What’s a pantry and why might you want one? Strictly speaking, a pantry is a space set aside for food storage. Traditionally it was a cool room with shelves where canned foods, grains, fermented foods, even butter and cheese were stored. Unlike our kitchen cupboards that get filled up on shopping day with food we buy at the grocery store, the old-time pantry was filled up at harvest time to keep the family in food over the winter.
We can take that idea of “stocking up” and apply it to our own lives whether we intend to store food from our garden or special order canned beans by the case, a case of apples or a bag of flour. Storing food in a pantry is an idea that has gained in popularity over the past few years as we enter a time of uncertainty; there’s comfort in knowing we have a well-stocked pantry and can feed our family whether there’s a job loss or an earthquake.
Having basic foods on hand in a pantry can also simplify meal planning and preparation and help us steer clear of packaged and processed foods. You can save money when you stock up on things that are on sale and you’ll have food on hand in case of an emergency.
There are several websites that can give you guidance on what to stock in your pantry, from very elaborate lists (118 Essential Pantry Ingredients from The Perfect Pantry) to very basic (Build a Frugal Pantry from Good & Cheap Eats). I liked the one I found at foodformyfamily.com:
Flours (unbleached white, wheat, rice, cake, almond)
Sugars (brown, cane, powdered, turbinado)
Dry Pastas (a few different shapes and sizes)
Grains (couscous, rice, barley, quinoa, oats, cornmeal)
Oils (olive, canola, coconut, peanut, sesame)
Vegetables (onions, potatoes, garlic)
Canned/Jarred Tomatoes (sauce, diced, stewed, paste)
Nut Butter (peanut, almond, hazelnut)
Spreads (jam, jelly)
Natural Sweeteners (honey, maple syrup)
Vinegars (balsamic, white, red wine, apple cider)
Specialty Sauces (Tabasco, oyster sauce, mirin, rice wine, soy sauce)
Nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, pine nuts)
Dried Fruit (raisins, apricots, dates, cranberries)
Dried Beans (black, navy, pinto, kidney, lentils)
Specialty Items (artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, olives)
What to do if you don’t have the luxury of a pantry room? Get creative when it comes to food storage. Shelves in a garage or shed that stay dry or on a covered back porch can store canned foods, beans and grains, winter squash, onions and potatoes. An unheated spare room in your home can do the same, either on shelves or in boxes underneath a bed. Any nook or cranny where a bucket or a case of canned foods can be tucked will work. Just remember you’ve stored food there, or you’ll commit the first sin of a frugal lifestyle—waste!
Look for our Emergency Preparedness event in September for those of you who want to stock your pantry. Stop by Member Services for more information about bulk and special ordering. Buying Club order book link is here.