In the past it was a common practice to stock up and keep a pantry of provisions. Before grocery stores became common and the rise of quick and convenient food, most people ate more seasonally and used the abundance of summer to stock up and prepare for winter eating.
Even in our modern day with the seeming abundance of food available at a moments notice in any season there is wisdom in keeping a at least a small pantry.
As we have seen over the past few years, nothing is as certain as it seems. There are breaks in the supply chain and shortages of basic supplies more often than we would like.
Even without major disruptions there are small things that make me grateful for a stocked pantry. Things like an extra heavy snowstorm or the whole family getting sick for a week. It is a blessing to be able to create simple meals from the pantry without needing to run to town during those circumstances.
What Is a Well Stocked Pantry?
First of all, when I talk about a well stocked pantry, I am not talking about hoarding for the apocalypse. I am thinking more of a working pantry filled with food you will actually eat. Ideally with enough to last for a few weeks to a few months.
This is simply good stewardship of the resources we have been given. In the Bible we are told :
“Go to the ant . . . consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.”Proverbs 6:6-8
Only you can determine what to stock for your family based on what you will actually use. These are a few of the items we like to keep on hand:
- Wheat berries(for grinding)
- White Flour
- Dried fruits and vegetables
- Canned Vegetables
- Homemade Jams
- Frozen Meat
- Coffee and Tea
- Spices and Herbs
- Baking Soda and Powder
- Broth, canned or frozen
Some of these items I only keep a couple weeks worth on hand and some I keep several months worth.
How to Create a Well Stocked Pantry
If keeping a pantry has not been something you have been doing it can be overwhelming to know how to start, where to store it, and how to keep it organized.
My first advice is to start small. It can be as simple as the next time you are at the store buying your regular can of tomato sauce to by 2 or 3. When you see grass fed beef on sale buy some extra for the freezer. Once you start feeling more confident you can begin expanding.
Secondly I would reccomend starting with one area. If you can aquire a large freezer start with frozen food. If you can’t afford a freezer or have no place for one, focus on dry goods. I currently only have the small freezer that is part of the refridgerator. So I am only able to store a small amount of frozen food. Although it is surprising what I can squeeze in there.
It is also helpful to think outside of the box. If you truly want to be less dependent on running to the store you can get pretty creative. Figuring out where to store items is a great excrsise in creativity.
If you have a small pantry there are many other places to consider for storage. Bags of beans and rice can be stored in flat bins under the bed, 5 gallon buckets with grain can be stored in the corner of a closet, a freestanding hutch or cabinet can hold canned goods, part of the linen closet can be cleared out for extra storage. There are surprising nooks and crannies everywhere that can be used for storage.
You can also get creative in what type of containers used for storage. My favorite containers for smaller amounts is glass jars. I use canning jars for everything. For canning of course, but also dried herbs, fruits, veggies, baking powder and soda, chocolate chips, nuts and more. I have bought many jars at yardsales, thrift stores, and new over the years. I also have several gallon size glass jars(these often come with pickles in them) that I have picked up at thrift stores as well. I also save all sorts of glass jars and bottles to reuse for homemade salad dressings, kombucha and more. All of these jars are in my kitchen pantry for easy everyday access.
For larger bulk quantities of grains my favorite storage is food grade 5 gallon plastic buckets. These can be purchased new but you can also ask at your local grocery store or bakery if they have any extra ones you can have. I also sometimes store grains in the original bag in the large rubbermaid type storage bins. These probably woudn’t fully keep insects out if that is a common problem in your area, but it hasn’t been a problem for me.
I don’t do anything special like vaccuum sealing or oxygen absorbers. Mainly I don’t do this because we are cycling through most thing within 3 months.
Where to Shop for the Pantry
Here are just a few places that I shop to stock up my pantry.
Azure Standard -natural and organic foods and more. They carry dry goods, fresh produce, dairy, and even frozen foods. They are my favorite place to buy bulk grains. They have good prices on organic wheat berries for my grinder, oats, popcorn and more. I also like their baking powder, gelatin, honey, and cornstarch. Typically you sign up for a local drop point. You order once a month and then pick it up at the drop point when it is delivered. I have been buying from Azure for over 10 years and I love it.
Locally- when possible I like to support local. The closer to home the source of our food the more resilient our whole community will be. We need local farmers and producers in order to be less dependent on large chains and transportation. Not only that but local farmers need our support as they continue to struggle to make a livelihood competing against large corporations. In our area local meat, eggs, dairy, fruit and vegetebales are grown. If you are on a budget you can ask a farmer if they have any “seconds” fruit or veggies. These are less than perfect- sometimes too small, sometimes they have a bruises, or are just ugly. When we grew produce for Farmers Markets we often had seconds to sell at a discounted price.
Grow what you can- If you have space for a garden grow what you like to eat and preserve the abundance. If you use a lot of pickles grow cucumbers and can pickles. If you love cooking with garlic grow some and cure it for use all winter. Raise a few chickens for eggs or meat if you can. It is so satisfying to preserve and store the work of your own hands.
Local Grocery Store- we have a local grocery store that has a nice bulk section, so there are a few things I get there. They also carry quite a few natural and organic items including raw milk for a reasonable price.
Grocery Discount store- we have a Grocery Outlet in our town. It is locally owned and Andrew has become friends with the owners. It is his favorite store in town because he loves sales, so he commonly goes in on his lunch break. It is very hit and miss what you can find, but when there are good sales he buys several to stock up.
Walmart or big box store- these stores are not my preference. But in our town there are some things we can’t really get any where else affordably.
Costco- We currently do not have a Costco membership. Our nearest Costco is an hour away and we were finding that overall their prices were not making it worthwhile for us to have the membership plus make the long trip. But I know many people love Costco and find great things there.
Restaurant Supply Store- the nearest one to us is also an hour away so we rarely go. There are just a few items we like to stock up on when we do go, mainly a few ingredients for Thai food and sometimes they have good prices on bulk produce like citrus or onions.
The Art of the Pantry
Keeping a well stocked pantry is definately a skil that needs to be practiced. But it is also an art. There is an art in knowing how much to keep on hand, how to organize it, and how to cook with it. There is an art to tending the food you have stored; sorting and using items before they go bad. There is an art to making due with what you have.and using up odds and ends.
Once you get started it becomes a joy and a creative outlet to make simple, nourishing meals right from your pantry shelves!
Do you keep a pantry? What are your favorite staples to keep on hand?
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