04. May 2014 · Comments Off on The Well-Stocked Pantry · Categories: Uncategorized

Taking it into consideration that costs of various foodstuffs appear to be going everywhere but down these days, my household is considering several different strategies as a means of keeping level. Oh, some items have not gone down in price, but the size of the package or the can they are in has certainly … shrunk, and don’t you think we haven’t noticed. I was born at night, but it wasn’t last night, not by any means. The garden for seasonal vegetables is one front in this campaign, the ongoing effort to home-can any number of pickles, preserves, pie-fillings and relishes is another. Planting some small fruit-trees along the perimeter of the back fence of Chez Hayes is another. Buying fresh fruit and veg in season, when they are at rock-bottom price per-pound is one more, and buying dry staples and cooking oils in bulk is yet another. At the first of the month, we hit Sam’s Club; restaurant-sized packages of frozen vegetables – we vary the vegetable-type so as to ensure that we always have a good selection in the freezer, since there are always packets left over from the previous month. We keep bulk stocks of staples like twenty or thirty-pound bags of rice, beans, flour and sugar, restaurant-sized bags of macaroni and gallon jugs of cooling oil. We also buy case-lots of the canned goods that we use often; mainly tomatoes, tomato sauce and Rotel brand tomatoes and green peppers. A good few pounds of tea, at any one time – the Wagh Bakri international blend, at the local Asian food store is what we like. It makes a morning cuppa strong enough – as Grannie Dodie used to say – strong enough to trot a mouse over. All this somewhat reduces the cost per unit, which is pleasing … and there’s always something on hand to make an appetizing meal from. This makes my inner Explorer Scout very, very happy.

And bricks of cheeses – again, slightly varying every month. What I like to have a stash of in the fridge is enough different varieties to make just about anything that I would like to make for supper which has cheese as an ingredient; bricks of cheddar, mozzarella, jack, feta, smaller bricks of Emmenthal and parmesan … sometimes we made the dinner decision on the spur of the moment. Butter, cream, sour cream and yoghurt also figure prominently on the refrigerator shelves. We have also tried to establish the habit of hitting Granzin’s Meat Market in New Braunfels at or around the beginning of the month, and laying out about thirty or forty dollars each for hefty quantities of what we know we will use during the month; chicken breasts and quarters, hamburger in the five-pound family pack, beef ribs, ground turkey, pork chops and an assortment of Granzin’s made-in-the-store sausages. Granzin’s is an old-fashioned kind of place – yes, they do have groceries, but the meat counter is about half-a-block long, everything is superior in quality and at a good price. We also have plenty of meat left over at the end of month. Yes, that’s deliberate, too. The prices of beef and pork are likely to go up, although if the power ever goes out for a week we will be so screwed!
One of the other food-stashes is my daughter’s particular interest; from cruising the marked-down shelves at the grocery store, where they sometimes have bottled sauces, or mixes of faintly exotic items that we wouldn’t have bought at full price. Usually these are items nearing their ‘best-if-sold-by’ date … it’s an eccentric assortment, but handy for added-on seasoning. Note – best if sold by does not come anywhere near equal to ‘best if consumed by.’

Other items on hand in the well-stocked pantry? Seasonings, of course; herbs, spices and flavored vinegars. Many of the herbs come out of the garden, but there are always back-ups in small sealed jars in the pantry. Vinegars – an assortment of them, in quarts and jugs and small bottles; everything from pickling vinegar to the best syrupy balsamic of Modena. (Yes, a handy score from the marked-down shelf, and lovely stuff it is, too, measured out by the drop.)
Of course, there are still some items we should add to the bulk foodstuff inventory; honey, for one, and perhaps some more sealed containers of dried milk and emergency water. But at the moment, we cruise pretty finely through meal-times – and the side benefit is that we only rarely have to hit the grocery store upon considering the dinner menu. Right now, it’s for fresh vegetables and fruits only – and when the garden begins to bear, that chore will be reduced even more. In some ways, I think we are approaching a rather more 19th century frame of mind when it comes to putting by … just in case of that hard winter or zombie apocalypse or something.

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