A well-stocked pantry allows for a number of events, including:
- The ability to make meals for unexpected guests.
- Feeding those in need from your stocks. (Like when your college student needs food after she has given all her money to the landlord.)
- Having enough food choices on hand to make decent meals during a power outage. No power in the winter usually means no cooking.
- Being able to eat from your stocks when you are out of work due to an injury.
- Having enough food on hand for at least a few months in case of layoffs at your workplace.
How much food you store is dependent on factors such as what you think your needs may be, as well as the space you have available for storage. Here are some questions to ask yourself.
- Does your company lay people off every winter? For how long?
- Do you end up losing your power for long stretches of time, or does it last less than a day most of the time?
- How many people do you want to be able to feed? For instance, do you like helping your children out once in a while, or do you want enough on hand to help your neighbors if they get into a bind?
- Where will you store the food that you want to stock? And how?
- Will you be storing home canned goods?
- Will you freeze foods? What is your back up plan for if the power goes out for an extended period?
- Will you dry foods for storing?
In order to stock what you need, you have to first figure out what you will use.
- Make a list of the foods you want to store. No matter who you may be thinking of helping from your stored food, you only want to stock the you will use. Never mind what your children or anyone else like.
- Do any of the foods you want to store have special storage needs? Which ones? And what are the specific needs? Can you accomplish it? If not, cross those foods off your list. If the answer is yes, plan how you will accommodate those needs.
- Where will you store the foods? Answering this now will help you with figuring out how much you can store. Will it be in one specific place, or many? Do you have an actual pantry? If not, do you have an extra room? How about a closet? Extra cupboards?
- Now decide how much of each food you can stock. If you have enough space to stock for a year, that is great. If not, perhaps you’ll be able to stock for a few months. How much you can stock is dependent on how much space you have. Remember: You are only stocking for yourself now. Only record how much you will eat within your chosen timeline. Other considerations will come later.
- If possible, average how often you have company for a meal and add these amounts to your list.
- If you have an extra shelf or cupboard (or 2) available after you have decided where all your stuff will be stored, then it is time to decide what you’ll stock for others. Make a separate list of items you want, which may be different from your own list. Choose items that are affordable. Remember, you’re not looking to completely support anyone else on your stores of food, just to help them out a bit in a pinch. If need be, you can invite people to dinner once in a while. But the point in creating your pantry is to stock food for yourself, and to save money by doing so. You want to help others, but not let anyone take advantage.
- Keep your lists and a pen in an envelope, and take them with you when you shop. Try to add to the pantry a little each week, and eventually it will be fully stocked.
- Clip coupons for items you know you will use, to save money.
- To save even more, couple those coupons with sales.
Tips for using your new pantry:
- Eat from the pantry.
- Always place items with later expiration dates in the back, and the items expiring first toward the front.
- Keep the pantry clean.
- Place bay leaves on the shelves to prevent bugs.
- Keep the shelves and cupboards organized so you can easily find what you are looking for.
Are you working on a pantry? How are you going about doing so? What are you stocking? Are you preserving food yourself by freezing, canning or another method? Let us know about your experiences in the comments, or email me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org.