What I Wish Everyone Knew About Food Storage

“Keeping a pantry.”
“Provident living.”
“Building a stockpile.”
“Food storage.”
“Putting by.”

No matter what you call it, there are folks out there who are into having a supply on hand and those who just aren’t sold on the concept. These days we see magazines all over the newsstand marketing MREs (meals ready-to-eat) and buckets of freeze dried food to “preppers” and survivalists of every stripe. We can look back at shows like “Doomsday Preppers” and watch the crazy unfold, happy to know that we aren’t like those weirdos. Thanks to all the sensational gear marketing tactics out there encouraging us to “BUY ALL THE THINGS!!!”, it is really easy to fall into the idea that having a pantry is for paramilitary anarchists, old people who were children of the Great Depression, or coupon queens gone mad.

Here’s a little tip: it’s not true.

Popping by the grocery store on the way home from work every few days seems convenient, until it isn’t. When isn’t it, when the store is on the way anyway? It isn’t convenient when it’s time for the baby’s 3 a.m. feeding and you realize that was the last serving of formula. What will you do at the 8 a.m. feeding? It isn’t convenient when your third grader informs you she is responsible for snack tomorrow and “NO, a pack of Chips Ahoy (picked up on the way to school in the morning) won’t do, they need to be homebaked, MOM!”, and there are no cookie mixes or ingredients in the cabinets. It isn’t convenient when you are already running late due to a client who kept you on the phone and you need to pick the kids up from daycare or accrue a late fee and you have to hit the drive thru because everyone is starving and there goes your diet. (I know some of you just had a blood pressure spike because that is all too familiar; it’s stressful! Take a moment. I’ll wait.)

Better? Okay. So here’s where we get to the one thing I wish everyone knew about food storage: having a pantry is not crazy, it is convenient. Convenience at its peak, actually. Having even one spare container of formula set aside means nobody has to drive anywhere at 4 a.m. (usually in the rain, and since you’re in your jammies, you’ll see your best customer at the store, because life, right?) Having baking supplies – or at least some handy quick mixes – on hand means cookies or cake when you want them or your grade schooler needs to carry in a snack. Having some canned stew and fruit on the shelves means you get home from work with a tribe of hungry family members and can microwave a fairly healthy, hot supper in the amount of time it takes the kids to put their books away and wash up. In fact, you can have them setting the table, spooning canned pears into bowls, maybe even lighting some candles to help everyone relax and BAM – dinner. This is going to sound crazy, but it even means that sick pets can’t throw you.

Building up a bit of food storage can seem intimidating or strange, but it truly does save you time, money, and stress. It doesn’t have to be barrels and buckets and pallets of food, either. Start where you are, with what you like, and you will see a difference almost immediately.

I promise it works – I live this firsthand! We moved a few months ago and as anyone who’s driven even a single road trip can attest, living on drive thru food is fun for oh, the first day, maybe two. Five days on the road plus another four in a hotel, and the calorie bombs will be hitting your waistline like there’s no tomorrow. The grease will start making you feel like there is sludge in your veins, and you can practically hear your wallet shrinking, especially if you decide to hit a few “sit down” places to counteract the 42 pounds of McDonald’s fries you’ve eaten in the past 72 hours. This move, we did things differently; very differently.

You see, there are two Golden Rules when it comes to a prepared pantry: Store What You Eat and Rotate What You Store. So this move, we looked at our shelves and decided to use our camping supplies and stored food as our meals for the week of the road trip. This plan kept us fed with food we knew we like, and helped us rotate our stock so nothing would expire and go to waste. We plotted out how many lunches and dinners we’d have on the road/in hotels and packed a banker’s box with Thrive freeze dried entrees and Mountain House camping meals. We added instant coffee for my husband and carefully tucked our electric kettle in, padded by the soft pouches of food. I purposely booked us at hotels that had a breakfast buffet and we made good use of them each morning. At lunch, we hit a rest area and one of the adults pulled out the kettle and got it boiling and a meal cooking (rehydrating), then walked the dog, while the other¬† escorted kids to restrooms and restocked water bottles from the cooler. Dinner at hotels was no problem; our box of meals was packed right in along with our luggage each night. Our supper cooked while everyone reveled in the novelty of having cable and a new shower to figure out. Don’t get me wrong – we did get lunch at a fast food place twice, and dinner to-go in our new town when we finally got situated. Those were planned treats, though, not fifteen meals before we even got to the new place. (The proof was in the pudding, too – we spent about $50 on food and drinks the whole route, and I didn’t gain back an ounce of the ten pounds I lost before we moved!)

All that pre-planning is lovely, but how does it translate to real life, right? I mean, anybody can do that on the road with the right packs of snacks and a kettle. Well, in real life, my son is attending a programming camp right now and my husband is working nights. We have 45 minutes together if we can catch him before he leaves for work – not a lot of time for a good family sit-down dinner. That is unless I can get in the door and get the kettle boiling and stir up an egg breakfast scramble that cooked while hubby showers and the boy cleans up. Spooned out onto whole wheat tortillas, seasoned to taste, and we all had a filling meal, both for those of us who were hungry and tired from “peopling” and for the one who was headed out the door for a long shift.

Now add to that a dog whose tummy is upset. We tend to look at things like (brace yourself) very runny stools as a sign that the body needs to eliminate something bad for us, but a person (or pet) can only *ahem* “go” so many times in a day before other things become a problem. In the desert, where we now live, dehydration is an issue any time of year. Add in that it’s high summer and yes, we need to make sure she doesn’t hit the point she is losing fluid she desperately needs to combat whatever has her headed for the yard right now. Cue the pantry. This morning, after seeing she is not back to normal just yet, I hit the pantry shelves for some instant brown rice and the beef bouillon. A half cup of rice and a sprinkle of bouillon mixed with a half cup of filtered water, plus barely fifteen minutes of my time, and the dog had a small bowl of healthy, tasty food that will help her start the healing process naturally, no medication necessary and no whiplash effect of meds plugging her up. (Plus it was “people food”, so of course she is more than willing to indulge. *wink*)

Has having a pantry ever helped you out in a pinch? I’d love to hear your story in the comments!