The Pantry Project

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It is hard to believe that it is almost 3 months since I wrote this post about my new labeller.  Although that post was about labelling the small drawers in my sewing room, if I am really honest, my main motivation was so that I could re-organise my pantry and label everything.

Unfortunately, the labeller has languished in the cupboard while the state of the pantry went steadily downhill.  Until yesterday.  The thing that finally prompted me was the arrival of some more Mason jars that I had ordered online.  They would not fit in the cupboard as it stood so this required some major re-thinking.

I am really very fortunate to have plenty of storage space so it was simply a matter of utilising it better.  I have a large corner pantry as well as a floor-to-ceiling cupboard on the other side of the refrigerator.  There had previously been a mix of both food and other items in both cupboards so the first step was to remove the remaining foodstuffs (mostly canned goods and jars) from the cupboard.

I did not take any before photos as I launched into this endeavour early yesterday morning without a specific plan.

This is the cupboard once I had finished it.

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The top shelf is pretty much as it was with the Soda Stream, Easiyo, bucket with spare gas cylinder and Soda Stream bottles and pasta attachments for my KitchenAid mixer.  The pasta attachments were previously in the corner pantry.

The second shelf has 2 plastic tubs of glass jars and bottles which I use for storing juice and homemade sauces.  I have culled these considerably over a period of time as I have invested in more Mason jars.  In fact, I was able to swap them from a large and medium tub to a medium and small tub and move them from the top shelf of the corner pantry to this shelf which means they are much more accessible.  The large plastic tub fits neatly in the bottom of one side of the wardrobe in the sewing room so I will utilise it there.  But first, I have to finish the cupboard and the corner pantry.

The third shelf is various sizes of Mason and Weck jars with some spare lids and bands as well as a pair of lifting tongs from my most recent order.  These will make retrieving jars from the hot water bath much safer and easier.

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The bottom shelf is 4 buckets of bread flour – 2 white, 1 wholemeal and 1 rye.  This is GMan’s domain as he amkes the bread.

The corner pantry is still a work in progress but more about that tomorrow.

Stockpiling

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This blog post is copied from a post I wrote in another forum.  I am interested in your thoughts.

Is stockpiling a saving or ‘dead money’?

I do not stockpile to save money as such but I do have enough basic foods and essentials such as toothpaste and toilet paper to see us through a minimum of 4 weeks and in most instances, much longer. I am very confident that I could feed us for 3 months. There might be some odd meals but we would be fed.

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Why? It is generally acknowledged that supermarkets carry 3 days worth of stock and rely on ‘just in time’ deliveries. As we endure more severe and frequent weather events it is prudent to consider being independently responsible for your wellbeing during and immediately after these events. You will never find me queuing for fuel, buying bread or filling gas bottles as a cyclone approaches. It is already done as part of our day to day routine.

It can be something as simple as being unwell or busy at work and you can feed yourselves from what you have on hand. Some years ago I was snowed under at work and barely had time to do the basics so each week I would grab some fruit and veg and everything else came from the freezer or pantry. I did this for 7 consecutive weeks!

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By having enough on hand you will be less likely to pop into the shop and grab unnecessary items while you are there = savings.

Remember the mantra – “eat what you store and store what you eat”. In other words, do not store ‘special stuff’ for your stockpile. Do not keep 100 tins of baked beans if your family do not eat baked beans.

Whatever stock you have should be rotated. I keep 2 large tins of tuna in my pantry. When I use one I buy another. I always place the new can on the bottom of the pile.

Consider using a permanent marker to write the purchase date and month on bottles and cans eg: 10.16 for October 2016. This means that you can see at a glance what needs to be used first.

Keep track of what you have by doing a regular stocktake.

Make sure you have suitable storage containers and conditions. Food which deteriorates is a waste of money.

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My recommendation is to try to store enough food to feed your family for 2 weeks beyond your normal shopping cycle. Start small and add an extra can or packet as you can afford.

Stockpiling may save you a little money but in the long run, I think the time and sanity savings are far greater as well as the peace of mind of not being totally dependent on the vagaries of the supply chain.

My Turn

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Today it was time to clean and tidy up my pantry.

It is really not too bad but was definitely time to check for anything lurking in the background.  I wiped out all of the shelves, decanted a few things into the new jars and generally re-arranged it to work a bit better.

BEFORE

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001The space on the bottom shelf is where the dehydrator normally lives but I was using it when the photo was taken.  The pack in the bottom right-hand corner of the photo is some gluten-free bread mix which was 18 months past its best before date but I made it anyway and it turned out well.  There is a second pack in the box which I might make up next weekend.

