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.)
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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