Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Reevaluating Our Pantry Goods

When I originally started stocking our pantry, I looked more toward shelf life and easy meals than to wholesomeness.  I did think about nutrition with respect to not getting scurvy (ha ha) and having veggies with meals but that was about it.  A few of the gems I kept stocked regularly:
Hamburger helper
Chicken helper
Tuna helper (see a pattern?)
Boxed macaroni and cheese
Chocolate bars (for sugar indulgences, not baking)
Pudding mixes
Sauces of all kinds (sweet and sour, curry, etc)
Soda (I had soda, but not water.  Can you believe that?)

I was amazed and disturbed to read the ingredients on some of those things.  Preservatives out the ears.  So when *B* and I rid the house of processed food, the pantry was severely cut down.  We were left with canned fruits and veggies, bulk flour, sugar, and rice, a little pasta, and a few cans of tuna.

So we started trying to make more meals with dried ingredients.

Beans and Legumes
I cooked 7 cups of dried black beans to make as many meals with black beans as possible.  In our freezer, we have a ton of vegetarian black bean soup a la Panera, pork and black bean soup (which just used up all of our wilting produce), beef and bean taco filling, and some black bean burgers.  We also tend to eat corn and black bean salad, which is essentially a Chipotle bowl with no meat.  So dried black beans are going in our new pantry.
Pork and black bean soup

We really like hummus, but I have a hard time making enough to justify buying tahini.  I found this recipe that uses sesame oil instead, which works perfectly for us and tastes really good.  Dried chickpeas are now in our pantry.

I've always kept kidney beans around because we use them in chili.  I'm making it a goal this month to find more recipes that call for kidney beans.

Another bean that we're starting to cook with is navy beans.  I've never cooked with them before in my life.  I've never seen my family cook with them either.  I had bought them to make baked beans from scratch.  I found the recipe in a fabulous book that *B* bought for me from the library called The Food Journal of Lewis and Clark: Recipes for an Expedition.  But we had a ham bone from Easter that was taking up a ton of space in our freezer, so I ended up using them to make ham and bean soup instead.

Ham and bean soup
Cooking rice is down to a science here at our house.  I make up huge batches and we freeze it in smaller portions.  Even so, I'm still got about 2.5 gallons of rice in the pantry already.

We've cooked barley before, but we haven't quite gotten it incorporated into our weekly meals.  Miss F was the only one eating it for a little while.  Using barley more will be another goal of mine.

We already use a ton of oatmeal.  Miss F and I have oatmeal just about every single morning.  Aside from straight up, we use it in pancakes, cookies, and in apple crisp.  I'm sure I could find a million uses for oatmeal.

Fruits and Vegetables
Non-canned fruits and veggies aren't something I've stocked before.  Our basement stays roughly 55 degrees year round if we don't heat it.  As we grow butternut squash, pumpkins, and potatoes this year, we're going to try to store them in the pantry.

I saw a really cool method of storing onions the other day:  knotting them in pantyhose.  I can't wait to try this one.

Baking Goods
I found out that the whole wheat flour I was using for everything (including bread) was pastry flour rather than all purpose or bread flour.  We finally got some bread flour and it changed the way I see our homemade bread.  So we got a 50 pound bag split between two gamma buckets.

I do have a few sugar products still - brown sugar, a little natural sugar left over from our last bulk bag, and powdered sugar.  We only use these for foods for family, like Easter and birthdays.

We use a lot of maple syrup and honey now, so I'm storing a moderate amount of each right now.  If and when I see maple syrup go on sale at Costco, I will stock up.  We get our honey locally, so we only get as much as we can afford at any given time.

Cleaning Products
This one's super easy.  We're down to only using a few simple things in our cleaning routine:  baking soda, white vinegar, washing soda, and borax.  I picked up four 13.5 pound bags of baking soda and four 5 liter bottles of white vinegar.  They'll last me for years, and they're super cheap.

What kinds of whole foods do you keep in your pantry?

1 comment:

  1. I keep lots of beans too. I love lentils in particular because they cook up in under 30 minutes, and they're an easy substitute for ground beef.

    If you were my neighbor I would give you a bucket of black beans. I way overbought a few years ago and it will take us years to get through them all!

    We have tons of wheat because I use it to make our bread.

    We keep canned veggies, tuna, soy sauce, salsa, sugar, molasses, chocolate chips, baking cocoa, brown and white rice, rolled oats, yeast, oh, lots of things.

    I actually go through about a gallon of vinegar per month! I do cook with it, but most of it goes into the dishwasher (rinse aid) and washing machine (fabric softener), as well as cleaning products that I make myself.