Saturday, August 29, 2020

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Bringing the pantry full circle

It was still hot and humid this week, so I decided to use the opportunity to go through the deep freeze once again to take inventory of what I have.  I also wanted to remove the bags of flour that have been in the freezer (inside plastic grocery store bags to protect them) for awhile.

I had been asked how I store flour and if I store wheat.   I already responded to the email but I thought someone else might be interested.  I will answer the flour question now and then the wheat question near the end of the post.  Once I took the three bags of flour out of the freezer, I removed them from the grocery bags and set them in a safe place to lose the chill completely.

Then I put them in a large Rubbermaid style container, keeping them in their individual bags.  This way if there is another recall as there was previously, I know which numbers on the bags to look for instead of having dumped all the flour into large canisters.  Even though it has been hot this past week, we are moving into much cooler weather so I am not concerned about the bags being temporarily in the heat of the garage.

Honestly, by freezing the flour first, I have never had a problem with bugs nor have I had flour go rancid.  I don't store a lot of flour but I do store more now than I did pre-COVID.  I have three bags of King Arthur AP flour and two bags of King Arthur bread flour.  I was thinking I had one more bag of bread flour than I did so I purchased one more bag of King Arthur bread flour since the grocery store had it in stock. They didn't on previous visits. That bag is now in the deep freeze.

I know that is not a lot of bags to put back for a large family but it works for us.  If I need more flour during the Holidays, I'm happy to use Gold Medal flour for any Holiday baking should King Arthur not be available.  It tended to be available more than any other brand during the Spring.

I titled this Pantry Post "Bringing the pantry full circle" because that is what I am currently doing.  There was a time that I had a large pantry with cases of canned goods, large bags of beans and rice, etc.  That doesn't fit our lifestyle, budget, or space these days.

When I had a large pantry, I would purchase items I thought I might use someday or items that were suggested by other people.  I call this a "wide" pantry.  It gave me a lot of options when there were more people living at home.  Now I concentrate on stocking just enough of essentials.  If I had more people at home, I would indeed stock more like I did before.

Here is what I mean by full circle...  I knew as much as possible that I needed to stock in the pantry the items needed to make specific dishes. Most of us don't open a can of whole tomatoes and just eat the tomatoes from the can.  Instead, we need the can of whole tomatoes to be part of another dish we are cooking.

To bring a dish full circle when we cannot leave the house, we need to have put thought into what items are essential and what items can be left out.  I have a list of most often made main dishes written out and attached to the side of the refrigerator with a magnet but I realized I needed a separate list that brings at least five meals (or more) full circle.  Meaning, I have the essentials needed in the freezer, refrigerator, and/or pantry to make each dish.

The past two stock up grocery days (one each month), I started thinking of cooler weather on the way.  Which isn't easy to do when the heat index is 100 degrees but if needed, stick your head in the freezer at Aldi for thirty seconds to feel the cold.  People will think you are just looking for the large bag of cod if you are fortunate.

As I wrote in previous weeks, I bought stew meat at Aldi each stock up day this Summer and then two packages of meat that I use for soups/stews when I saw them on sale at Kroger last month.  They are in one of the "beef" bags in the deep freeze until cooler weather.  I hope to find a couple packages of beef bones for soup but I haven't seen any at the grocery store for months.

I had a lot of the 10 cents Aldi bags to recycle so I started separating beef, chicken, pork/bacon, veggies, etc. in separate Aldi bags. The bags are placed in the deep freeze. This makes makes it easy to just pull a bag out of the freezer when looking for a specific item.

As far as canned goods, I have always stocked canned tomatoes of various kinds, cut green beans, and either can or frozen corn for vegetable beef soup.  I have also been stocking some canned potatoes, which I wish I had when I couldn't get to the store to buy fresh potatoes last Spring.

As far as individual items, I am just beginning to stock up on canned fruits that I can eat like peaches and pears in their own juices.  I like to have a few large cans of peaches in heavy syrup to use for making the peach cobbler recipe (with yellow cake mix and butter).  It doesn't work nearly as well with peaches in their own juice.  That is another "bring it full circle recipe" to have everything needed in the pantry and refrigerator (or freezer since extra butter freezes beautifully).

I don't use a lot of prepared convenience foods but I did learn during the worst of the pandemic to keep a supply of 4 ounce (113.4g) packages of Idahoan mashed potatoes.  This size package is perfect for just two people, neither of whom want a lot of carbs.  I found the Buttery Homestyle was the best to stock for most dinners since it doesn't add flavor to a main dish but having some of the other mixes are good as a side dish, too.

While I have a few kinds of rice stored, I am adding small packages of various prepared rice sides to keep on hand.  I need to be careful about msg and some other additives but a good prepared side dish adds options to basic menus and they usually don't cost much.

Since we are in a University town with people living here from all over the world, one can walk down one of the aisles at Kroger and find very interesting International shelf stable side dishes, soups, etc.  They tend not to be expensive and I'm trying one bag at a time to add to the pantry for variety.

Last week, I tried a shelf stable bag of Indian vegetable stew that I just needed to heat and and serve over rice.  I loved it and my husband liked it so I'm going to add a couple bags of that stew to the pantry.  He is not into spices very much.  The kids and I always say he considers cinnamon to be as spicy as he can handle.  However, this was mild when served with rice.

So the basic foundation of my pantry is to have on hand the ability to 1) put meals on the table, 2) have some items on hand to keep meals from getting boring, and 3) have items that can be eaten without cooking such as canned fruit (there are many more items than fruit, of course).

