Urban Earth Mom
Eliminating chaos since 1989


Is There Purpose To Your Pantry?

Is there method to your madness of storing food or is it just madness spilling out of cupboards and bursting from the freezer?

Back in ‘the good ol’ days’ before open-all-night-all-year grocery stores there were times when we wouldn’t be able to pop out for food any time.  To be honest today there are still plenty of times we can’t do that without waking kids and schlepping them out to the store so we need to have food stored in the house.  There are the snow storms or hurricanes that can make it difficult getting out of the house for a few days or illness, or accidents that make having a well-stocked pantry a must.  

Ask most people if they have a well-stocked pantry and they will tell you yes.  So why then, do the store shelves suddenly empty right before a big storm is expected?

I’ll tell you why: because their pantry has no purpose.  It is full of food no one will eat. Purchased because it was on sale or seemed like a good idea at the time.  But there is no plan in place for anything in the pantry.  It’s like having a closet full of pants and no tops to go with them!  Every time they want to eat they have to go to the store and buy more food.  Of course, while they are there a couple more ‘bargains’ catch thei eye and they go in the basket.  Soon they have at least six months’ worth of food in the house but still need to go shopping all the time!! Like right before snowmagedon!  

Have you fallen into the ‘must have a big pantry just in case’ trap? I know I used to be there for a long time.  Food stressed me out because there was no plan. I had lots of it but dinner stressed me out and so did school lunches and even breakfasts.

So what IS the plan?  There are lots of articles to read on how to organize the pantry but precious few on what should be IN your pantry!!

What should be in your pantry or fridge or freezer is food that you will eat within the next few weeks.  Gone, for most of us, are the days where we needed to squirrel away food for the whole winter.  To figure out how much food you SHOULD be storing requires you to think about where your comfort zone is.  This is one time you get to stay IN your comfort zone!  You don’t want so much food that you end up throwing half of it away but not so little that there is a chance you could end up hungry.  If you sometimes find yourself with more month that your paycheck will cover, having a pantry will be your back up and stop your family going hungry.  I like to keep a month worth of food in my pantry, fridge, and freezer.  This doesn’t take up nearly as much space as it sounds like it will because there is nothing in my pantry that is there because it seemed like a good idea at the time.  OK, well maybe a couple of things like rice paper wrapper for sushi and nori sheets (we were on a Japanese food kick last summer!).

Once you figure out how many weeks then you can set to creating a list of breakfasts, lunches or dinners that can be made from stored food.  Make them things that fit your food goals (especially if you are trying to lose weight or eat healthy) and that you and your family like to eat. If you’re suffering through illness, exhaustion or bad weather there’s no point in extending the suffering by having food no one likes.

Then all you need to do is make sure you have those things, and not much else, in your pantry all the time.  Anything else is likely to be wasted unless it is a spare of something that you know you will get through in a month. 

Food that won’t get eaten takes up precious space in a small home where space is at a premium.  It also wastes money that could be used elsewhere or be living it up in your savings account and working for you instead of shriveling on a shelf.  

This past week on my Facebook page I held a pantry challenge where the purpose was to clean out the old food and organize enough to be able to make 5 meals in the coming week all from the pantry.  You can watch the videos here  by searching the hashtag #pantrychallenge. Cleaning out the food you wouldn’t normally eat is step one in making your pantry work for you instead of against you.

In my new Facebook Group: Living A Great Big Tiny Life we will be posting the recipes we came up with from the pantry if you need ideas.

I posted a few months ago a blog on how to create a capsule pantry if you need more help in creating a pantry that helps remove stress instead of becoming a source of that stress.  There is enough stress in life already, let’s work on getting the stress out of the kitchen!

Sarah Moore