How To Build A Pantry

It’s a little harder to get to the grocery store these days, let alone finding everything you might have on your list. In another recent post, I shared what I thought were some good habits or practices to consider starting, and most of them were geared toward providing as much of your own food as possible.

I got a few questions on how to *START* a pantry, and I thought I’d do my best to address that here.

Before I begin, though, a reminder: this is my personal blog where I share my personal opinions and personal experiences. I am not prescribing specific advice. You have the freedom to adjust these recommendations to fit your own personal preferences or to avoid them altogether. Thank you and amen.

Pantry Basics

Think of the basics you’ll need to have on hand in order to MAKE the basics. Given the current global situation, no doubt you’ve noticed bread isn’t the easiest food staple to come by. You might have to make your own! Also, it’s not a bad idea. The more you can make yourself, and the less processed pre-prepared foods you consume, the more favors you’re doing for your body and health in general.

I’m going to share a list of ideas with you. I don’t have everything on this list in my pantry, but I don’t want to overlook something important for someone just because it’s not something we use or have.

One thing to keep in mind is foods like dry beans, rice, even popcorn, you’re able to buy in bulk amounts and they increase in quantity as you use them. (1 cup of dry rice makes 2 – 3 cups of cooked rice, 1/2 cup dry beans makes 2 cups cooked beans, etc.)

So basic, shelf-stable staples to keep on hand:

  • Flour
  • Dry active yeast
  • Sugar
  • Other sweeteners (honey, syrup, molasses)
  • Savory Spices (salt, pepper, parsley, bay leaves, basil, rosemary, garlic powder, onion powder, etc.)
  • Sweet Spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, vanilla, cloves, etc.)
  • Baking powder & baking soda
  • Cocoa powder
  • Cornmeal
  • Oats
  • Rice
  • Dry beans/Lentils
  • Popcorn kernels
  • Almonds/Cashews/Peanuts/Walnuts/Pecans
  • Pasta/Noodles
  • Vinegar (distilled white AND apple cider)
  • Peanut Butter
  • Coffee/Tea
  • Canned and condiment goods like olives, tuna, salmon, ketchup, mustard, etc.

Not as shelf-stable, but just as important (you can freeze to lengthen the life of some of these)

  • Fats (Olive oil, coconut oil, BUTTER!!, ghee, lard, etc.)
  • Chocolate (chips, baking squares, emergency stress stash)
  • Evaporated milk (or powdered milk)
  • Condensed milk
  • Eggs (you can scramble and freeze eggs to use in baking recipes or even things like quiches, etc.)
  • Raisins/craisins or other dried fruits

To free up room in your freezer (or to have food stay safe to eat in the event of a power outage and not being able to stay frozen), canning food and making your own items is a great way to amp up your self-sustainability pantry game.

Don’t be afraid to can meat (stew pieces and ground meat are especially handy to have in the cupboard, or even things like chicken legs/thighs/breasts – though admittedly, I have not canned any chicken meat in our household as of yet.) and find comfort in the fact that it’s the most convenient thing in the world to already have meat ready to use or add in any meal!

Things you can make yourself instead of buy:

  • Bread (loaf bread, cornbread, quick breads, etc.)
  • Tortillas (homemade taste WAY better than storebought)
  • …basically any baked good!
  • Tomato sauce
  • Soup (also, making your own bone broth is simple, nutritious, and cost-effective!)
  • Stew
  • Chili
  • Pickles
  • Salsa
  • Applesauce
  • Jelly/Jam
  • Pesto
  • Pancake/waffle mix

Things you can grow and can, freeze, dehydrate or root-cellar-store:

  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Corn
  • Raspberries
  • Blackberries
  • Cherries
  • Apples
  • Peaches/Pears/Plums/Apricots, etc.
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Zucchini
  • Pumpkins
  • Butternut (or any winter) squash

One thing I feel imperative to share here from our own experience. Last fall when we started our pantry challenge, I was making all of the baked/bread consumables, and being conservative about it. We went through 25 pounds of flour in seven weeks. I want to make sure you understand that. TWENTY-FIVE POUNDS in less than two months.

When I make a recommendation to keep flour in your pantry, I’m not talking about one five-pound bag. Pioneers had 50-gallon drums full of flour (and cornmeal and sugar and…) Understand when you’re making more of your own food, you’re going to need more of the basics up front.

It’s also important to understand the concept of and maintain the use of a “living” pantry. You’re going to be using these ingredients anyway, so store them on a rotating basis (oldest up front to use first, newest in back). Don’t buy or store ingredients just to say you have them. Use them.

If you never eat oatmeal or any kind of cookie or dessert using oats, don’t buy or store oats. Inversely, if you use a lot of oats, then be sure to purchase and restock them as often as you’re able to. Be sensible and reasonable and realistic.

One of my biggest pieces of advice in building and maintaining a pantry is don’t wait until you’re out of something to replenish it. If you can help it, make sure you have the “next” use of something in your pantry. Your shopping habits should reflect your storage habits. If you’re building a living pantry, shop like you’re thinking ahead. If you’re going week to week or even meal to meal, this will be a hard transition for you to make. Think about shopping in your cupboards or freezer more often than you have to shop in the store.

You’ll notice I don’t list things like Doritos or Oreos to keep your pantry stocked with. While treats are fine (and even necessary at times) it’s best to make your own and have a say in the ingredients (and cost). Processed foods are not pantry staples. There. I said it.

Use this as an opportunity to explore foods you can make yourself, efficiently utilize storage space in your kitchen, and reprioritize what are really essentials.

Then let me know how it works for you!

Bulk buying resource: Azure Standard

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