Why I Keep a Well-Stocked Pantry

I grew up having a grandmother who gardened and canned and had root cellar. When we’d drop in to see her she would pull out food and there would be an impromptu family party. Having a stocked pantry wasn’t unusual at all, but taking the time to drive to the store on a near-daily basis would have seemed strange to us.

Now that I live in the suburbs, I’ve been asked why I bother to keep such a deep pantry. I guess it’s a reasonable question. There are many 24-hour grocery stores, pharmacies, and “big box” retailers within a few minutes’ drive of my home, so why not just run out and get what I need when I need it? Part of it is my upbringing, but there are other reasons I keep a well-stocked pantry. (Update: We’ve moved out of town since I originally wrote this post, so the principles are even more important since the grocery store isn’t as close as it once was.)

Why I Keep a Well-Stocked Pantry by A Chat Over Coffee

Why I Keep a Well-Stocked Pantry by A Chat Over Coffee

Illness Happens

I’ve been in situations where a child (or I) woke up in the middle of the night with a new, unpleasant ailment. Having a sick family member is always worrisome, but having to run out in the wee hours of the morning to get basic medicine, tissues, or palatable food or drinks is one pain in the neck that can be avoided. I prefer to keep basic over-the-counter medicines and first aid supplies, lots of tissues (a person with a respiratory infection or allergies can go through multiple boxes of tissues with amazing speed!), broth, and the makings of homemade sports drink on hand so I can focus on recovery without running to the store for supplies. And when I’m the one that’s sick, it’s nice to know that everyone will still be fed even though Mom isn’t available to cook for the family.

Shortages Happen

My neighborhood grocery store just got Parmesan cheese back in stock after two months without it. One of the employees told me they had supplier problems. With just-in-time inventory practices, a single missed delivery can mean that certain items will be out of stock…possibly right when I need it. I like to have plenty of staples on hand so I can still cook or clean or do what I want to do, regardless of what’s going on with a store’s supply chain.

I like to have lots of staples, home canning, and homemade mixes like rice, bean soup mix, chicken, broth, dried herbs, beans, vanilla sugar, tomatoes, and dressing mix on hand at all times. | A Chat Over Coffee

I like to have lots of staples, home canning, and homemade mixes like rice, bean soup mix, chicken, broth, dried herbs, beans, vanilla sugar, tomatoes, and dressing mix on hand at all times. | A Chat Over Coffee

Storms Happen

I am old enough to remember the Blizzard of ’78 and being snowed in for weeks. We couldn’t get to the store to shop but the supply trucks couldn’t get to the store to deliver goods, anyway. The dairy farmers down the road had to keep milking the cows but were pouring the milk on the ground since the trucks couldn’t get through to take the milk to market.

More recently here in my suburban area, a wild storm knocked out power for several days. Stores had to close because their cash registers, security systems, refrigerators, and freezers wouldn’t work without electricity. Then everything in the refrigerator and freezer sections spoiled and those areas had to be cleaned and restocked, which took a couple more days after the rest of the store reopened. Those kinds of storms may not happen every year, but when they do, having canned meat and boxed milk on hand and a gas grill outside means my family can eat “like normal” when the situation is anything but.

It is wise to keep some easy to prepare foods and disposable products on hand for emergencies. | A Chat Over Coffee

It is wise to keep some easy to prepare foods and disposable products on hand for emergencies. | A Chat Over Coffee

Hardship Happens

Having a well-stocked pantry gives us a financial cushion. If the car or an appliance breaks down or my Runner Girl destroys a pair of shoes on a particularly rough course, we can often cash flow the extra expense by staying out of the grocery stores and eating from the pantry. When somebody in our church family loses a loved one or comes upon hard times, I can “shop” from my pantry and provide a care package or meal immediately. Although I like to cook and bake from scratch, I try to have a few convenient, comforting foods that require little-to-no cooking stashed away for hard days and care packages.

Comfort and convenience foods are handy for instant care packages and emergencies. | A Chat Over Coffee

Comfort and convenience foods are handy for instant care packages and emergencies. | A Chat Over Coffee

Celebrations Happen

Just as bad news can arrive suddenly, good things can also take us by pleasant surprise. When we want to rejoice over a special meal, have treats, or give gifts, I can go to my pantry and find something we can use to celebrate. Maybe I’ll pull out meat to defrost for a favorite supper, the ingredients for a beautiful cake, or a collection of homemade preserves and vanilla extract to make up a gift basket. Having a few items stashed on the shelf means I can whip up a celebration on short notice.

