Saturday, May 02, 2020

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Stock up day in a time of shortages

Yesterday was my second stock up day for the beginning of the month since the shortages brought on by the pandemic began.  Last month it was difficult to shop since it was all new to me.  This month was a lot easier, even with shortages on some products.

I've had a month now to work within the confines of shortages, what is in the pantry and freezer, and what I can do without.  It has been both challenging and interesting.  At times it certainly has brought about a new creativity in the kitchen.

I never know what I will find at the store.  For instance, early last week I had a doctor's appointment so I stopped by Meijers on the way (since I already had to wear a mask and carry hand sanitizer).  There was no chicken to be found.  None!  Yesterday, however, there was plenty of chicken albeit at a slightly higher price.

Aldi had some chicken and beef but also had a two package limit on each.  I bought two packages of the ground beef I only buy there, one whole chicken, and a package of deboned chicken breast.  They were out of the frozen fish I usually buy but I have some left in the freezer.

You may have heard it said that buying more than you need in normal times is wise stocking up, buying more than you need in a time of shortages is hoarding.  There is a lot of truth to that... another reason to live a pantry lifestyle and decide how deep you want your pantry before a crisis.

My husband arrived home from doing the Kroger shopping last week and told me I'd be proud of him.  His favorite Amy's soup was finally back in stock with four cans available and he only came home with two cans.  He was tempted for awhile to take them all since they are a part of his special diet but then remembered what I said about hoarding in a time of crisis.  Hmmmm... he actually listened!  ;)

What I have been doing is "topping off" the pantry as items become available.  For instance, buying one or two cans of whole tomatoes even if I didn't use any the  previous week.   Cans of whole tomatoes are as scarce as hen's teeth these days!  I also purchased avocado oil from Aldi, even though I had not opened the backup bottle, yet.  They had plenty of bottles and I feel better having an extra backup.

This has made me remember some of my old cooking tricks, too.  Like making pasta sauce with a jar of pizza sauce and a can of diced tomatoes simmered together.  I usually use a tube of tomato paste (and I still do) but I've also purchased a few cans of tomato paste that I add to canned tomatoes with Italian herbs (and sometimes chopped onions and garlic) to make a sauce.

Long ago, my favorite way to make pasta sauce was a lesson learned on a cooking show to combine the Italian style tomato paste with a can of tomatoes and simmer it a few minutes.  It has been enjoyable to be more creative as we have shortages to deal with.  I haven't seen Italian style tomato paste in awhile... although I haven't been looking for it until recently... but I do have Italian herbs in the yellow pantry that I add to regular tomato paste.

Some people have been surprised that I have pasta in my diet since I'm diabetic.  The first nutritionist I spent time with after my diagnosis (twenty years ago now) taught me that almost anything is acceptable (except sugary soft drinks) on a diabetic diet if you cook it correctly and watch portion control. 

As far as pasta, you want to always buy high quality pasta (this is not the time for the cheapest brand) and cook it al dente and never overcook it.  The body handles the carbs much better when it is cooked al dente.

She taught me about always having a balance of carbs, protein, and fat to keep blood sugar from spiking.  Which she said is wise even for people who are not diabetic.  She was the nutritionist who also taught me that it is not only okay but wise to have a planned "cheat" once a week and always after eating protein and fat first.  I've had a few nutritionists since then but she was the most helpful.

I also plan the type of pasta around what I am making.  Angel hair pasta is used with a "sauce" of olive oil and veggies.  Thick pasta is used with a meat sauce.  Orzo is used instead of noodles in chicken noodle soup (and in place of white rice quite often), elbow macaroni in goulash and mac & cheese, and rotini for pasta salads (although I have seen a lot of recipes that use orzo for pasta salads these days).

I just tried orecchiette pasta after seeing a chef on The Food Network say it was her daughter's favorite pasta.  I'm now a fan of orecchiette shaped pasta, too!  I found it at Kroger.  I used it in mac & cheese as the chef used it for but I think it would also be good in any dish with a lot of vegetables in it since it is a sturdy pasta when al dente.  That was another lesson learned from the nutritionist, to always have an excess of vegetables on a plate.

I'm writing more about pasta today because it is an inexpensive base to a lot of menu ideas.  It also stores extraordinarily well in the box when kept dry like in a Rubbermaid style container with airtight lid.  You may have noticed it was one of the first items to empty the shelves when this all started.

I still have half a jar of bread machine yeast in the refrigerator (aka: Instant Yeast) but when I see any available again, I will buy a bag and keep it in a small Tupperware container in the refrigerator like I did when I made a lot more bread than I do now.

My husband was talking to one of the health food store employees, relaying my question if yeast will be available soon.  Not as far as she knew but she said another customer has started making bread with a hearty ale.  Does that make back a few decades when beer bread was a rage!  It really does work, too.

