Stocking the Pantry for Three Months of Meals

Learn about stocking the pantry for three months of meals, includes information on storing the basics, meal plans, storing the right amount for meals, labeling foods and saving money.


| August/September 1997



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A simple way to figure a use cycle of non-food items is to date the package when opened, and note the date when used up.


ILLUSTRATION: KENNETH LIN

Save money by stocking your pantry for three months of meals with Jay P. Curry's sensible stocking and storing plan. 

This is the age of supermarkets, 24-hour convenience stores, and 30-second solutions for just about every problem. What a contrast to the days, really not so long ago, when pioneers settled into homesteads a day's travel (or more) by horse from the nearest trading posts. A well-stocked pantry was a matter of survival then. Of course, the pantry's heritage goes back even further to the days before stores. as we know them even existed. The Egyptians, for instance, were masters at stocking a pantry with enough preserved food from the summer months to get them through the winter months. It might not be a bad piece of advice to emulate the lifestyles of the longest-lived empire in history.

The pantry is one of a few ideas we need to borrow from the past. No matter what you call it—pantry, Spence, storeroom, stillroom, larder, or as I knew it as a child, winter storage—stocking the pantry with food is a concept whose time has come again for my family. As a contractor, my income is neither steady nor predictable. Some months are fat, some lean. With our pantry we always know we can eat, and we have been able to cut out the quick (but economically deadly) trips to the convenience store. We save the cost of fuel and wear and tear on the car as well. Our pantry provides for our daily needs, and it is also a storage system capable of sustaining us for an extended period of time. Recently, for 11 months we lived using our pantry food storage system without outside assistance or supplies. During this period we found some minor miscalculations, none serious. In many ways as a family, we had a ball. We all worked and pulled together to meet our needs.

You may have your own reasons for stocking a pantry. Perhaps you choose to live in a remote area and you can't be running off to the store everyday, or even every week. Perhaps you just want to savor the flavors of your garden and have the liberty to prepare or purchase items as season, financial ability, or time allows. Whatever your reasons for starting your own storage system, here is a route to help you reach the goal of self-sufficiency. As you start the planning process, pretend you are living in a frontier or pioneer setting. How do you provide for your family's needs? You must get back to the basics of food storage, while gratefully accepting some help from today's technology.

First, you decide where your storage system stands now, if you have one. How long will your currently stored resources provide for your family's needs? What period of time do you what to prepare for? One month, three months, or one year? The Chinese have a saying: "A journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step." Where, how far, and how fast you journey is up to you. For the purposes of our discussion, our goal will be to prepare for three months. Three months is 13 weeks. You can make it shorter or longer; the method discussed here will still apply.

Hoarding vs. Storing

Obviously, your first question should be: How much and what should I store? I'd be happy to tell you what to store, but you may not like what I eat. In my family, at least four out of the five would rather starve than eat sauerkraut. A diet of hot dogs with pork and beans, or macaroni and cheese with peas and tuna in it may not appeal to you. This is a journey of self discovery. The good news is, you can and should tailor your plan to fit your specific needs and tastes. To determine what items or food dishes to include in your plan, write down your food favorites on three-by-five cards. Separate out main courses, vegetables, breads, desserts, and snacks, etc. Remember the K.I.S.S. theory (keep it simply scrumptious). Start with simple meals and build up from there. With your family, use the cards to make up seven breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus. That's 21 meals and snacks. Now repeat this process at least three more times. (You can repeat favorite menus as often as you like.) You should now have written menus for 28 days or four weeks or more. Don't forget beverages and condiments such as pickles, relish, and mustard. In my oldest son James's case it is barbecue sauce; he uses it on . . . everything.





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