Friday, January 14, 2011

The Practical Pantry: What?

Hard red wheat.

What's for dinner? How many times have you heard that? And that question, my friend, is exactly what you want to ask yourself as you begin to stock your newly-found and/or organized pantry.
The next step in the process is to take a good look at what you and your family eat. What your favorite meals are, what are your comfort foods, what is your fall-back meal when you have one of those days where food is the last thing on your mind.
You may want to write down some ideas. Make a list of your top five breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks and desserts. Dessert is very important to me, by the way. I made up a list of our favorite meals, and not just the main dish, the complete meal. That meal list is the basis for my menus. It helps us not get in a rut and helps me control my urge to cook new recipes all the time. It's a problem folks, new recipe addiction.
After you work up a list of what you like to cook and your family likes to eat, think through each recipe and see what parts of it are non-perishable items that you could stock up on. Are there acceptable substitutions you could make for some of the perishable ingredients that could be part of your food storage pantry. Say, dry milk for fresh milk in your famous Saturday morning pancakes. These ingredients should be the start of your food storage. You want to store what you eat and also eat what you store.
It's very important that you invest your money in things you know you will use. Buying five pounds of garbanzo beans isn't a good plan if nobody in your family can tolerate them. In a time of stress or crisis when you could be relying heavily on your food storage, you would need food that is familiar and comforting to your family. During a crisis is also not a good time for you to try to figure out the best ways to cook millet.
Another easy way to figure out what you should be stocking up on is to think about what you run out of the most. I am constantly running out of flour. As you can see in the photo, I buy wheat to grind but I still use a lot of unbleached white flour. So instead of buying one bag when I go to the store, I pick up two bags. Every time I go to the store I'll buy two bags until I have the amount I need. Then whenever I open a bag, I know to buy a replacement bag the next time I'm at the store. Now, this isn't the ideal way to go about it. I'm sure it would be cheaper per pound to find a bulk source of flour I like and buy that way but it's a trial and error, baby-step kind of process.
So, put on your thinking cap and sit down with some paper and a pen and start on a strategy for beginning your pantry. Remember to focus on familiar foods. If you want to try something new, buy a small amount to experiment with and see if you want to incorporate that item into your meals and pantry. Like I said, it can be a slow process but each time you can add a bag of beans or an extra jar of applesauce to your pantry you'll find that the satisfaction of having food stored in your cupboard is well worth all the time and effort.


Susan said...

Excellent advice, Audra! I am really liking this series!

Stacy Furlow said...

This is fantastic! I love the part about millet. I am a total fly by the seat girl, so I never have anything. Going to try though and I will let u know how it goes.

Elece Hollis said...

Good advice to stock up on what you like to cook the most, basic staples.