The Working Pantry

The Working Pantry
By Deborah in the UP

Whereas the Retreat Pantry is for long term, the working pantry is for right now, tomorrow, next week and next month. What to have in the Working Pantry is a very personal thing, it will always depend on what you and your family like, can, will and do eat. Does your family love peanut butter? Then stock up on the big jars and rotate. Do they like it ok, then go for the smaller jars and rotate. Anyone allergic? Don’t even keep it in the house, no matter what anyone says about how good the protein is.

Dried herbs fit the working pantry. The Retreat Pantry has the herbs growing in the garden, the Working Pantry has them dried on the shelf, ready to use in the middle of winter.

How does one know what to stock and how much is the topic for many discussions. A Retreat Pantry is for the next six years, a working pantry is for the next six months. The working pantry can have more short term foods, items that have an expiration of less than two years, plus dried foods, convenience foods and experimental items. Experimental? That’s something new, items your family or you haven’t tried yet, or haven’t had much of. Items that you may decide you really don’t like are not items you want to have a case of, that would be a waste of money, space and time.

One of the most effective ways to stock a working pantry, is to save receipts from shopping. Save them all for a month, check what you tend to buy. Make a list of favorite foods and watch for sales. Once you have a list of what you buy, use and like for a month, extrapolate for the next six months, stock, then rotate. Don’t forget to add the occasional items, like spices or exotic foods. Use one tube of anchovy paste every two or three months? Always have two or three on hand. Never use it? Keep one, as you never know when a recipe may call for it, but only after you’ve stocked everything normally used by your family.

There will be items that can’t be pre-stocked for six months, like potato chips, but you can stock up for a week or two, or stock up on popcorn instead! Expand your thinking and always, ALWAYS take advantage of sales.

Pantries will often include non-food items, so don’t forget those: aluminum foil, parchment, plastic baggies, wax paper, disposable foil pans, paper plates. These are kitchen/cooking oriented items, not to be confused or included with other paper products.

Suggestions for items you might not always think to stock, but will be needed during an ‘event’: flour, sugar, salt, seasonings, oil, biscuit mix (for biscuits and pancakes), mac & cheese, ramen-style noodles, evaporated milk, bullion, pasta, rice, meat (tuna, corned beef, chicken, spam), drink flavoring (tang, kool-aid), water.

Once you get your pantry stocked with what you and your family use, it’s easier to maintain.. And rotate, rotate, rotate! And whatever you do… don’t forget the family pet!