I have moved a few things out of the pantry – a large coffee plunger which now lives on the shelf above the oven with the other coffee plunger and the teapot.  The coffee grinder which we never use is going to the op shop along with a plastic container which belongs in the freezer but I never have it in there as it just wastes space and limits how much I can pack in.  Finally, the pile of plastic plates and bowls (meant to be disposable but I keep washing and re-using them) have been moved from the pantry.  I have kept 2 of each in the cupboard for the grandchildren but the rest will be stored in the sideboard for use at BBQ’s or other events.  One day I may decide to offload them altogether but not just yet.

AFTER

005I did not take a photo of the bottom shelf and the floor but suffice to say they look a bit better, too.

Filling the Freezer

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I am putting the disaster of my photos behind me and moving on.

This week is going back to the basics of the things I do.

We have a refrigerator with a freezer section as well as a small upright freezer which is the size of a bar fridge.  It has been turned off and not used for a couple of months as I simply did not need it and it seemed pointless to be wasting electricity when I could fit everything in the other freezer.  However, I turned it back on last night as I opened a large, catering-size tin of crushed tomatoes and divided them into portions to freeze.

Frozen tomatoes

I also cooked a quantity of refried-beans in the slow-cooker.

Re-fried beans

Tonight I removed the frozen blocks of tomatoes from their containers and placed them in a double bag.  These are old bread bags that have been washed and re-used many times.

Frozen tomatoes - baggedThe containers were then re-used to freeze the refried beans.

Refried beans - ready to freeze

There was some leftover quiche which I portioned up for my lunches and 2 pieces are ready for the freezer.

Quiche to freeze

The plastic sheet to separate the slices is from cereal packaging.  I rarely buy prepacked cereal of any kind but these have been saved and rewashed many times.  I store them in a bag in the kitchen drawer when they are not in use.

The freezer is not full yet but I will be working on that over the coming days.

Freezer

Of course, there are many other things in the freezer such as meat, cooked rice, spreadable butter, grated cheese and sliced bread.

What is in your freezer?

Minimalist vs Survivalist

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I have never considered either minimalist or survivalist as terms I would use to describe myself but I have read a couple of things recently including this post from Kim at Extra Organized which have made me stop and think.

Over a period of months, even years I have been slowly but surely divesting myself of ‘stuff’ that does not add value to our lives.  I have made considerable progress but there is always more to be done.

However, at the same time I have created and maintained a well-stocked pantry.  I also keep back-up supplies of toiletries and general household needs such as batteries and light bulbs.  This may seem to be the complete antithesis of minimalism but I do not believe that is necessarily the case.  There is one basic principle which must be adhered to in order for a stockpile to work:

“Eat what you store and store what you eat”.

This is my stock cupboard in the kitchen.  On the other side of the refrigerator is my pantry (shown below).

The wire baskets under the shelves on the left-hand side hold spices and other small jars.

My pantry is where I keep the items for day-to-day use and I replenish as needed from the stock cupboard and also from the buckets of bulk dry goods (flour, cereals, dried fruit etc).  These are stored in a cupboard downstairs.

I do not hoard massive quantities of food but I work with a level of supply which I believe would easily feed us for 3 months and could probably be stretched to 6 months with some creative meals.  It means that I can shop when it is convenient for me and not have to shop every week or even every fortnight.  I am not dependent on the ‘just in time’ supply lines that supermarkets use nor will I be in the panic-buying queues in times of impending natural disaster such as flood or cyclone.

By having a relatively uncluttered house I have plenty of room to store extra food.  I also minimise the trips to the shops which in turn minimises petrol use and wear and tear on my vehicle.  Less time at the shops offers less temptation to spend on unnecessary items.

We usually but enough meat at once to last about 2 – 3 months.  This tends to be used up before we buy more, so in theory, depending on the timing of a disaster I could be caught with next to no meat but I do not see this as a major problem because we eat plenty of vegetarian meals now and that would just become the ‘norm’.

I also ‘shop’ from my garden and we always have eggs from the chickens.  Our menus are based on seasonal produce, either from our own garden or what we buy from the local markets.

I am not what anyone would truly describe as a minimalist, although I do have a lot less ‘stuff’ than many of my friends and colleagues.  On the other hand, I know I would not survive long-term if left to my own devices as I simply do not have the skills and knowledge to fend for myself completely without outside help and support.

I do know that I am happy and contented with my life as it is, my demands on the planet are relatively light and I have taken reasonable steps to be as self-reliant as possible.