When a cold spell hit my area recently, most of my friends and family were rushing to the store to buy milk, bread and other self-proclaimed necessities. Friends told me that the shelves were nearly empty and the lines were a nightmare. Meanwhile, I was at home, warm and cozy … all thanks to my kitchen pantry.
Having a well-stocked kitchen pantry can be one of the best gifts you give yourself and your family. Once upon a time, every home had a pantry. It was just a part of life, a common-sense approach to running your household. Today, most people regard pantries as a way for preparing for an emergency. However, pantries were meant for so much more than emergency food storage.
Does this sound familiar?
After a long day at work, you stop by the store and pick up a few things for tonight’s dinner – that is, if you’re not going to breeze by a drive-thru or order take-out between shuffling the kids to their extracurricular activities. This is the modern way of life for many families.
That’s why when things happen, such as a winter polar vortex, we are often taken by surprise. We thought we were prepared … only to find that our pantry is either bare or it’s full of impractical, out-of-date stuff our family won’t eat. Here’s the No. 1 secret to stocking your pantry the right way, so you’ll actually USE it:
Stock only what your family will actually eat…
I know that sounds so ridiculously simple – and it really is – but so many folks don’t do it! If they stock their pantries at all, it is with food they think they should have, or items other people suggest, not what they will actually prepare, cook and eat.
If your family never eats beans, or if you don’t like beans, it really does you no good to stock bags upon bags of dried beans. Sure, you may find yourself in a true emergency one day where beans will keep you from starving…but what are the odds those beans will go bad in the interim, because you don’t use them? Here’s another key secret about deepening the pantry many folks miss…
A pantry was meant to be used – all the time! Not just in emergencies!
What you have in your pantry should be used constantly, on a regular basis. You should rotate it in and out with newer items. In essence, your pantry should be like a mini-grocery store right in your own home with inventory coming in, and supplies going out.
For instance, I stock noodles. My kids eat a lot of noodles and I use them a fair bit in recipes, so it makes sense to have some on hand at all times. (Plus, they regularly go on sale, making them an easy item to deepen my pantry with!) So, I stock the three main types of noodles we eat: spaghetti, elbow macaroni and bowtie. When I buy a new box of noodles, it goes in the back of the pantry, behind the other noodles. When I cook, I grab the noodles in the front of the pantry and use them up first.
See? It’s really simple, if you’ll just do it.
Once you deepen your pantry a bit, it gets easier to stop rushing to the grocery store every time a cold snap happens or a winter storm rolls in. You’ll have plenty of items to choose from, right in the comfort of your own home. Not only is this convenient, it will save your family a pretty penny, too. Studies show that the more frequently you drop by the grocery store, the more money you spend in your food budget.
This past week during the cold snap, our family enjoyed homemade potato soup, chicken and dumplings, and several other warm and hearty meals and I didn’t have to rush out to the store once!
Remember: The key rule to deepening the pantry: stock only what your family will actually eat and use. Here are a few more tips on deepening your family’s pantry that you might find helpful:
- Don’t forget about your furry friends! You can stock food and supplies for your pets, as well. Nobody wants to rush out for dog food when there is a blizzard coming.
- Stock toiletries, paper towels, toilet paper and other essential items you don’t want to be caught without in an emergency or snowstorm.
- Stock your freezer with meats on sale and rotate them in and out, just like you do your pantry items.
- Stock a few “creature comforts” or luxury items. Having a few of your favorite foods on hand at all times will mean less temptation to eat out.
- Kids especially love having one or two favorite snacks in the pantry. In our family, popcorn is our favorite snack. We always keep popcorn kernels and oil on hand.
- Stock coffee, condiments, cooking oil, flour, sugar and other cooking supplies and staples that you use regularly.