I have two bags of King Arthur AP flour in the freezer but I will purchase another when it is back on the shelves.  Otherwise, I can use Gold Medal, which is what I use when doing a lot of baking for Christmas.  I have one bag of King Arthur bread flour left and I can grind some wheat to make whole wheat flour... which would be a good idea on a high energy morning.

Thankfully, I have a bread machine that does all the mixing and kneading for me and I don't even have to watch it.  Although one doesn't want to forget it as I once did with my old bread machine.  The dough continues to rise... and rise... when on the dough cycle.  It took awhile to clean that mistake.

It has taken patience and creativity but it has been possible to work around shortages.  Only because I already had a pantry in place before the pandemic hit.  I learned a lot of pantry lessons in the two different times we had long term unemployment and I'm sure there are more lessons to learn here.

I'd be interested in what pantry lessons you all have been learning, too.


Suzan said...

I started the outbreak with a pretty empty pantry. I was trying to eat it down so stuff would not waste. We do have a more food in the pantry now. I have plenty of beans and some tomato products. The hitch is that we are not used to beans but I bought them as meat was very scarce and I needed some protein source. We have a mix of uncooked and tinned pulses and beans now. It feels strange to open a tin towards dinner as we generally eat fresh. But I will be more vigilant about using things in a timely fashion. Like you I top up as I can. This week I bought a washing basket and filled it with vegetables and fruit. Cauliflower was $5 in Aldi but $8n to $10 elsewhere so Ibohgt one of those. Our fruit and vegetables are expensive as Australia had bush fires and flood before all the pandemic stuff.

God bless and stay well. said...

I've been looking for yeast for weeks, as my supply is dwindling and we have homemade pizza at least once a week. I MADE yeast last week, used it in my pizza last night and it was fabulous!!! Hubby likes a thin crust, I go with gluten free, and I've mastered that in the crust. Very exciting. said...
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Anonymous said...

Glad to hear from you today. I'm trying to plan meals to use things I have to the best advantage and no waste. Love cooking enough for at least two meals. Pretty much what I have done for years. I'm able to get pretty much all I need at my store and make less trips there.. blessings and stay well.. Sharon D.

Vee said...

As I have done zero shopping for myself, I have mostly been learning how to be flexible and trust my shoppers to do their best for me. They'll be happy to hear it.

When you were discussing your tomato sauce, I remembered that my all-time favorite sauce is from Smitten Kitchen. It involves a quality brand of canned tomatoes, an onion, and a stick of butter. That's it. Amazing.

Glad that the weather is starting to pull away from winter. We had snow last week. Still the grass is greening. Phew!

Margie from Toronto said...

I was in pretty good shape - for a single person in a small, large city apt. so no panic buying. However, there are things that I will add as they become available over the next few months as I think there will be a second wave come the winter and we may have to lockdown again (at least partially). I will probably buy more kinds of flour (bread flour/cake flour/WW etc.) and yeast when I can find them. I may also add a few different pans for different types of baked goods.

I'd also like extras like more pickles, relishes, condiments etc. - it gives you so many more options when it comes to cooking.

What I did do last week was separate out all my cans & jars and put all items marked 2022 or later into a back closet as my longterm pantry. This also makes it easier to see what I have in my day to day pantry and to make sure that I use things up in a timely manner.

Since I do think it will be the winter that we have to worry about I also want to have things like more hot water bottles, I need a new battery powered radio and some extra flashlights - just in case.

At the moment I'm doing as you suggest - replace what I've used - maybe 1 for the current and 1 for the longterm pantry - that sort of thing.

Anonymous said...

The beer bread idea sounds interesting but does it taste like beer? Would you have a recipe for it?
I found that baking oatmeal muffins uses less flour. You can make them with a cinnamon/sugar topping, or hide a dab of jam in the centre.

Unknown said...

