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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Keeping a Stocked Pantry

Meal-planning, keeping a pantry, stockpiling, hoarding -- there are so many ways to describe this, but what it comes down to is when you go to cook a meal, do you have what you need?  Me - usually yes, sometimes no.  But that's life.

This is, again, one of those things that I never used to think much about.  During my single days, I can still tell you what I'd buy every week -- a couple hamburger helper meals, a tuna helper meal, a bratwurst meal, a mac & cheese and hot dogs meal, a spaghetti meal, and maybe a couple soup meals thrown in every now and then.

Then I had children, and then I really started thinking about the food I was eating, and feeding my babies!  I also moved out of town so a garden was a real possibility.  I had some conversations with my grandma about all the canning I remember happening at her house during summers (and all the tomatoes I mashed, corn I shucked and green beans I snapped - but that's a post for another day).  She would put up enough vegetables and fruits to last her family of 6, (my mother was the oldest of 6 children) the whole winter.  For real.

For example, she figured she would use 2 quarts of crushed tomatoes each week x 50 weeks = 100 quarts of crushed tomatoes, which went on to mean a certain number of plants going in the ground in the spring.  Who says women are no good at math?!

And what does that have to do with keeping a stocked pantry?  Well, everything.  As I meet and talk with women about the condition of the pantry (yes, I'm nosy that way), I am finding there are a few different methods:  the just-in-time pantry -- actually has only a few things in it which never get used and the cook shops almost daily for the prepared foods; the meal-plan-of-the-week -- the cook/shopper heads to the store every week with a long list because the last piece of food was eaten for breakfast this morning; the month-of-meals plan -- this is a combination of favorites which repeat a few times and new for variety meals.  The shopping is a combination of bulk purchases to actually stock the pantry and weekly shopping for produce, meat, and dairy; and finally, there is the cooking-from-what-is-stocked plan -- which is more a plan of stocking the pantry, than it is a plan of meals.

Each method of meal-planning is good and has its own pros and cons.  I prefer to stock the pantry, and this is because I do have a garden and storage space large enough that I can put up a year's worth of canned goods.  I don't have a specific plan of meals to make each day, but I can take a look at what is in the fridge, think about what we've eaten the last couple of days, and make a plan for tomorrow before I go to bed tonight.

For food that I don't grow and preserve, I am working up to a 3-month supply on hand at all times. I believe this is enough to get us through a crisis or to be able to help others who are in crisis without depleting our stocks and risking our own family's food security.  And that is a responsibility which is mine since I'm the primary cook/shopper/gardener/preserver in my role as More than Just a Stay at Home Mom.

What method of meal-planning do you use?

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