The Purposeful Pantry (Part 3 in the Dinner Series)

Last weekend I went to the Planktown market with my friend Emily to stock up and to get a feel for what was available.  I grew up in a house where buying in bulk was a monthly trip to Ashland for the food co-op.  I had been talking to other people in my area and tossing around the idea of getting together a group of us to do the co-op run together.  However, there is now a 10% processing fee in addition to the warehouse pricing on all items, a fee to purchase the catalog and a half hour drive.  I was beginning to see the impracticality of the decision.  So the hunt began to find an alternative.  Lucky for me, I have a like-minded friend!

Turns out, I can order most of the bulk items I use such as oats, for instance in quantities of up to 50 pounds.  The market is Amish run and has pretty much anything I will ever need.  So I set about stocking my pantry.  In order to have a fully functioning pantry I feel that there are a number of items you should have on hand at all times.  This way, no matter the mood when dinner time arises, you aren’t having to run to the store. 

My pantry consists of several Lance jars filled with:

  • flour
  • sugar
  • oats
  • rice
  • potato flakes
  • buckwheat flour
  • rye flour
  • brown sugar

Always on hand are dried pastas (I’m still working on the fresh pasta), beans, canned tomatoes and plenty of potatoes.  I keep a close eye on my baking supplies as well.  I buy yeast, baking powder and cornstarch in bulk and keep them in glass jars.  I still buy my baking chocolate in Walnut Creek, so I have to watch that because an hour drive for chocolate isn’t always possible.  And I’d hate to run out!

Finally, I always have at least one can each of red beans, black beans, garbanzo beans, tomatoes and corn.  This way, I have something to make a meal with… even if I’m buried in snow.

Grocery Day! (Part 2 of the Dinner Series)

On grocery day, I pack up my bags and egg cartons.  Depending on the weather, I lay out my route.  Right now, I call ahead and place my meat order at Mary Anne’s and pick that up first.  The meat stays cold in the car and then I’ve gone to the furthest away store.  Next up is Wayne’s.  This is designed in case we have a pre-nap meltdown and I have to stop and go home, I’ve gotten the essentials, right?  I can go to Kroger’s any time of day or night, so I’m never too worried about that store.  Today, I left my little guy at my Aunt’s and headed out.  I made it through everything except for the meat market since the roads that way weren’t too promising.  (Grocery shopping in February can be tricky.)  When I shop, I hit the produce section first.  It gets me in mood so to speak.  If Wayne’s hasn’t had what I was looking for, I’m most likely to find it at Kroger’s.   By shopping at a separate meat market, I don’t have too much in my cart and can by-pass the “butcher shop” in the back of the store.  I do always check the fish counter to see if there’s anything good, though.  

As  general rule, I avoid the middle-most aisles.  The ones that contain your rice-a-roni dinners and spam.  Now that I am out of my frozen garden produce, I am making trips to the freezer cases for green beans and peas.  I can’t go more than a day without them.  The last place I stop at in the store is the dairy case for heavy cream or sour cream if I need it.  I don’t typically buy my milk in the store since I buy Hartzler’s and I call ahead and order that from Trinity.  I recently discovered some sour cream cultures in my freezer and so my days of purchasing that may be coming to a close!  

Now here’s the hard part: check out.  I bring my own bags and am often greeted with looks of distain from the teenage baggers.   The reason why this is the most challenging part of my trip is because I have to explain how to pack a bag.  Since any explanation as to which bags are insulated has fallen on very deaf ears, I lay anything that should be kept cold out first with the insulated bags and once they are packed, I let them have the rest.  Once I came home to discover my eggs at the bottom of a bag containing dog food.  Needless to say, I lost those eggs.  Some stores will give you money off for bringing your own bags.  Target, for example, gives 5 cents a bag, I believe.  Be aware, though.  If you want your 5 cents, you may just have to ask for it.  Unless you are lucky enough to do all your shopping at a mecca like Whole Foods that is!

Once I’ve arrived home, I put away my goodies.  If the meat is going to be used within the next 2 days, I put it in the fridge.  If it’s scheduled for a meal by the next weekend, it goes in the upstairs freezer.  The rest goes in the basement in my deep freezer.  I try to plan my arrival home around a nap so that I get things done right away.  While Liam sleeps, I wash all the fruits/vegetables and put them away.  Greens are also washed.  I blot them dry on a towel and then store them in the fridge wrapped in a damp cloth.  This way they last far longer and they are cleaned and ready for whenever the mood for a kale salad strikes me.  

Any extra staples go in the basement in my (currently rather bare) canning cellar.  For instance, I once was at the store and they had dried pasta on sale for 50 cents a box.  I bought a few and had some as back up for a while.  I will be writing another post on the staples you should always have for a versatile kitchen.  Flour, sugar, oats and rice all go in old pretzel jars from my grandmother.  I must admit that as much as I love to grocery shop, I am really looking forward to the days when I can just walk out back to my garden and get the carrots I need for dinner.  That beats even the best produce department!