(Betsy's Wedding, Maud Hart Lovelace)
I am the first to admit: with a butcher/corner grocery store three blocks away (who delivers!), I was not in the habit of keeping a lot of food on hand in my pantry. After all, if I had no plan for dinner, I could walk down or phone the butcher for a whole chicken, a few sweet potatoes, as well as a head of broccoli, and have two night's dinners for $10. But with multiple little ones and the treacherous conditions of our cobbled streets after snowfall, I needed a better plan for the winter.
Although my 1883 Victorian house does have a root cellar, it is only accessible through a hatch in the backyard and runs a bit warm for perishable food storage. But I am fortunate to have a floor to ceiling pantry cupboard in my kitchen. (My only complaint is that it is too deep, since it was built the same width as the range. First world problems...)
I took the advice of Mr Ray, and buy a five pound bag of carrots, potatoes, and flour, as well as a few pounds of celery, onions and apples every time I do my staple grocery shopping (about every other week). That way, if weather intervenes to keep me housebound, I can still make a few days worth of nutritious meals for my family. I find that for four eaters, this is the quantity we can eat through before the produce stored at room temperature goes bad. I don't kept powdered or evaporated milk on hand; in our climate, storms don't tend to come up suddenly, and we have never been truly housebound. If you aren't prone to losing power in storms (we are) I would also recommend keeping a bag of frozen chopped spinach in your freezer- it adds a lot of freshness to dishes.
Here are a few favorite pantry meal combos:
- Canned clams plus onions and potatoes= Clam Chowder
- Dried beans plus canned tomatoes plus carrots and onions = Minestrone Soup
- Dried black bans plus carrots and onions= Black bean soup
- Dried beans plus dried chiles plus canned tomatoes= Vegetarian chili
- Lentils/beans plus pasta = Pasta e Fagioli
- Dried chickpeas can be cooked into hummus, served with carrot and celery sticks
- Dried chickpeas plus olives plus sun-dried tomatoes plus couscous = Middle Eastern dinner
- Canned salmon becomes salmon patties, served with potatoes
- Potatoes plus onions = Potato pancakes
- Potatoes plus onions plus canned pimentos = Delmonico potatoes
- Pasta plus canned clams plus canned tomatoes = Linguine with Clams
- Pasta plus canned tuna or shelf stable smoked sausage plus capers, olives, and canned or sun-dried tomatoes = Pasta Puttanesca
- Apples are delicious for fresh eating, applesauce, and baked apples.
- Flour plus vegetable shortening = biscuits or pie crust