Saturday, January 22, 2022

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Diligence does pay off when it comes to the pantry lifestyle

It is very cold here but all of the snow storms have missed us so far, sometimes Chicago has been having blizzard conditions when we had no snow at all. We do have some snow off and on but nothing compared to what other parts of the country are experiencing.

I was asked where I live, as I always say "about two hours from Chicago".  However, as my daughter always says about that, "it depends on who is driving from Chicago".  That is her way of saying I am a slow driver compared to the rest of the family.  Her point is?  My husband says he has made it in less than two hours and that does not surprise me at all.

I was also asked if I had mentioned our son's family was expecting a new addition.  Yes!  A baby boy is expected at the end of January and we are praying for a safe labor and delivery with a healthy mommy and healthy baby.  

I've been thinking this week how being diligent and stocking up "a little at a time" can pay off.  So often when we read about any kind of prepping, it usually involves buying in bulk or large amounts of freeze dried food.  I have bought dehydrated food as well as multiple flats of canned goods in the past but for the last few years, I've been concentrating on "a little at a time", which works better for our budget and since we don't have kids at home, anymore.


I haven't had to go to the grocery store much mid-month but when I did some aisles were showing empty spaces at Meijer.  Kroger was fine and Aldi had a limited amount of meat when I stopped there on my way to the dentist just to buy a couple cartons of cream.  It was otherwise well stocked.

Meijer was especially low on all kinds of frozen potatoes but I have heard similar stories all over the country. It was also low on other refrigerated and frozen items, too.  I know Meijer is a Michigan based grocery store chain and is located in other Midwest states but I don't know how many.

It is easy for me to go to four grocery stores in a week when there are severe shortages since two of them are almost next to each other and the other two are not far when driving.  I expect it would take awhile if I were to walk the distance... but that is not happening. 


I read a few articles about the expected rise in prices for produce being shipped from California due to transportation costs already being tripled.  That doesn't include the price increase already felt due to drought in many vegetable and fruit growing areas.

Every article suggested starting a garden if one didn't have a garden already.  It can take years to gain the skills needed through trial and error to know what grows best on your property, so if you have the room and the energy to garden, talk to local gardeners about preparing your soil and what to start out with.  

This year, I plan to be more diligent about going to the local farmer's market.  We have one of the markets only a few miles from us.  We already purchase raw honey and eggs at the health food store (on senior discount day) from one of the Mennonite families that sell at the farmer's market.


An excellent investment, if you can find any available in this time of shortages, is a chest style deep freeze because they are relatively inexpensive compared to other appliances.  We have a medium size freezer that we bought when I was still able to work seasonal part-time work and at the time, it wasn't expensive at all.  

It isn't huge but it is big enough to hold meat purchased on sale, frozen vegetables, soup I have already made, and I can slip a five pound bag of flour in it to debug the flour.  I keep the flour in the plastic bag it came home in from the grocery store and tie off the top to protect it from moisture and add an additional layer of protection from freezer burn.  


Speaking of debugging, I made cinnamon rolls this week for us and to give some to neighbors and I was quite shocked to open the canister that holds powdered sugar and find it full of ants. That hasn't happened before but it has been a bad year for ants.  We had to move Florentine's kibble dish from that same area.

That canister is not air tight and I hadn't had to use the powdered sugar for awhile.  Thankfully, I could throw it out and I had two smaller backup bags that I put in an extra "vintage Tupperware" flour canister.  I don't want to risk losing any more powdered sugar. The pretty canister it was in has been washed and will not be used for anything needing to be airtight.  

As an aside... does anyone else find the term "vintage Tupperware" oddly disturbing when this is the Tupperware you purchased for the first years of your homemaking experience?  Just saying...


I have mentioned that Alaska Granny is one of my favorite YouTube prepper vloggers and recently she was talking about the need to be more aware of Use By dates when purchasing food at the grocery store, especially canned and shelf stable boxes of food.  She has had instances of the dates being close to the present time or even past the date already.

I always check the dates when I purchase an item for the pantry and I've been surprised for years how many times I have found two items sitting next to each other with dates a year apart.  With the shortages, she said more stores are purchasing as much as possible and keeping items in their warehouses.  Which is why you can purchase a can one shopping trip and a couple months later, buy one with the same Use By date.

This wouldn't be a problem with vegetables like corn and green beans but other items do not have long term Use By dates.  I have found anything purchased in aseptic containers need to be used within the time limit, using the Use By date as the longest time to have it go unused.  

There have been instances of mold growing in some of these containers as they go past their Use By dates, as well as the food simply going bad.  This even includes juice pouches I have read (I don't use them but I can see how they would be similar as the aseptic containers).

One of the lessons I learned from Alaska Granny is one she has learned the hard way more than once.  That is, canned pineapple cans can leak and even burst long before their Use By dates.  The second time it happened to her was because a can had been overlooked in the back of a cupboard and wasn't found until it had leaked everywhere.

I was thinking of it this week since I plan to buy a couple cans of crushed pineapple to have on hand for a particular recipe.  I may have to make certain it is placed where I can see it quite often just to watch for leakage.  Pineapple is not diabetic friendly but this is for one of my mother-in-law's recipes.


So... after watching numerous videos and reading numerous updates last week, one priority I keep hearing about is to purchase canned meat whenever possible.  One good thing about meats like the Keystone brand (I know there are other brands, too) is that they are cooked in the canning process, the meat is usually from the country of origin (in this case, stamped USA), and the Use By dates are four to five years out.

They do tend to be expensive and they have been going up in price along with just about everything else in the grocery store.  I have some put back that was purchased one grocery store visit at a time.  If you store dried noodles (not those containing eggs, though, unless you are going to use them quickly), they can be combined for a good main dish.

