Saturday, May 08, 2021

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Seasonal priorities and stocking the basics

I did not anticipate this week to be very busy but I ended up being away from home every day.  I don't remember who it was (perhaps Laine from Laine's Letters?) who used to write that she could not be gone all the time and have her house look good.  I can relate!  My kitchen floor right now is embarrassing but it will get cleaned early next week.

It has been unusually cool and rainy here, it feels more like March than May.  We need more dry days in a row so the farmers can get into the fields to finish planting. I do admire farmers (and gardeners!), it takes a lot of faith and patience to plant seeds and plan on a harvest with the crazy weather we have had recently.

I was away from home since it was time for stock up shopping and this time I shopped Aldi (with a quick stop by Kroger) one day and Meijer the next day.  It is so much easier that way.  I went to the nursery one day to purchase a flowering plant for the porch and my herbs.  Then on Friday morning, I decided to take my husband to his dental appointment since it was near the nursery so I could purchase a few more herbs before they sold out.

My container herb garden is easy to take care of and I enjoy being able to cook with them and make tea out of the two different mints (apple mint and Kentucky Colonel mint, which is a type of spearmint).  I am blessed to have a local nursery with a very large selection.

Since I had so many seasonal purchases to make this month, I didn't budget for the pantry at all.  However, Meijers had cans of Keystone ground beef back in stock.  So, two cans of ground beef went into the cart.  Right now, I don't have a lot of canned meat but I want to slowly build up a supply for an emergency.

They also had a few different kinds of liquid hand soap in a pump container on clearance for 30 cents and hand sanitizer for 45 cents each so quite a few of them went into the grocery cart.  I love buying on clearance. 

I've been asked how I prioritize what I put in the pantry given a small stock up budget and small space to store anything.  I've written before that during Y2k, I lived in a big house and had a bigger budget.  I had a separate room in the basement to stock up an emergency pantry and bought quite a variety of recommended food and products to stock it.

We did end up using some of the food because of a job loss early in 2000 but I learned a lot about what didn't work.  For one thing, instead of spending money on a variety of food suggested by websites, I should have kept it simple and stocked up on what we did eat regularly.  I also ended up not using much of the dehydrated food that I had purchased.

That is why I started calling the Saturday posts "deepening the pantry" because that is what works.  Just stock your pantry deeper with what you eat than you normally would.  By keeping it simple, it is easy to keep up with it, too.  I keep a couple flats of fruit and a couple flats of canned veggies.  They are mainly green beans and organic corn but I also have some canned potatoes, which aren't bad when fried. 

I have a couple cans of sweet potatoes, some cans of Bush's baked beans, and various soups.  These are all things we use regularly.  I have some peanut butter and jelly for quick sandwiches.  I try to keep at least two extra bottles or jars of condiments we use the most, usually purchased when there is a sale. 

When doing research for Y2k, I read a lot about Europe in WWII and every article said to always stock extra fat of some kind like olive oil, vegetable oil, ghee, lard, etc.  I have mentioned that my mother always saved bacon grease so, of course, I do.  I recently learned that Jewish women saved the chicken fat (called schmaltz) as they obviously did not eat bacon.  Even Jewish chefs still use schmaltz.

I expect what I have the most of is canned tomatoes, pizza sauce, and pasta.  I often make sauce for spaghetti by combining pizza sauce with a can of chopped tomatoes.  It is much less sweet that way.  Most people I know either can their own sauce if they have a garden or they purchase favorite brands of pasta sauce. 

I have a few different kinds of pasta and a couple bags of noodles for soup but I recently saw a recommendation for people with very limited storage space.  They suggested buying just various kinds of spaghetti (angel hair, regular spaghetti, thick spaghetti, etc.) because the boxes are all the same and make it very easy to store.  Pasta and pasta sauce are the easiest ways to have something for dinner put back.  Pasta has an extremely long shelf life when stored properly.

I really need to buy more coffee.  It is one of those items expected to rise in price, as are most imports.  So, if you are a fan of Kerrygold salted butter like I am (or unsalted), you may want to purchase some for the freezer.

Of course, the basis for any pantry needs to be items like flour.  I have bread flour and all purpose flour but if you can only have one, King Arthur all purpose flour has a high enough gluten number to make a good loaf of bread.  Sugar is not expensive right now but it is expected to raise in price.  Salt is a necessity and stores well.  Honey stores well, I prefer to buy it in smaller bottles since I purchase local raw honey and it will solidify.  

