Maybe you heard the buzz about last week’s Eating Down the Fridge challenge that sprung up from Steven Shaw’s Klatsch topic on eGullet at the end of February? “Fat Guy” Steven declared a moratorium on grocery shopping for one week. One week led to nearly a month and many people around the nation and the world ate down their pantries and began to wonder why they stockpile so much food.
Despite being a regular follower of eGullet, I didn’t participate in the discussion, but I did begin my annual pantry and freezer rotation. Some members are still aghast that, now after this exercise, anyone would keep a robust food supply at home, but others have learned what it means to maintain a proper pantry. Despite living in a small NYC apartment, Steven realized that it made more fiscal sense to buy flour in larger quantities than small 5 pound sacks and fewer boxes of unused mac ‘n cheese.
Since I’m maintaining a pantry larger than what would be kept in your average NYC apartment but smaller than your typical Mormon’s year’s supply, I have to pay attention to expiration but not so much to accumulation of things like 14 different shapes of pasta. (I didn’t actually count, but I can think of 10 shapes on hand without even looking.)
The most perishable items lurk in the freezers. This fall we will be getting another quarter beef from our favorite Hemlock Highlands and this summer will have us packing away garden bounty and foraged goodies. Right now my goal is to use up all the various meats and dig out the old odds and ends that have gotten lost. Once I’ve gotten it down to manageable proportions, the freezers will be defrosted and the inventory list updated. Since we’ve been eating out of the freezer all winter, we’re progressing along nicely.
The remainder of the pantry is in pretty good shape, but the shelves will get a wipe down and stragglers brought to the front. This is most important with home-canned jams, fruits and pickles since they’re shorter lived than their commercial counterparts. This year we also have the root cellar to think about, but there’s only about a dozen potatoes left in there, some of which will be tonight’s dinner. The root cellar attritions itself quite effectively if you’re not careful. So far so good for us.
As an aside, I noticed that I was a bit surprised at the myriad expensive lettuce salads that were consumed and deemed necessary on the eGullet topic thread. I felt a bit wistful for a big bowl of green, but I know that our local spring greens are just around the corner. Then I can enjoy them to their fullest and, right before we suffer palate exhaustion, we’ll be on to the next seasonal produce and little bit of most everything will be tucked away to brighten up winter.
Keeping a pantry is prudent in this crazy economic climate. Work for me has been erratic so I’ve been happy to not have to worry about where dinner is coming from. Buying in bulk and in season allows me to get the most for my food dollar and pass more of it on to our local farmers. I think we can all get behind that idea.
For those of you without a pantry yet, apples are a good deal right now since they’re reaching the end of their winter storage life. Make sure you take advantage of the peak season for cod, clams, oysters, mussels and the last of the crab. While you’re waiting for the asparagus, freeze and/or dry the spring nettles. It’s a good time to get started keeping a pantry!