Monday, March 18, 2019

Ode to a Well Stocked Pantry


In general, I'm not fond of baking.  I love to cook, but baking has always been one of those tasks that just seems to take so much time and energy.

I mean, there's the whole "softened butter" thing, that requires a lot more planning than I usually want to attempt.  Or the sifted flour that means I need more clutter in my kitchen.  Or the strange ingredients, like cream of tartar.  I mean, who even knows what the heck to do with cream of tartar.  What is a tartar anyway?

To all of you amazing bakers - don't answer that.  I do actually know.  I'm just being facetious. 

The point is that I don't usually like to bake, because the ROI on my time, alone, is usually not worth it.  When I was a kid, baking was an all-day affair.  At the end of that day, there would be several kinds of pie, a few dozen cookies, and these cinnamon roll pastries made from leftover pie dough.  Baking day was awesome!

But it was time-consuming, and frankly, I like cookies, but usually not enough to spend a whole afternoon making them.  If we're being totally honest, though, what I really hate is the clean-up afterward.  

But I found myself really wanting some cookies recently.  

Back many years ago, when I was in Basic Training, I gave up a lot of consumables.  We were denied cigarettes, coffee (until our FTX, and someday let me tell you about the best cup of coffee I've ever had ;)), and for whatever bizarre-o rationale, cookies.  We had cake.  We had copious amounts of syrup for our French toast.  We had sugary Kool-aid (which may explain why I can no longer drink fruity drinks - although I was never much of a Kool-aid fan before BCT).

But no cookies.

I thought about those days the other night, when I googled a recipe for chocolate chip cookies.  

It was simple - butter (which I softened by putting it into a bowl on the back of my wood stove, which was warm, but not blazing - worked better than a microwave, which I don't have), sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, flour, baking soda, salt, and chocolate chips.  

The directions were, basically, put everything in the bowl, mix well, drop by the spoonful onto a baking sheet, and cook until the edges are golden-brown.  

I halved the recipe, and it made just about two dozen cookies.  

Perfect.  

It was no more time or effort than making a typical dinner.  It used five dishes, including the cutting board (a bowl, a spoon for mixing, the cookie sheet and a spatula).  

And I had all of the ingredients I needed.  So, no unnecessary trips to the store. 

The only substitution was gluten-free flour for regular wheat flour.


In general, I don't typically want or need sweets, and so I ate one cookie, and it was delicious, and I was satisfied. 

A few days later, I wanted a cookie, but by the time my sweet-tooth resurfaced, the cookies were gone.  

This time, I decided to do something different, and I googled a recipe for oatmeal cookies, walked into the kitchen, and found that I, again, had everything I needed in my pantry to make the cookies.  I even had some dried cranberries, which I used in place of raisins. 

Interestingly, the ingredients were, mostly, the same, with the addition of oatmeal and the dried fruit.  I, again, halved the recipe, and again, made about two dozen cookies.  It's the perfect amount for my family.  They will all be eaten over the next couple of days, and then, if I want more cookies, I can google a recipe, walk into the kitchen, and have cookies in less time than it would take to run down to the grocery store and buy a package of cookies.  And mine taste better.



That's the thing about a well-stocked pantry.  If my daughters needed cookies or cupcakes for a class party, I could make them ... or rather, at their ages, THEY could make them.  If I had unexpected company, I could make us all a meal that would be tasty and satisfying.  

And if I'm sitting on the couch with Deus Ex Machina, and I suddenly want chocolate chip cookies, I can make them.

A big part of Prepping is to have that sort of resilience, and it's not just about being able to make cookies when one wants them.  It's also about being able to go a week, or two, without visiting the grocery store, and still being able to make cookies on a whim.

Or, more.

The other day I got a text from Big Little Sister (who is now married and lives with her husband and their two dogs on the other side of town).  She wanted to know if my water smelled like chlorine.  It did.  She was wondering, because theirs did, too, but they were not feeling well, and their dogs were sick, too.  

When I can small batches of whatever (like when I have only two quart jars of chicken broth and a couple pints of shredded chicken), and I don't have enough jars to fill the canner, I will add a few jars of water.  This "canned" water goes into my pantry.  

I told her that I had some bottled water, if she needed it.

If we had ended up with a boil advisory or had been advised not to drink our tap water for any reason, I would have been able to avoid the mad dash to the local grocery for bottled water, because I already have potable water in my pantry - all sealed up and safe in canning jars.

There's something quite comforting, and incredibly empowering, in knowing that whatever the case may be - contaminated water, civil unrest, a simple craving for a sweet snack - my well-stocked pantry can handle it.



*Also a note about the frugality of a well-stocked kitchen.  

The bottled water I have in my pantry did not cost me anything extra.  I was already canning, and so the cost of the fuel used to can those jars actually goes toward the price of the food I was canning, and not the water.  I already have the jars.  And for water canning, I just reuse lids - washed and in good condition - i.e. the rims aren't bent or rusted so that they'll seal, but if the seals don't take, I'm not losing any food.    

In addition, we all know that home-cooked foods are significantly less expensive (and usually more tasty) than their store-bought equivalents. 

Having a well-stocked pantry saves me a great deal of money in the long run, especially considering we eat gluten-free and, mostly, local, and/or organic foods.  

1 comment:

  1. So true! I never thought of canning water, but we have 1 55 gallon rain barrel and camping filter. That would take some time to filter and we empty it in the winter. I do keep some 1 gallon water jugs on hand, but glass is better!

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