I will add here that one thing I learned to do long ago was to make certain I had some "party foods" put back as well as things like birthday candles, cupcake holders, etc. for special occasions.   That would include cake mixes, brownie mixes, cans of icing, etc. if you don't make your own from scratch.  

There is nothing like being able to put together a celebration in the midst of difficult times.  I have been there!!!  There are no food police (unless you are on the Great British Baking Show) that will turn you in for using mixes and such.  You may want to put back some items you cook with for holidays like canned pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and... while I keep cranberries in the freezer... I do have a couple cans of whole cranberry sauce.

I keep some dried milk as well as a few small shelf stable milk containers on hand. I have some dried eggs for an emergency, too.  However, since it is just two of us then I do not keep a lot of these items.  Remember that if stored well, nonfat dried milk has a very long shelf life.  Anything you have in an aseptic container has a much shorter shelf life.

For large families, it is simply keeping more of what you already eat, usually in larger cans and containers.  I still get surprised at how small the cans are these days.  Most larger families I know cook very much like I do using basic items to put together a meal.  So, of course, they would concentrate on stocking the basics.

One of the mistakes I made during Y2k was going by the lists online and purchasing things like canned beef stew and other prepared foods that we didn't normally eat.  I liked some items but was surprised that I didn't like canned beef stew and had bought quite a bit of it.  So, if you also usually cook from scratch, you will want to try one or two cans of any item you do not eat now to see if you like it.

As far as long term storage, I keep white and converted rice as well as dry beans.  However, I learned from Y2k to make certain I cook with what I am storing and to learn recipes that the family likes.  They wouldn't touch beans at that time but I have good recipes now beyond bean soup. 

Dried and freeze dried foods have come a long way in over twenty years and I now think having some in a long term storage situation is a good idea.  I have a few Mountain House dinner pouches set aside for an emergency but I have also used them when I needed something for dinner when I was home alone.

I know these days it can be difficult for some people to just keep food for a week on the shelves.  However, by just putting back a little at a time, then it is possible to have extra should there be an emergency such as COVID again or a weather related emergency.  We always had extra food on the shelves during winter in case of snow storms. 

I know this is a rambling post and once I hit Publish, I will think of multiple other things I could have added.  But one should only write and reread a blog post so many times and not until their eyes are crossed... as mine are quickly becoming.  Do have a good week!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the heads-up about the coffee. It's going on the shopping list right now. I agree about the canned stew. That stuff tastes gross. I'd hate to get stuck with a lot of it.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy the trip along your rambles!
Thanks for the reminders. Blessings 🌷
and happy Mother’s Day!

Brenda @ Its A Beautiful Life said...

I always come away inspired with some fresh way to deepen my own pantry. Your best tips for me have been to stock up on what one already uses regularly and to stock up on those items that will provide some comfort and pleasure in what might be trying circumstances, e.g., like emergencies. Those go a long way.

Thanks, Brenda!

Tracy said...

That's excellent advice. I am in the UK. A lot of people here don't have the same prepping mindset as our cousins across the pond, but I think the panic around Brexit and Covid may have caused a lot of folk to think again. I am old enough to appreciate the lessons learnt from my grandmother, who had to feed a growing family whilst living in a bombed out city (Coventry) and struggling to get even rationed food. I have very little storage space, but always try to keep a good stock of the things we eat regularly to hand and was very grateful for that when our first lockdown was announced and the supermarket shelves emptied overnight! There is no point storing food that nobody will eat, but cupboards full of potential meals are a great comfort when times are tough, as is a productive garden.

Unknown said...

I wish I could find Apple Mint around here. I have been asking plant stores for several years. The one time I find it listed for sale online...claiming to be apple mint...tasted nothing like apple mint. Although I prefer homemade Beef Stew, I do not mind Dinty Moore Beef Stew if I were in a pinch.

Laura Lane said...

This rambling post is just what we needed. Thank you!
Blessings from Harvest Lane Cottage

Martina said...

During the first wave of the pandemic, I stocked up on "recommended" food just in case of shortages without really considering that we don't eat it normally. I rotated it faithfully until we had to really use it. Because it was there, not because we actually enjoyed it. Your advise of just deepening what we usually eat is priceless. I understand it only now. Thank you so much for all your practical pantry posts!