Now that your pantry is building momentum it’s important to keep it rolling in the right direction. Mainly I’m thinking of problems with:
- Things going bad before they are used.
- Running low on things you thought you had a lot of.
So let’s consider each problem individually.
Good Food Gone Bad
Most people worry about this when trying to stock up. We wonder, will we ever really eat this many beans? or this much whole wheat? or rice? If I order 10/20/30 hens from the farm will we cook and eat them before they have spent too much time in the freezer?
To get a handle on this it helps to know two things about your food and about your family very, very well:
- How long each food item will keep.
- How often your family will eat the item in question.
I know, I know … Captain Obvious strikes again 😉 But really, getting this knowledge deep in your bones is the secret to feeling comfortable with stocking up on things. So read those two points again. Check out the shelf/freezer life of the items in your pantry. Then keep those items that are approaching the end of their life topmost in mind when deciding what to make. Choose recipes to use up those things. Also, many ingredients have a surprisingly long storage period. Dried beans for example have about 2-3 years before there is appreciable vitamin loss. You can store wheat up to 5 years. So don’t be too hasty to throw out food that’s been around for awhile. Check out the shelf life first.
Next consider the recipes that your family favors. Think about how often they will want to eat them and you will want to make them. Think about the ingredients for the recipes, the ones you buy and the ones you make. How much will you need to keep on hand to keep a good supply of made ingredients coming? All of this requires a bit of consideration and everyone will overshoot or undershoot the target pretty often at first. Given a little practice it will all balance out.
Running low on things you thought you had a lot of
This one tends to get me more than having things go bad. I’m often under the impression that I have more on hand than I really do. I find that solving this one is a simple matter of habit. Plan a time at least weekly to review what you have on hand. I usually do this while I’m waiting for something on the stove. Take a peek in your freezer and pantry. First, remove anything that is too old. Move the oldest items to the front so you’ll remember to use them soon. Review what made items are running low as well as raw ingredients. Then consider a plan for replenishing them. For instance, my freezer is pretty low right now. I have a plan in place to buy a 1/2 a small beef that will pretty much use up the remaining space and keep us in a variety of beef for awhile. I kicked that plan off when I noticed we were about halfway thru the amount of beef I like to keep on hand.
So to summarize:
Points to keep in mind for real food pantry maintenance
- Know your ingredients and how long they keep very, very well.
- Consider your family’s recipes, what they will like to eat and how often carefully
- Review what you have in storage weekly moving older items to the front for near term use.
And as a final note to “The Pantry Principle” series …
Learning to cook from a pantry is an ongoing effort for me. I’m continually seeking ways to improve the percentage of nutrient dense local food in my rotation. There are still many traditional techniques for me to learn as well as old uses that new tools can be put to. To that end I am deeply intrigued by Russ Silver’s DVD lecture on Food Storage with the Weston Price way of eating. It received a thumbs up from the Weston Price Foundation in a media review. So I’m planning to check it out. Seems to promise a kind of “black belt” in Weston Price food-storage. Anyone had any experience with it? If so leave a comment below and let us know what you think.
Links to this series:
- Part 1 – How to save gobs of time cooking for your family.
- Part 2 – What you’ll need to get started: your initial investment and where to find space.
- Part 3 – What you’ll need for the raw ingredients for the recipes on this site.
- Part 4 – How to get the ball rolling within the budget you have to work with.
- Part 5 – How to maintain your pantry.