careful to rotate it.

However, I don't purchase whole wheat flour in bags since I much prefer buying wheat and storing the freshly ground wheat in the frig.  Hubby brought home a bag of whole wheat flour last year from a food pantry so I thought since I had it, I'd use it.   It already had a rancid taste to it.

So... if you must purchase your whole wheat flour already ground, buy it from a store that has a good turnover and refrigerate it as soon as you arrive home.

Bulk Items
Buying in bulk can save money but only if the food doesn't go bad before it can be used.  I especially have to watch this since there are now only two of us at home.

There aren't many items that I go through quickly enough before they would go rancid (except wheat which I store in a pail that has oxygen absorbers).  It is so much cheaper to purchase it in 25 or 50 pound bags.

I am even having to readjust from purchasing some large sizes compared to a smaller container.  For instance, I can easily go through a large bottle of canola oil but I must purchase extra virgin olive oil in small bottles.

I try to buy peppercorns in the largest container I can find but most ground spices are purchased in the smallest sizes.   Old fashioned oats can be purchased in a large bag if stored properly but the GMO free ground cornmeal I use is purchased in small bags and stored in the freezer.

These are just a few items "off the top of my head" so to speak.  I'd love to know what you have stocked before that you ended up not using.

Original Survival Mom post is... here.


Mrs.Rabe said...

Well, beans have never been on my list, as I don't really like them.

We have a big family and lots of company so we go through stuff pretty quickly. I do not do much canned or boxed foods at all, like you said it is easy and heathier to make something up quickly yourself!

I agree about keeping flour refrigerated or frozen. I buy at 25 pound bag from the natural foods store that is kept in their refrigerator section and then put it in the freezer when I get home.

These are great posts!

mdoe37 said...

Love beans! But when I packed a bucket of them -- I packed an assortment of different types beans in their original bags. I have taken up canning beans. Having priced a quart of great northerns one day, I realized I could can them myself. I've added seasoned pintos for refried beans, pork&beans, baked beans and small red beans which I prefer over kidney. While I don't do it, cooking a big batch of beans and freezing them in portions helps save time too.

Meh. Not a tuna fan, but I got cheap and purchased regular tuna. We have used it up, but if I have to eat it (other half loves it), I'll take albacore. We don't use much so its not a huge deal.

I don't do the Helper meals either. Homemade isn't much harder really. Mac & cheese? I heard my home ec teacher's voice -- "Any dummy can make a white sauce." (amazing what you remember after 35 years.) So I just cook the macs and make up some white sauce, adding a bit of cheese -- and onion powder. Sauce is often made with powdered milk--I do store that as we don't use a bunch of milk. Less salt for sure. In fact I made the last box of M&C the other day and the other half looked very unhappy with it. :)

The husband goes hot/cold on crackers, wanting them when I don't have them and not eating them when I do. I saw a blog that mentioned oven canning. So I oven canned three half gallons of crackers. I'll give them a test toward the end of the year. Apparently, this significantly lengthens their shelf time. I did some flour and oats as well -- I have a time with moths once in a while. Disclaimer -- it works for dry goods, but its not a substitute for regular food preservation.

I get the impression, Brenda, that the pantries you visit don't allow free choice. That's really too bad. We would always do some give and take on the "shopping list" so that you could get the tuna in oil that you prefer or another choice over Helper. We also had a shelf of odd items that typically would get passed over by families, but would extra bonus to whoever wanted them.

l hoov said...

beans...beans. on impulse, I bought a 25# bag of pinto's from our local co-op. haven't touched them, but they are vacuum sealed, and we actually like beans, especially in soups. my plan is to can them...hopefully soon!
I too, find that crackers don't get used too much, as much as I buy them when on sale & have coupons. I've started vacuum sealing the saltines, and it seems to keep them fresher, longer.
I buy organic cane sugar when its on sale in a 25# bag, and store it in food grade buckets.
I try to stock up on flours in the winter, so I can leave it in my car for a week (northern MN...very cold!)
was buying processed foods when I started prepping, and that was crazy, considering we never ate them except for the occasional mac-n-cheese (annies brand, too!) the HamHelp went to the food shelf.
great posts! Thank you!

Vee said...

My apologies for sitting here in your blog so long. Called away and then forgot.

Powdered milk is one that comes to mind. It doesn't last as long as I thought. And powdered sugar goes stale if not properly stored and there are a lot of them, aren't there?

Always something to think about with these posts that you do, Brenda.

Anonymous said...

I am very allergic to fish so we substitute canned chicken in recipes that call for tuna. It keeps well in a pantry too.

Manuela@A Cultivated Nest said...

Interesting comments on that post. I do know people (online) that store some of the things on her list for a long time.

I use black beans frequently (mix it with ground beef for lots of recipes) So I do buy the dried bags of that. I make them and then freeze what I don't use.

Oh and I noticed that even Kroger had the blue jars in their canning section and I think they were cheaper than at Target by a few dollars. So check the canning section of your local grocery store!

Sallie @ A Quiet Simple Life said...

I use unbleached King Arthur also, Brenda. We don't use whole wheat flour since it doesn't agree with all of us.

I vacuum seal my bags of flour and store them in my freezer. A baker said they would last a number of years beyond the expiration date that way. If I need the space, I can pull them out and leave them vacuumed on the shelf. They will still last much longer that way.

Every time King Arthur goes on sale, I put some back since the prices continue to creep upwards.

Anonymous said...

I haven't had much problems through the years with canned tomato products. I have had several cans of plums bulge though. We realized our tuna did not get used much at all. Tuna goes bad even if still in date? I never heard this before. We use beans but I am now canning them and using them faster that way as they are ready when I need them. Hamburger Helper and such box mixes are out at our house. Tooooo much salt let alone other additives. I found we tend to use up salad dressing bottles to slow to get extras. I learned the hard way. :) Saltines I agree go stale too quickly!!! Sarah