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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.