Pre-divorce, I had the start of a small pantry that contained the basic sort of nonperishable stuff that we used to cook with regularly. My ex was never really behind the initiative (as usual) or at best was politely neutral about it, but my initial goal was to try to help us wade through the summer months when neither of us made a paycheck. We were both in academia, he as a grad student and I as a low paid faculty lecturer. We actually did make use of the pantry in budget pinchy times, using it to craft meals when money wouldn’t be available for another few days. Personally, I thought it was a success.
Post divorce, I noticed I had no pantry left, because I’d been putting what limited energy I had for sustainability projects into just surviving the hump of divorce emotions, refinancing the house, overcoming a cancer scare, worrying about my job, blah blah blah. Well, I’d like to move past survival and into thrival (lol), if that’s possible at this stage. It’s still difficult for me, as so many things tend to cloud my mind and I’m building back healthy habits, clearing debt, and doing future planning all at the same time. But I think a pantry is a good step for a number of reasons.
Budget Pinchy-ness: See the aforementioned summer example. For those of us living the life of the mind (whether we want to or not), there will always be pinchy budget situations. Having the basics in your pantry can mean the difference in a nice meal or not. Not to mention helping to ease that horrid feeling that comes with not having enough money to finish out the pay period.
Good Money Stewardess: If your goal is to minimize your food costs, then a pantry is the way to go. After those things you regularly use to cook with are put back, then most folks who seriously do the pantry thing can basically live out of the pantry, only having to replenish it when certain stocks get low. I’m going to get a small deep freezer for this purpose as well. On occasion, I get great deals on meat, but cannot fully take advantage of it because of small freezer space. One of the smallest deep freezers at a home improvement store fits more than I need to stockpile to be able to get through the summer and be prepared for emergencies. Which leads me to…
Emergencies: I find this category interesting for a couple of reasons. First because it exposes human nature (the American version, anyway) and second, it changes the way we think about what goes into a pantry. The human nature bit goes something like this: snow falls for the first time, the weather is supposed to be bad for a day or two. What happens? People fly to the grocery store and grab up every loaf of bread and jug of milk in sight. Or suppose a real weather event does hit an area or the electricity grid goes out or something. What do people do? They stockpile Doritos…seriously. I’m looking for the link I read earlier, but during some of the power outages in the Northeast last fall, people were dragging carts full of nothing but junk through the check outs. Most people don’t make a plan at all, and then when extended disaster strikes, they’re in a real pickle.
Now, granted, if a tornado rips your house apart, a pantry won’t matter diddly squat. But if things are locked down for intense snow, it will. Better to have it, in any event. But what goes in an emergency pantry exceeds the sorts of things we think about cooking all the time. For example, an emergency pantry probably needs to include charcoal, matches, lighter fluid, bandaids and other simple medical supplies, batteries and flashlights, access to your important documents (or pictures you’d hate to lose, etc.), things of that nature.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be blogging about putting a pantry back together for myself — for emergencies, for long term financial security and for pinchy purposes. I’m going to talk about digging out the money to fund it, what is in my personal pantry, and all things related to pantry philosophy. I’m a pantry noob, to be sure. But that doesn’t mean I cannot learn and that you cannot learn from my mistakes! 😀