Pantry Principles – Pantry Management


Yes, I know, that’s high-fructose corn syrup on the shelf – hubby likes it on pancakes, waffles and french toast. Since he gets it infrequently, I figure it won’t kill him anytime soon. I don’t eat the stuff at all.

Anyone who reads this blog or my book You Might be a Ranch Wife knows I’m always going on about pantry management and keeping the pantry well-stocked. There are distinct advantages to a well-stocked pantry, not the least of which is your ability to survive a zombie apocalypse. Here are some others:

  • Having a variety of staples in the pantry means you can put a meal together even when you happen to be out of a key ingredient for a particular recipe. So wheat pancakes become some other kind of pancake.
  • You save time, money and mileage if you go to town only rarely.
  • You won’t starve. We could eat very well for at least three months, especially when the cow is in milk. We could then eat reasonably well for at least another three months, although the variety might be less. For many foods, we could go a year without needing to restock.
  • You’re always ready when someone drops by unexpectedly. Ranch wives have always been known for their ability to stretch a meal or offer a nice midday treat to a visiting neighbor.
  • The artificial salt lurking behind the jar of baking soda is useful for making my own Gatorade when someone is sick or dehydrated. It’s high in potassium.

    In order to obtain these benefits, however, one must manage the pantry. That means you have to track what’s on the shelves, make sure food gets rotated and note things down to restock. It also means you have to clean and organize occasionally – my least favorite part of pantry management. Today it was the shelves in the kitchen. I figure they’ll look nice for about a week, and then they’ll be back to the usual clutter that occurs when you have husbands and grand-kids rooting around in the pantry.

    One of my goals for next year is to expand my plantings of fresh herbs so I can decrease my reliance on store-bought.

    A quick glance will tell you that this is the stuff I need right at my elbow – basics like salt, baking powder, cocoa, baking soda, spices, vinegar and cornstarch. In some cases (as with the baking soda or cocoa), I’ve decanted some into a small container because I don’t have room for five pound packages on the shelves. There are also much larger containers of things like beans out in the wash house. You’ll see a mix of stuff we’ve grown ourselves (like the little brown bottle of celery seed) as well as stuff I’ve purchased. While I can grow my own paprika and peppers for chili powder, for example, cinnamon and nutmeg must come from faraway lands. Luckily, a little goes a long way. This year I have more store-bought spice combinations on the shelf, however, because my peppers just didn’t do well at all. Spices are often used as stocking stuffers in my family, which is how I wound up with cardamom and saffron – neither of which I’m likely to use any time soon.
    Now that things are neatened up in here, I guess it’s time to tackle the freezers and canned goods (sigh). Like a lot of things around here, pantry management is pretty much of a never-ending story…

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