It helps to have a few items like (from left) special napkins, a disposable table cover, apple jelly, apple butter, vanilla extract, strawberry preserves, and raspberry preserves on hand for celebrations or to give as gifts. | A Chat Over Coffee

It helps to have a few items like (from left) special napkins, a disposable table cover, apple jelly, apple butter, vanilla extract, strawberry preserves, and raspberry preserves on hand for celebrations or to give as gifts. | A Chat Over Coffee

Savings Happen

When I know I have a good stock of basics at home and I don’t have to buy those items every week then I can use the grocery budget to take advantage of bulk specials and unadvertised sales. I buy lots of canned veggies or meat (or whatever) when it’s marked way down. I avoid buying things at full price and can get more groceries for my money.

Peace of Mind Happens

I have insurance for bad situations even though I hope I’ll never need it, so why shouldn’t I keep a deep pantry when those kinds of needs come up so much more frequently? It’s been said that life happens when we are busy making other plans, but I find that when life happens, my pantry often makes it easier to handle.

There’s something comforting about knowing where your next meal is coming from because the food is already in the house. There’s something convenient about only having to walk to the pantry rather than drive to the store when you use the last of a bag of flour for a recipe. There’s something reassuring about having a stash of treats to help turn a potentially scary power outage into an adventure. I worry less when I know that it’s no big deal if I don’t get to the grocery store today or if somebody forgets to put peanut butter on the grocery list, because I have a good supply in the pantry. My pantry turns small problems into inconveniences and makes the bigger problems a easier to get through.

Why I Keep a Well-Stocked Pantry by A Chat Over Coffee

Why I Keep a Well-Stocked Pantry by A Chat Over Coffee

In the coming days I’ll share more Suburban Mom’s Suggestions for Preparing your Pantry to Prevent Possible Panic. But now it’s your turn! What kinds of things are must-haves for your pantry and why do you keep them around?

I moderate comments manually but will get them posted as quickly as possible. Please keep your comments kind and if you must disagree please do so without being disagreeable. Rude or inappropriate comments will obviously not be published.

14 responses to “Why I Keep a Well-Stocked Pantry

  1. I have to have chicken stock, rice, peanut butter and beans in the pantry or it just doesn’t feel right. I too keep a fully stocked pantry but mine is mostly a cost savings thing. Only buy items on sale at what I know are the lowest prices which occur every 6-10 weeks.

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  2. I LOVE THIS ONE! We grew up the same way, and always canned/froze/dehydrated stuff. Still do and think it is very important to do it. We are not in a big city any more (lived in Denver for about 20 yrs), and we have seen some shortages even in our small community. Usually happens in winter in the worst storms. No road travel (no trucks to deliver) for days. The power usually doesn’t go out here, but we have backup for that too – always be prepared (farmer/gardener motto – ha ha)

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  3. For us it’s really important to keep our pantry stocked due to earthquakes. You never know when one will hit and need to keep water on hand too for drinking. They say on average a min. 3 day supply per person. I agree, but wish I had a bigger pantry and have been trying to get the Mr. to expand our skinny, small pantry. Theresa @DearCreatives.com

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  4. I don’t think we had a blizzard in 1978, or at least one that was anything more than what every year brings. We have a generator that we use if the power goes out for the well pump, sump pumps. We don’t use it for just lights or heat…we have lanterns and we use a wood stove for heat and we can always cook on the outdoor grill. Also our cookstove is gas so that keeps working and our hot water is gas. Should the power go out in the summer we can use the generator for the freezer and refrigerator.

    Our pantry (upstairs and basement) is more than adequate for our needs. We also have a root cellar. I keep a plan from year to year as to what we need to plant and how much, how many jars of such to can or freeze to last for the year. Really, the only canned vegetables I buy are black and green olives, canned water chestnuts and bamboo shoots. Canned mushrooms when I can find ones from USA…when I find those I will buy many many cans.

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  5. I agree! I love how I can shop sales and save money. I also love being able to make amazing meals out of my pantry. Right now I can’t have a garden but I am excited for when I can.

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