Of course, there are the other canned meats we've already talked about before.  I still like to buy a can of Hickory Smoked SPAM once in awhile, even if the other person in the house doesn't like it.  I normally only purchased items we both like but there are exceptions.  Such as SPAM.  I added some canned salmon to the pantry last month for our favorite salmon patties recipe, I should add a couple more cans soon.


I've been going through my pantry to see if there is anything I need to replace due to it getting near the end of the Use By date.  I did have to purchase a new bag of Judee's Whole Milk Powder last week.  Whole milk and cream powders have a Use By date of usually around one year unless vacuum sealed (and then I'm not sure it would be much longer due to the high fat content).

I have a couple larger bags of non fat dried milk put back and from what I have read, it will last for years since it contains no fat.  The "older" Judee's Whole Milk Powder will be placed in the kitchen to use and I plan to make some batches of homemade instant hot chocolate with it and give them to family members.  

As with any other food item (except aseptic containers), they do not go bad suddenly after their Use By dates.  Some items have been known to last for years after those dates, especially a lot of non-acid canned vegetables.


This week, I plan to go through the boxes of dried pasta to see what I still have in the pantry.  I keep the dried pasta in the original box, most is stored on a top out of the way shelf in my kitchen cabinet.  Definitely out of sight, out of mind for those I don't use often.

I mentioned before that I learned in my reading if you do not have much storage space, then purchase mostly different types of spaghetti (regular, thick spaghetti, angel hair, linguine, etc.) because those boxes easily stack together and can be stored in a small place.  

I do have a few packages of other styles like penne and orecchiette, that sit on top of the spaghetti-like boxes.  I keep elbow macaroni in a large jar since it gets used in casseroles.  


I've been perusing a few cookbooks since the weather turned so much colder, for good comfort food inspiration.  I'm still loving the new Pioneer Woman cookbook.  One of the recipes I want to try in it soon is the Sheet Pan Pancake (I think that is the name).

I have raved before about the Hope's Table cookbook. It is full of great recipes from Hope Helmuth and her Mennonite friends and family.  This week, I plan to try the Bacon Corn Chowder recipe since I have bacon to use up soon.  It calls for white wine and since I do not drink alcohol these days, I will substitute chicken stock.

If you get cable or satellite television, you may be able to get the Magnolia Network now since it replaced the DIY Channel at the beginning of the year.  Prior to this, the Magnolia Network was only available through Discovery+. I have been enjoying the Magnolia Table with Joanna Gaines sharing favorite recipes.  

It sent me directly to her Magnolia Table Volume 2 cookbook to find the recipe for Friendsgiving Casserole.  I also want to try the Chicken Parmesan recipe soon. Both are dishes she made on the television show.  The font is small on the longer recipes in her cookbook so I plan to place my magnifying glass made for books on the pages and then type them into Word and print them off to cook from.

Have a great week and stay warm (which won't be a problem for our friends south of the equator).  Remain diligent about stocking the pantry and remember... a little done at a time can end up in significant benefits.


Mentioned in this Blog Post

Judee's Whole Milk Powder... here.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks Super Easy... here.

Hope's Table cookbook... here.

Magnolia Table Volume 2... here.

My favorite salmon patty recipe... here.

Alaska Granny YouTube Channel... here.

Disclaimer:  Most links to are Associate links.  I earn a tiny commission and it cost neither of us anything extra but a little time. 

Image:  My kitchen last Fall.


Margie from Toronto said...

Since it is only me then I manage my pantry based on what I eat and replace a bit at a time. No need for a massive prepare pantry. I do have to remind myself when shelves may look a bit low that each can is generally at least 4 servings so there is a lot more than it may look at first glance. I went out this morning for the first time since Sunday - we had 2 feet of snow on Monday and it is tricky walking. I only went to the library, bakery and the very nice fruit & veg market - everything seemed to be well stocked. I probably won't go to the supermarket until next Wednesday so it will be interesting to see what the shelves look like.

I did do a bit of a clear out the other day - only a couple of cake mixes to toss - one had leaked and I found the other to be very chemically tasting (I have allergies) a couple of other specialty flours are looked out to leave at the freebie collection point in my building - I'm trying to be more honest about what I will and will not use.

Jenny said...

I need to go through my pantry & check the use by dates. I usually don't have a problem with this because when I shop I always put the newest things in the back & moved everything up. But I did buy some things early in the pandemic that my husband cannot eat...thinking if things were desperate I could eat them & save what we usually eat for him. I need to use those things.

And pineapple...I did not know they could leak. I need to check the one can I do have. It's not something I usually stock.

Mrs. Laura Lane said...

This was quite interesting. Because of some long-term health problems (which I hope are behind me), I haven't prioritized stocking up. I can see now that I should have. God is good. He will provide. I just need to be diligent in doing what I can with what I have and stocking up as I'm able. Thank you for the reminder and for the reminder to watch the use by dates.
God bless!
Laura of Harvest Lane Cottage

Cozy Thyme Cottage said...

That is funny about you l live a 2 hour drive from Chicago. I say I live about an hour from Chicago in IN. Never thought about the different speeds people drive! Nancy

Suzan said...

I have been trying to use up a lot of stuff. We have so much stuff to use and much of it is not suitable for my requirements. Las night I used a can of ham for a salad for dinner. It was gross and no I have five more cans to eat through. We have limited choice when it comes to canned meat in Australia. I am struggling to come up with an idea that scam provide emergency meats for us.

Deanna Rabe said...

That's interesting about pineapple. I didn't know that. I don't keep it in my pantry usually, so if I have a can it's because I'm going to use it during the week.

I've been watching Jamie Oliver's show on Hulu, "Keep Cooking and Carry On." Made during the beginning of the lock down in the UK it's all about using what you have to make meals. It's very interesting and is giving me inspiration to cook.