I love life!

Hi, I am Jo and this is my blog about my life. Here you will find entries on cooking, gardening, food safety and the interesting things happening in my search for an inexpensive and healthy way of living. My home is located in North Florida and I am relearning how to take care of myself at almost 50. This is the deep South so my garden and season may be a bit different than yours. I look forward to seeing what you have to say as time passes. Read on and have a beautiful day!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Pantry - Finally!

We have a well stocked pantry. Actually, two of them. We do not have a stockpile. Simply put "stockpile" has a negative connotation to many people. When one thinks of "stockpile" I tend to think of a garage full of food and that is simply not who we are or what we have in our home. We have a healthy supply of items we use on a regular basis. Simple semantics I know.

I have actually been called a food hoarder. Mainly by people who have never been in my home. Sharon Astyk is a writer who focuses on climate change, peak oil and energy conservation. She addresses food hoarding in her book Independance Days: A Guide to Sustainable Food Storage and Preservation. I am paraphrasing here so bear with me. Food hoarding is when food is a scarce resource and you purchase large amounts of it to stockpile and sell for personal gain.  Buying food in times of plenty ( at a lower cost) and storing it, even stockpiling it, in your home as a hedge against future hard times is not hoarding. It is a prudent use of your time and money. Let's not even address true hoarding as that is an illness and does not apply to most of the population. Her book is enlightening and she takes food preservation and storage even further than I have even considered. I have a couple months supply- she has 6 mos to a year. The book is witty, well written and has helped me  to modify what and how much I keep in the house.

A pantry is a great asset to your home when it is well stocked. Our pantry has items we eat and use on a regular basis. Most of the items are bought at the lowest price we can find and stored in either a small closet pantry or in a converted armoir - both in the kitchen. We store extra toilet paper, towels, cat food, toiletries and cleaning supplies in the garage. As an estimate we have at least a couple of months supply of food in our house at any given time. The downside is that we like fresh produce and don't care for frozen. Additionally, we both dislike canned vegetables with the exception of canned tomatoes and beans. A garden offsets some of the produce we consume annually.

Our pantry holds dry cereal ( bought on sale with coupons), assorted flours ( wheat, rice, potato, tapioca, corn, masa etc.) , sugars ( brown, white, powdered), sweeeteners ( honey, maple syrup, crystalized honey, agave nectar), rolled oats, dried milk ( regular and buttermilk), egg replacer ( We don't eat many eggs and it is great for baking), rice (white, brown, arborio and basmati), assorted other grains (millett, barley, quinoa),
assorted dried pasta, canned milk, condiments ( mustard, ketchup, steak sauce- all purchased with coupons), homemade jam and lime marmalade ( no one eats the maramalade..lol), home canned peppers, snacks (rice cakes, chips, nuts- coupons again) onions, canned tomato products, assorted oils and vinegars, leavening agents and a lot of oriental items like rice paper wraps. We have a large assortment of herbs and spices either purchased on sale, in ethnic stores or dried from the garden. Our freezer has a variety of meats and fish purchased on sale.

With all of this and fresh produce we can fix a meal at almost any time. It does require some planning as to what to purchase when. I purchase items when my levels get below a predetermined amount. Usually when there are two of the item left on the shelf or less than a weeks worth of other items.

But how does it save money you ask? The main way we save is through cooking our own meals. Yes- you will need to cook. A pantry full of prepared foods is a full pantry yet you most likely are not eating as healthy and will not save enough money.  Doing your own cooking and some of your baking can really drop the amount you spend. You are buying items on sale not just when you need them thus if there is an amazing buy on canned tomatoes purchase enough for several months and store in your pantry thus also increasing your savings. Don't just buy something when you are running out. Buy pantry items before they run out when they are on sale or if you have coupons for them.

It is possible for us to save even more money by purchasing larger amounts of foods. Splitting bags of grains with another person or coming up with more storage space are just a couple of options.  Normally, the larger amount of an item that you buy the lower the price. However, if you do not like rolled oats a 50 lb bag will haunt you no matter what the savings might have been.  I tend to buy a 3 to 6 month supply of most items we use a lot of like cornmeal, rice or rolled oats.

Once you have your pantry together you will need to maintain the products. Normally,  the purchases are brought home and they are repackaged into smaller amounts. A 10 lb bag of rice is first put in the freezer (to kill grain insects) for several days then taken out and repackaged into 1/2 gallon glass jars or quart jars. Flours that will go rancid quickly in the heat are stored in the freezer. We are in the subtropics and rancid flours and grains can happen fairly quickly.

Meats are repackaged into amounts we can consume at one meal, dated and frozen. A couple of times a year I will can peppers or make jam and these items go into the pantry as well. The peppers are from the garden or purchased in large amounts from a local grower. The jams are made from cherries from our tree, strawberries from a local U-pick or if all else fails from bags of frozen berries purchased at Sams Club.

Almost everything is purchased at the lowest cost I can find for that item in my area then stored in the pantry until needed. It works for us because it is convenient, saves money and help us to eat healthier. So maybe it is a stockpile....but I am going to be old fashioned and call it a pantry. Happy Savings Everyone!  


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