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.