Thank you Brenda for the words of warning at least a month ago. I went and made the pantry a little deeper. Family was called and I suggested they pick up certain vitamins too. I am trying to limit going to once a week. I wish I could make it every other week, however meat is rare to find and only the 73% hamburger. When I go and items on the list are not in-stock, I look for items I use and that are in-stock and purchase those, thinking the next time I go I'll find what I was originally looking for. I've had to go to different stores to just to find what I am looking for. There are times I want to use the Walmart pick up ordering, but they limit the items that are available, however, when you go into the store those items are on the shelf. So much for trying to social distance. I like to also shop ALDI, however the fees associated with that store through Insta cart where very high. There was a store fee, a 20%tip and another fee, which would have been at least 35 dollars. I just was thinking how much I could buy with 35 dollars.
When I was a child Mom would make "Poorman's Ham Salad. So this week I fixed it for my family. Did you every make it? For those who don't know it Bologna salad with hard boiled eggs, pickles, onions, and mayo. You put the food in a food grinder and you serve it on bread or crackers. One thing I thought there would not be a run on was bottled water. Perhaps many people do not enjoy the taste of well or city water. The other thing that I've only found once in 4 weeks is Jenny O turkey hotdogs.
When this idea of staying at home was heard more and more, I dug up starts of berries in my yard and shared them with several young families. It will not help them this year, but in years to come. I'm not sure what all this will lead to, but I am concerned about food shortages. I hear farmers dumping food, animals being dispatched and not taken to process. I'm thinking whatever food we can grow can be shared, canned and consumed. I've started praying for all the newbie gardeners and the gardens they've tried to plant, that God would bless their efforts to feed their families and the ability to share with others. Lorinda

Anonymous said...

I look differently at some things...such as your husband finding the 4 cans of a soup he CAN eat on the shelf...when you are limited by a special diet and a wife who cannot always feel well enough to cook maybe, I would have seen that as GOD offering me the 4...because when you are NOT limited, there are thousands of other choices one can make...canned, fresh, frozen even. I am sorry he felt he could not buy the other 2. But one thing this so-called shortage has done, is helped me spend a lot of time finding other sources for what we and our daughter's family need. Yes, we indeed have lots of food allergies, so this becomes even more work for us. I have had such good and quick service so far from using Boxed, Jet, and Vitacost. Often I have found some food needs even at vitamin companies online. Here locally, the store that has most stepped up with items has been Trader Joe's. Walmart gets an F grade (I intend in future to only buy a couple items there, one is our insulin which costs a lot more elsewhere) and Costco gets at best a C-...and I have worked retail so I am NOT being unfair in my expectations (plus a grandson back east works for a larger chain back there...I know what he tells me too). Costco Pharmacy has helped me in the battles with the insurance company, so that I will continue with the Pharmacy there. We are told to stay home...because of the games played by the insurance company it was going to cost me another trip (and exposure) I asked the price if we simply did not use the insurance...was maybe only $5 more...and thankfully it was under $20. You can bet I jumped on that one. I have a legitimate prescription...but this insurance company lets CVS run the medicine part...they are the most illegal, dishonest, disreputable company I know anything about. When you have high blood pressure, the last thing you need is more pressure from the stupid antics of the insurance company!! But I no longer intend to buy toilet paper anywhere in town so long as I can find other places to buy far, Amazon has been of no help...but these smaller mail order places seem to be able to have it. Oh and of late, Trader Joe's has had it too. I encourage others to let your money talk for out other stores. I have made a long list of smaller stores...meat shops etc where I intend to shop more once we have more freedom to go out. And also have some nearby family farms that will sell direct to customers, to also try to get to sell us things. We should patronize those closest to us anyway. I also am continuing to use the little washcloth strips I cut up to use for wipes for #1...saving us at least 1/3 on Toilet paper...another way to keep more dollars in our own pocket and out of theirs. If enough others would do this, I do believe we could impact them. Even if there was a real shortage here, the big stores handled it terribly. Even Joann's you take a number and when it is your turn, you go up and have your fabric cut in order to buy your fabric. NO EXCUSE for the large stores, using computers for crying out loud, to not put us on a purchase list for things that were in short supply. I remember back in the day when KMart was a big deal (we were most appreciative of them in that it allowed us to survive our leanest years)...but they became nasty when folks asked that they not sell P O R N magazines...and right at face level in the checkout stands for our little kids too. They in fact said they did not need families to shop from them. Heh, well, lots of us quit shopping there...I am not sure there are any of those stores still left now...not in this state anyway. Back in 2003 when we traveled across the country moving from one coast to the other, no KMart we saw in the middle of the country was in business. So I think we need to remind Walmart, Costco and others that they best be paying attention!!! They better get their act together and do things correctly!!

mdoe37 said...

I've been cherry picking things too the last few weeks. When I heard meat might be getting a little thin, I picked up a little more even though I probably have plenty in the freezer. I passed on the info to my SO, so he could also make a tour around the stores, see what's available and buy what makes sense.

Sam's about a week ago had meat and I grabbed two packs of burger and a pork loin to split with my mother who isn't getting out at all these days. We decided another loin was in order, so I stopped in at Sams a few days later only to find a sign that was limiting fresh meat to one package .... period.

However, on a better note, they probably had 50+ jumbo store brand packages of toilet paper there. The limit was one paper product....period. I opted for the TP...I probably had enough. But as scarce as its been and seeing people asking on Facebook where to go because they had been unable to find any for a month, I decided that an extra four dozen rolls might be appropriate, for my pantry but also to help someone else out.