A Pantry is a Wonderful thing

November 3, 2008 at 10:23 am Leave a comment

When we first looked at this house, I was thrilled with the 2 acre yard, the old red barn in back and the big old trees shading the house. When I saw the big kitchen, I was ecstatic. But when I saw the pantry … I was sold. At some point the pantry had been a full bathroom. Tub, sink, the whole nine yards and a spacious bathroom at that. Due to pipes that often froze, the former owners took out the bathroom and replaced it with a *huge* pantry.

I’d grown up with a good pantry. My parents grew most of the food we ate. We raised our own beef and on a couple of occasions (still seared into my brain) chickens. My mom always had a huge garden and put up corn, beans, tomatoes, strawberries. We even raised our own popcorn! We had apple and pear trees, a grape arbor and persimmon trees. There wasn’t much we had to buy at the store. So I’d always wanted a nice-sized pantry.

Having a nicely stocked pantry can save you both time and money. It lets you keep ingredients on hand so that you don’t need to make an expensive run to the grocery store at the last minute. It gives you flexibility in your meal planning. I have several meals that I can make strictly from pantry ingredients. I keep those ingredients on hand all the time. If unexpected guests show up or we end up at home for a meal I’d planned to be somewhere else, I can pull together a healthy meal quickly and inexpensively. Rachael Ray’s Smoky Black Bean and Rice Stoup is a great pantry meal. Jambalaya Pasta is another family favorite that I can usually throw together on a moment’s notice.

Having a pantry also allows you to take advantage of great sales when you find them. When I find a good price on certain items, I always buy as many as I can. I stock up on things like fire-roasted diced tomatoes or chicken stock that I know I’ll be using week after week. Pasta often goes on sale. I enjoy using unusual pasta shapes instead of the regular spaghetti or elbow macaroni. When I find something unuasual, I always pick it up. Using mafaldo or buccatini can make that ordinary pasta dish seem extra special without spending extra money.

My pantry also allows me the space to keep unusual ingredients to help make our meals more special. A couple times a year we find ourselves making the two-hour tip to a town that has a Trader Joe’s. I love TJ’s. There are so many exotic items that we never find out here in the rural Midwest. I have a shelf full of things like vindaloo paste and mango chutney. (To die for with some Fried Green Tomatoes with an Indian Twist!) I have soba noodles and lemon curd. Thai, Mexican, Cajun, Italian. My pantry is a lot of things but it certainly isn’t boring!

I take advantage of sales and try to keep my pantry well-stocked at all times. My pantry is full of onions (red and yellow), garlic, potatoes (sweet, gold and russet). Salsas, chutneys and salad dressings. Herbs, spices or flavorings. Vinegars, wines, honeys.  Canned tomatoes: stewed, diced, fire-roasted, crushed. You name it. I have it. If I watch a show on Food Network and want to recreate the recipe, odds are I have most of the ingredients or at least a close substitute. All without running to the store. And most are purchased inexpensively. Places like Aldi’s, Big Lots or dollar stores can be invaluable sources for unusual and inexpensive ingredients. You can often find small bottles of herbs and spices for under a dollar. Balsamic Vinegar or olive oil can also be found inexpensively. Also check sale tables and “Manager’s Specials” at your local grocery stores. I’ve found many great things marked down half or more simple becaus ethese extras didn’t fit on the newly re-arranged shelves or because the store was no longer buying for that particular vendor.

A well-stocked pantry not only saves you time, it can also save you money!

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Entry filed under: Pantry, Random Musings. Tags: .

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About Me

I'm a stay-at-home mom with four great kids, three cats and two dogs. I want to live the good life but I want to save money too and I'm not willing to live on boxes of mac 'n cheese and hamburger helper to do it! I deserve to have a life ... a good life!

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