Saturday, July 16, 2016
Living the Pantry Lifestyle - When you have to eat out of the pantry
I hate to admit it but there was one evening I was looking at the somewhat empty refrigerator wondering what in the world I was fixing for dinner. Yes. The one who spends a lot of time thinking and writing about the need for a pantry. It must have been the lack of caffeine or something but I did pull myself back together.
I had enough cash left in my purse that when I went to the pharmacy to pick up a box of insulin, I stopped at the grocery store for basics like store brand whole milk (which also functions as cream for coffee), eggs, iceberg lettuce, and some veggies on sale. The essentials for recipes.
What do you do when you cannot go to the grocery store? You shop the pantry.
I had been saving the chicken in the freezer for an emergency situation and ummm... this was it. So I transferred frozen chicken breasts to the refrigerator to defrost as well as a few packages of frozen veggies to the kitchen freezer (in the refrigerator).
A bag of dried beans will be soaked overnight soon for a healthy soup and I'm thinking I have the ingredients for a lentil salad. Just thinking through possibilities. Which is why I have learned it is just as important to know how to cook the ingredients in my pantry as to have them stocked.
I'll probably run out of fresh onions soon but I have a large jar of dried onions from Frontier. I have a few potatoes left but plenty of rice and a few cans of sweet potatoes. We actually like canned sweet potatoes, perhaps from all the years our mothers used them at Thanksgiving.
I try to always have baking basics in the pantry. I learned in the two separate periods of long term unemployment that some healthy baking and uh... sometimes not so healthy baking... is appreciated. Whole grained muffins with dried fruit are filling and nutritious. Chocolate chip cookies make everyone in my family happy. A loaf of homemade bread or cornbread served with the bean soup is a feast.
Of course, the long term need for eating out of a pantry is different than the short term needs. However, having to eat out of the pantry short term leaves one with reminders of what works and what does not. I know of a few "prepper" bloggers who make it a point to eat out of their pantry on purpose once or twice a year for experience.
Which brings me to a question I was asked last week. Should someone just buy wheat for storage? My answer is absolutely not. For one thing, unless you are used to eating 100% whole grains, even if you have a wheat grinder for turning it into flour, it will affect your digestion. Eating just wheat or corn (especially with the latest GMO grains) has been known to bring on allergies. Boredom will set in during a crisis period within a very short time. I could go on and on.
Instead, in my pantry I find it best to put back a variety of inexpensive items which taken together will form a healthy meal. One certainly doesn't want to get sick in the midst of a crisis situation when we are depending on the pantry.
I have converted rice (ie: Uncle Ben's is one brand), old fashioned oats, flour (bread flour and all purpose flour, bags placed in the freezer a week or so before storing in the pantry in a Rubbermaid style container), a couple buckets of wheat for grinding, lentils, and dried beans. With the addition of canned goods such as tomatoes and various spices & herbs & condiments, one could put together a nutritious meal.
Since there are just two of us, I don't need a lot of these items but even a large family can make these a fairly inexpensive base to a pantry. Then you can add other items to supplement these such as various kinds of Progresso (or other brands which need no extra water added) that can be warmed and poured over cooked rice for flavor.
Canned corn and canned black beans can be added to cooked rice with Mexican style canned tomatoes for a Mexican salad or baked with some cheese added for a casserole. Pantry planning is thinking about multiple uses for ingredients.
Basics such as peanut butter, jam, crackers, etc. make for quick meals and store easily. Of course, dried pasta lasts at least a couple years if stored properly so by adding jars of pasta sauce, you have a simple main dish that is filling. I have found salsa in jars to be an excellent ingredient to have on hand, used in many ways in the pantry to add flavor and nutrition.
I can smell the aroma of chocolate chip cookies coming from the general direction of the kitchen as I type. A surprise gift for the new parents, even in the midst of a "pantry only" week. There goes the buzzer! We have been invited over later for Piper cuddles.