A well-stocked pantry is the backbone of any frugal and organized family cook. Frugal family cooks shop to stock the pantry, and then shop the pantry to feed their families nutrient-dense wholesome meals. I’ll admit when we ate a more standard American diet with the help of coupons, I found stocking the pantry pretty easy. Moving into a real food lifestyle has been a bit daunting when it comes to stocking the pantry. I still struggle a bit with storing fermented foods in particular.
By definition real food is fresh food. It spoils. It took me a good year to get a handle on exactly what we wanted to store in our real food pantry. ~Millie Copper
This week, I’m focusing on food storage and emergency preparation on this blog, A Life in Balance, and my 2 Facebook pages. One of the issues for anyone getting ready for the unexpected is figuring out what types of food to store and how much. Having a diet focused on real food which spoils like Millie Copper says may make food storage seem more complicated than relying on processed foods. It doesn’t have to be.
When Millie Copper, author of Stock the Real Food Pantry, first started setting aside food for her family, she and her husband were both concerned about spending their limited funds on food and having the food spoil because they couldn’t use it up in time. Millie decided to focus on building up to 3 months of food which was practical for her situation given their rural home. Someone else like myself who has half a dozen grocery stores within 2 miles of her home may want to focus on a month’s worth of storage at first.
The first step with any food storage plan is to know your goal: how long do you want to live off the pantry? Then you need to decide know where you will store the foods to optimize your space and make sure the foods don’t spoil. Many foods need to be stored in a dark, dry area with temperatures between 50 and 70 degrees. While most people think of their basement as a food pantry spot, underneath a bed or in a hall closet are other places to store food. Set up a way to keep tracking of what you’re storing and how long you’ve had it to rotate food items.
While there are a number of ways to figure out what to store, Millie suggests starting with the mantra: eat what you store and store what you eat. Make up a 2 week meal plan, and write down the ingredients and the amounts used as a grocery list. Buy these, and then write up another 2 week menu plan. Spread out the purchases over a time period that works for your budget. Make sure the ingredients are entered into your inventory with a date for rotating them out of the inventory. Since you already have a meal plan for using them, you don’t need to think about how to use the items being rotated out of inventory.
One tip I picked up from Millie’s book which I never thought of: a Heat and Eat bin. This bin is packed with commercial canned food, preferably organic to avoid GMO’s and pesticides. While a Heat and Eat bin is obviously great for emergencies, it’s also useful if Mom or Dad is under the weather and need an easy quick meal. Or, if you have a neighbor with an emergency, you can help them out with your bin, and just restock it as soon as you have the funds.
Stock the Real Food Pantry makes a great resource for anyone embarking on stocking the pantry for whatever reason. This second edition has been expanded to include more options for food storage, along with the original in depth explanations of how to stock individual real food ingredients like nuts, grains, and dairy.