My Grandmother was a preparer and had it down to a skillful science. She always had extra items on hand to share with loved ones or those in need. We never left her home without a bag of groceries or extra helpings from our dinners together. As the years pass by, I'm appreciating Grandmother's knack for planning ahead more and more.
Recently terms like preparedness and stockpiling have been bandied about. I think when most people hear the term stockpiling they either think of some seclusionist in the hills getting ready for the end of the world or the extreme couponing show where "savvy" shoppers proudly show off their tons of toiletries, noodles and canned goods.
I was introduced to the stockpiling concept over 20 years ago by my best friend in high school. Self reliance was very important to her family and so they maintained a year's worth of food to assure their viability during troubled times. I thought it a little strange that the guest room had been converted into a pantry, but I now grasp the enormous benefits of such an undertaking. We may not have a stockpile room dedicated to a year's worth of food, but we're working our way there (:
With the changing economy and a focus on self-sufficiency, the drive to create a long term source of staples is ever-present. Homesteading is all about self-sufficiency and our goal is to have a spot of land with fruit and nut trees, gardens, chickens and goats, but our current location is a temporary one. We aren't sure how long we'll be here, therefore growing our own food has been put on hold. So what does a homesteader at heart to do when she's stuck in the city without a garden? She grows a healthy pantry (:
I wrote a recent post about giving our budget a makeover by using coupons. Today I'd like to show you how to makeover your pantry by including healthy basics that can be used to create an abundance of nutritious meals. If it's processed, it doesn't make the cut. I find that a product with an ingredient list of words I can't pronounce, much less spell, has no business being in the ol' tummy (:
Focus on whole foods, buy organic when possible (if you don't have a garden or go to the farmer's market), go crazy with a dehydrator and learn the art of canning/fermenting foods. If canning and dehydrating aren't in the cards for you, that's okay...there are lots of great options on the grocery store shelves for those who don't.
We stick with whole grains, gluten-free flours and meals, keep refined sugars out and make all of our dressings and sauces. Below is a list of our pantry staples and ones we enjoy on a regular basis...
Grains - brown rice, millet, quinoa (millet and quinoa are actually seeds not grains, but we use them in place of other grains)
Ground Meals & Flours - cornmeal, flaxseed meal, coconut flour, almond flour
Baking Goods - baking soda, cornstarch, arrowroot, cream of tartar, cocoa powder
Oils, Vinegars & Condiments - extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, fermented ketchup, spicy mustard, raw apple cider vinegar, white vinegar, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar
Root Veggies - Red potatoes, gold/white potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, shallots, garlic, ginger (we always peel and freeze our garlic and ginger for extra long storage life)
Dried Fruit - goji berries, elderberries, prunes, dates, figs, raisins, blueberries, cranberries, banana chips, apples, apricots, cherries, sun dried tomatoes
Nuts & Seeds - almonds, walnuts, pecans, flaxseeds, millet, quinoa, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), pine nuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds
Canned Goods - crushed and diced tomatoes, tomato paste, canned pumpkin, beef and chicken broth (we make our own and store it in the freezer, but there are some great organic boxed options), coconut milk (we prefer to make our own, but the canned milk makes great whipped topping in a pinch), almond butter, beans (canned or dried), black and green olives, sauerkraut, pickles, pepperoncinis, roasted red peppers, tuna, wild salmon.
**We're learning so much about the importance of relying on fermented foods instead of traditional canned goods, but still have a bit more studying in this area...we'll talk more about that in another post**
Natural Sweeteners - raw honey, pure maple syrup, rapadura/sucanat, stevia
Teas - black, green, red, hibiscus, mint
Misc - popcorn, raw cacao nibs, coconut flakes, jerky, vanilla, vanilla beans, brown rice pasta, Nori seaweed sheets
Herbs and Spices - allspice (whole and ground), bay leaves, basil, caraway seeds, cayenne pepper, celtic sea salt/kosher salt, cinnamon sticks, chili powder, chipotle, cilantro, cloves, coriander, crushed red pepper, cumin, dill, dry mustard, dried shallots, fennel seeds, garlic powder, marjoram, nutmeg, onion powder, oregano, paprika, pepper, peppermint, poppyseeds, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme, turmeric
If you'd like to overhaul your pantry with a makeover, start small. You may currently have a lot of junk on your shelves, but don't feel like everything needs to be thrown out at once. Use what you have, replace it with a healthy option and then stock up when the sales are rock bottom. Before you know it you're pantry will become a healthy stockpile that will feed your family for months to come. Still need more help? "Urban Pantry - Tips and Recipes for a Thrifty, Sustainable and Seasonal Kitchen" by Amy Pennington is a great place to start.