The concept of a pantry is more than storage. Your pantry should be a place where you have a good supply of basic ingredients and a few less expensive convenience foods. If a preparedness pantry is your objective, begin by deciding how many weeks you would like to have food for, then begin picking up a variety of sale items. This is where a wise shopper can set out to carefully pick out items for her pantry with little expense.
What are the benefits of a pantry?
We live in an era of the corner grocery store, so many women feel there is no longer a necessity to have a well-stocked food pantry. Not so many years ago, food was stored for an entire year. Whatever food a family stored from the harvest would have to last them until the next harvest. Just as the ant stored up his food in Proverbs 6:6, we should also store up in “times of plenty.” My hope is that you will change your mind in this area, because a wise woman “looks well to the ways of her household...” (Prov 31:27a).
There are five reasons why having a pantry makes sense.
1. Time Savings - With some preplanning, you can save extra trips to the store. For those of you who live out in the boondocks, you’ll appreciate this point. Having our pantry has kept me from making a 30-minute round trip to the store at inconvenient times.
2. Money Savings - Take advantage of the sales, and place that extra food away for another time.
3. Always Ready for the Unexpected Guest - Do you have the ingredients for a meal on short notice? You will never have to apologize that you have to go to the store or that there is nothing to eat.
4. Preparing for Adversity - We have had to use our preparedness food several times. For instance, when an unexpected bill would come up and we were unable to make another trip to the grocery store until payday. Another time we use it is at Christmastime. Last minute expenses have sent me into our pantry, and I’ve felt blessed to have it.
Where do I put all this stuff?
Storage space for everyone always seems to be at a minimum, but there are a number of places you can begin to store food for your pantry. If your kitchen can’t handle any more storage or a cabinet to set them in, consider a linen or coat closet, your basement, or indoor storage area. Some people store their food in a box under their bed. Others will install shelves along a wall entering their basement. Our pantry is in our downstairs storage closet on a set of shelves. Remember, not all of this food needs to be readily available, so you can base it’s location on how often you will need to access it.
When you begin to fill your pantry, you can use some of the convenience shelves and lazy susans, for better use of your space. Organize the shelves so that you can find things when you need them...such as: keeping the bottled juices together, canned veggies, canned fruit, paper towels, and so on.
If you decide to keep food items for long-term storage, you must still use your food. All of these items have a shelf life, so you’ll need to keep an eye on the dates and purchase more as you use them.
As you add to your pantry, make sure you have the ingredients for a full meal. If you have several odd items that you aren’t so sure about, find recipes that you can make with that particular item, and be certain you have all the ingredients.
Be sure that you have the ability to cook the foods you have, in the event of a power outage. Are you cooking on a camp stove or your grill? Tailor some of your meals around the method of cooking you plan to use. If you do plan to use your outdoor grill, make sure you have plenty of aluminum foil stocked up. I have read where many people prepare meals in aluminum packets.
Lastly, have a substitution chart available so that you can improvise for any missing ingredients; these are always a handy tool.
What about moisture?
Moisture will reduce the shelf life of your food. If humidity and moisture is a factor, there are moisture absorber products you can use that will help eliminate the dampness in your pantry area. That is, if the space isn’t too big. If this is ineffective, then you may have to place the perishables in plastic food bags or plastic storage containers. Don’t use garbage bags, because some are treated with insecticides. Keep everything as dry as possible, because the critters may move in and take over.
Enjoy your peace of mind and a practical insurance policy. I have had a pantry for about a year, and I wish now that I had been doing it all along. I have been trying to build our pantry up, and always end up being blessed by it time after time.
God is preparing us, as Christian women, for the time to come. This is a skill our mothers and grandmothers used that has been lost. My father uses a pantry, and my mother-in-law still has a fairly well stocked freezer and canned goods pantry. Storing up is not fear, or depression era mentality. It is a biblical principle that previous generations learned that our corner store generation finds no need for.
First published in the Kindred Spirits Journal by Donna Martin.
Issue #13, Sept. 2005