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What Should You Have in Your Food Pantry?

Updated on September 23, 2017
Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle spends as much time in the kitchen as she does at a keyboard. It's no surprise that cooking and food are favorite article subjects.

Keeping a "store" of groceries in your home pantry is a good idea, even even if you live alone. If there are several people in your household, the importance of stocking-up multiplies.

Storing a stash of food saves time, money and often stress, especially in difficult times. Don't be caught short like Old Mother Hubbard.

Stocking your shelves with "CARE".

C = Convenience: Fewer trips to the market, saves time and money.

A = Assurance: Your pantry stash makes it easier to deal with power outages, bad weather, transportation disruptions, financial setback, disaster survival. You'll feel better by being prepared.

R = Readiness: Unexpected guests and impromptu celebrations won't cause dismay when you have a few treats ready for snacks and desserts, or even ingredients for a hearty main dish.

E = Economy: Take advantage of bargains or bulk buying. Making fewer trips to the store cuts back on impulse buys of expensive and unneeded items by having necessities (and maybe a few treats) on hand.

Fewer trips to the store means fuel savings, as well.

You might not be able to do it all at once. Start by buying a few extra things each week.

Pioneer Style

A rolling pantry.
A rolling pantry. | Source

Rule One: Store foods you like, and use the foods you store.

If you stock up on canned foods that you don't care for, or don't eat regularly, they may never be used. It can be disheartening to find bulging cans, or ones that have a long-expired "use by" date on items stashed in the back areas of your shelves.

You should keep a continual rotation going. If you are storing foods you like and eat regularly, this is no problem. However, if your are storing "just because you might use it as a last resort" it will likely be wasted.

In an emergency situation, eating foods that nobody really likes is not a morale booster. You want to stock up on your family favorites.

Also keep in mind that in an emergency situation you may have power outages. Ready to eat or quick cooking foods are especially useful at these times,

Rule Two: Check Expiration Dates

Most expiration dates are conservative-- nevertheless, you want to store the freshest possible food.

Canned goods are usually safe far beyond their "expiration", even though quality and color may deteriorate a bit.

Check cans and packages for damage before storing. If your supplies aren't marked with expiry dates, mark your purchase date on them with a bold tip marker.

Rule Three: Stock UP

When you come across a good discount on things you regularly use. . . go for it! This includes good sales on paper goods, cleaning supplies and other things that are not going to expire.

Buy a year's worth if you have room, checking the expiry date on food. If you can afford to buy now, think of it as an investment. If it is something you are going to buy eventually, do it now. It will likely cost more next year.

It is easy to find pantry lists and suggestions for specific items you should store, but you will find that all such lists include things that you, personally, would never use and also exclude some of your "must have" items. Customize your list to fit your tastes and needs. It has to be personally needed or usable to be a bargain.

One example of keeping a working pantry in the early days of the United States, developed during the westward movement.

If you were planning a six month wagon trip across the plains starting from Saint Louis, Missouri, you likely supplied yourself with certain items. Food for the trip had to be compact, filling and satisfying yet lightweight, and nonperishable.

Organize It!

This is a typical list of pioneer staples:

Flour, cornmeal, oatmeal, rice, dried beans, split peas, lard, cured bacon, ham or salt pork, jerky, canned sardines and salmon, preserves, jam, pickles, molasses, honey, sugar, spices, herbs, pepper, salt, vinegar, coffee, tea, dried bread, crackers, hops (for making yeast), dried fruits (apples, peaches, raisins, currants, etc.) and dried vegetables (onion, celery, peppers. carrots), hard cheese, fresh potatoes, onions, garlic, other root vegetables, hardtack biscuits, baking soda or yeast. Sometimes, pioneers brought along a milk cow and a few chickens.

With the all the modern choices we have, we might not think this list sounds like gourmet or even normal everyday cuisine, but we would still hate to be without most of these basics in hard times.

Instead of lard, we would substitute vegetable oils or shortening. Oils can go bad after a time , but you will still want to have some stored (even "stale" oil can still be used for lamp oil). You may not normally use canned shortening, but as a last resort, it has a very long shelf-life.

Our choices of canned vegetables, fruits and meats is much wider than it was for the pioneers, and the hardtack would be replaced with a selection of crackers or crisp-bread. Milk, cream and eggs can now be bought in dry powdered form.

Non Foods

Storable food is important-- but other items could become scarce in times of stress. Things disappear quickly in an emergency, and there are many items that can be useful for barter.

In addition to your edibles, store other things you can always use. Again, look for sales and bargains.

Some of these items are: candles, cooking oil, charcoal, matches, aluminum foil, batteries, garbage bags, toilet paper, clothes pins, first aid supplies, duct tape, sewing supplies, vitamins, aspirin, antacids, chlorine bleach, laundry detergent, insect repellent, baby wipes, anti-bacterial gel, personal hygiene items.

We get used to having everyday supplies available to buy, but having them at home, ready for use can be very helpful. What's in your pantry?

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    • Rochelle Frank profile image
      Author

      Rochelle Frank 9 years ago from California Gold Country

      Good idea. Even if you are close to stores-- Maybe you are not feeling well-- or you are caring for someone you don't want to leave alone. Having few extras on hand is very convenient.

    • MM Del Rosario profile image

      MM Del Rosario 9 years ago from NSW, Australia

      i live near the shops, but I still like to store grocery items in my pantry just in case....

    • Rochelle Frank profile image
      Author

      Rochelle Frank 9 years ago from California Gold Country

      Moonlake, yes jars are a good idea for dry products. I have some half-gallon mason jars in their original crate, with rice, oatmeal, pasta, beans, etc. on the floor of my pantry for long term storage. Marking the contents (if not obvious) and the date is good too.

      Thanks for the comments, all.

    • DonnaCSmith profile image

      Donna Campbell Smith 9 years ago from Central North Carolina

      Good reminder. hurricane season is almost here!

    • In The Doghouse profile image

      In The Doghouse 9 years ago from California

      Rochelle,

      I am a firm believer in storing food as emergency preparedness. I love your CARE analogy. Thanks for your insights.

    • Uninvited Writer profile image

      Susan Keeping 9 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

      I wish I had a pantry :) Very good hub.

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 9 years ago from America

      I love pantries. I have had two houses now with a pantry. I like to keep them full. Another good hint for a pantry is to put everything in glass jars, sugar, flour etc. Keeps the bugs out and keeps longer. Be sure to mark what each jar contains. I forgot to do that on a couple. Made dumplings yesterday and not sure what they were made from but I think it was either wheat flour or bread machine flour.