Tuesday, March 29, 2011

An All-Natural Pantry

Given our latest push to eat sustainably and healthfully, combined with my ongoing campaign to have a pantry my grandmother would be proud of, I've been mulling over the practicalities of having an all-natural pantry as of late.  When Shirley over at Choosing Voluntary Simplicity wrote her post today on what's in her pantry, I knew that it was time to start putting thoughts into words so that they'll (hopefully) turn into actions.

I cleaned our pantry out this past weekend.  We had a bag of potatoes explode all over the bottom shelf of the pantry as well as a plastic bin that holds blankets.  It's just as well, because the bin was taking up so much room that I never used the pantry anymore.  I'd send *B* down because I couldn't stretch over the bin to reach the food.  I'm ashamed to say that I had to throw out a fair amount of food because it was expired.  A few more items moved upstairs to be eaten this week, much to the delight of my co-workers who ate up my double chocolate devil's food cake muffins.  A few more items had a couple of months left on them, but we no longer eat that type of food, so they are to be donated.

When I first started loading up our pantry, I filled it with things we ate often:  spaghetti, hamburger helper, commercially canned fruit and vegetables, baking mixes, and sauces out of bottles.  As I was cleaning, I realized that we hadn't wanted or needed any of these things in the couple of months that I overlooked the pantry.  Our eating habits now have us choosing sprouted english muffins, whole grain rice, and an abundance of fresh veggies.  This is where I started to rethink our storage habits.

As my garden starts to unfold, I find myself planting many more vegetables that are able to be frozen or canned.  I have (some) time in the summer, and I plan on putting that time to good use, stocking up for the later months.  For the vegetables that refuse to grow, I will buy extras at the farmer's market.  Even if it doesn't come from my backyard, I can still get it from my area.

I'm going to get air tight containers that can hold our chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, and all of the other grains and legumes that we run across.  Right now our grains are in strange plastic bags, twist-tied, and often unmarked.  I keep meaning to try quinoa and couscous.  I know I've had one of them, but due to the labeling issue, I don't know which one.

I'm going to create my own dehydrated soups so that *B* can have (fairly) quick lunches that are nutritious and homemade (I'm not really a soup girl).  We were given some of the packaged versions for Christmas, and he seemed to scarf them up.  How hard could it be to make my own?

I will reevaluate my potato storage so that they a) don't turn to mush and b) don't sprout.  All the potatoes in the basement rotted, and all of the potatoes in the kitchen sprouted and turned green.

Considering I'm down to about 15 pounds of flour, I'm going to seriously look into buying it in bulk from our organic market.  I keep saying I will, but I actually will this time.

Finally, I'm going to stop thinking of our freezer as unreliable storage and start using it to its fullest (both capacity and potential).  Yes, the power could go out and we could lose our food storage.  But that's better than not using the space at all.  I am much more interested in eating frozen snap peas than canned green peas any day.  If it helps us to eat our vegetables and to save on food costs, I'm all for it.

What's in your pantry?

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