One of the things I liked about the You Tube video I shared last week was how the homemaker thought about snack foods she wants to have on hand for herself and her husband.  That was never an important part of my emergency pantry since I have to be careful about sugar.  I usually prefer to do my own baking and I can lower the sugar a bit... until the pandemic made it difficult to go to the store and there were so many shortages.   

So I have given more thought to convenience foods that are reasonably healthy snacks or they give easy alternatives for a meal.  For instance, I sometimes have a package of BelVita Breakfast Biscuits for breakfast.  Recently, my grocery store had them on sale but you could save an extra $1.00 a box if you bought five boxes.  That brought the price close to half price.  Such sales are an easy way to stock up on a budget.

I also thought of that video when I was at the grocery store to pick up fresh vegetables recently.  I wanted to get more of the Hurst 15 Bean Soup packages that she mentioned because they were impossible to find this Spring.  I have individual beans for soup but I do like this one a lot.  I have one package already so I bought another.  I'll add a couple more to the pantry as I shop off and on.  Goya has a 16 Bean Soup package, too.  If I remember correctly, the Hurst seasoning package is loaded with msg (or used to be) so I haven't used it.

Okay, now to talk about storing wheat.  I used to grind a lot of wheat to make bread but I don't do it nearly as often, these days.  When I belonged to a food co-op, we were able to buy good quality wheat in 50 lb. bags.  I bought wheat once a year and stored it in food grade buckets.

I still have a few of those buckets left plus a friend gave me a 25 lb bag of wheat that she wasn't going to use a few years ago.  So at that time, I bought some oxygen absorbers from Amazon and opened the sealed buckets to see how the wheat looked (it was fine) and then I placed a few fresh oxygen absorbers in each bucket before sealing the lids again.  That should keep the wheat bug free indefinitely.

I then took the 25 lb bag of wheat I was given and poured it into two smaller containers.  One has a tight lid and the one I use all the time has an easy to lift up lid, making getting the wheat out of it easy.  I tend to make bread more in cooler weather and I often make it one/half whole wheat and 1/2 bread flour.  I will use all whole wheat if it is just for my husband and he keeps it in the freezer.

Now, a caution about storing wheat.  I know it is on most emergency preparedness lists for long term food storage.  However, if you are going to store the wheat as your main source of flour, then you really should have an electric grain grinder as well as a hand grinder to use should there be no electricity.

These days, there are some excellent hand grinders available that do not require muscles like a logger to grind the wheat.  So they may also take the place of an electric wheat grinder.  The best wheat grinders also grind other grains.  I used to purchase popcorn in 25 lb bags from the food co-op, it did double duty as popcorn and could be ground to make cornmeal.

Electric wheat grinders need to be well taken care of and cleaned after each use because it doesn't take long for any flour left to become like concrete, which isn't good for the openings of the grinder.  I've had mine since the 1990s and so far it still is working.

Also, if you plan to store wheat to use as your main source of flour in a long term emergency, you need to be using it now.  Going from white flour to 100% ground wheat flour is usually more than most digestive systems can handle.  Anyway, if you have the wheat and the grinder, it is an excellent way of getting good nutrition and you will have already developed skills before an emergency.

Another question I was asked last week is what kind of diabetic medication I take.  I'm an insulin dependent diabetic and I take 2 shots of Tujeo a day and 2 - 3 shots of HumaLog each day (it depends on what I have for lunch). 

Mentioned in this Blog Post

Oxygen Absorbers available... here.  This is the brand I purchased and I was pleased with them.  You don't need any more than 60 if you don't have a lot of buckets to put them in.  There is a lot of good information on their Amazon page.

Disclaimer:  Most links to are Associate links.

Image:  Brambly Hedge


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tip about the Indian vegetable stew. Must try it.
Sometimes for a change we like the frozen hash brown potatoes. They're good fried up with a bit of minced onion. Goes good with bacon and eggs for a quick supper.

Anonymous said...

Just curios: how is King Arthur flour better than others and also the Barilla brand of pasta? I love reading your pantry and enjoyed the video on YouTube. Blessings, Sharon D.

Suzan said...

I love the Brambly Hedge kitchen. Pantries are not huge here in my part of Australia. Some people do have them. What I would really love would be a cool room. Our pantry is small but I think I could manage quite a while with what we have. Now I am trying to build up the paper goods, cleansers, garbage bags and so on.

God bless and stay safe.

lizaellen said...

thank you for the tips on storing flour! I'm also happy I watched the video because certain treats I like and am trying to think about what I really like for the future.

Carol in Texas said...

Well, I watched Denise Jordan and I love her! I will watch more if her videos. And thank you for the names of your diabetic meds.

Deanna Rabe - Creekside Cottage Blog said...

You’ve given me a lot to think about again! I am also reminded to pick up some extra flour. I’m wanting to have extra food on hand, in case of violence and rioting after the election.

I always buy the basics, items that can be made into several favorite meals, then the extras like curry powder and other spices. I need to stock up on fall winter type veggies that I use mostly during those seasons. Bit by bit the pantry gets stocked up.

Anonymous said...

Informative post! Really like your idea of making a list of favorite meals and making sure to have all the ingredients needed in the pantry or refrigerator/freezer! So, I am in the process of doing that. We also watched Denise Jordan’s video, and she had a lot of good ideas, as well. Thanks for all the suggestions! Little bit little, we are feeling more prepared for whatever comes down the pike, than in the past.
Blessings to you,
Laura C (WA)

Kathy T. said...

such a great idea about the Aldi bags. I think I will do that as well, then it would be easy to see how much of each type of meat I have on hand. I have a small pantry too, as it is just my husband and I but I like to keep things in stock in case of job loss, such as has happened this year. My pantry has saved us during this time for sure.