This is not a “prepper pantry” post. No no, friend– this is my guide to filling your pantry with some basics that help surviving winter a little more bearable. At any given time, I want you to be able to pull basic ingredients from your pantry and create hearty, filling, and nurturing meals without running to the store 1-2 times weekly.
I, like most people, began buying a little extra here and there during the craziness of 2020 because though we grow a lot of produce and raise our own meat, there still seemed so much uncertainty with food and shipping shortages.
During that time, I began to realize just how often I would go to the grocery store without giving the trip any extra thought. The more time that passed and the worse thing got, I realized not only did I not want to be making trips in so often but that I didn’t want to be around so many people as often either.
My mindset begin to shift around food and how we sustain ourselves and since then we have more than double our garden space, learned to seed save, introducing canning and water bathing, as well as configured how to stock up on essentials (without over doing it) so that I go to the store maybe once a month or every other month for the basics.
First, what do I consider “the basics”?
items that are relatively non-perishable or can be stored for longer periods of time. I place rice, beans, dried goods like cranberries and other fruits, spices, dried pastas, flour and other baking essentials, and convenience meals (for when I REALLY don’t want to cook).
One reason this system works so well for me and my husband is we don’t over eat. We adhere to filling portion sizes which can make things like a cup of rice extend to 4 meals total (2 people x 2 meals). With Whole Foods like rice, beans, bread, etc you will rarely find in a family of 2 that you eat the entire cooked portion. Your family dynamic may be different so you can calculate adjustments based on number of family members.
A good list to start for non-perishable goods would be as follows (based on a family of 2)
- 3 bags of rice (white, jasmine, brown)
- 3 bags of beans (black, great northern, red, kidney, or pinto)
- 2 bags of flour (all purpose)
- 1 bag of bread flour
- 3 cans of old fashioned oats
- 4 boxes of dried pasta. Pasta is so versatile, especially when paired with leftovers!
- Bow tie
- Egg noodle
- Veggie Rotini
- Spices in the bulk package. It saves money and you can refill your already existing “normal” jars.
- garlic powder
- onion powder
- chili powder
- lemon pepper
- crushed red pepper
- all spice
- dried herbs (I make several of my own but always nice to have handy.)
- Baking items
- 1-2 jars of honey (to last all winter)
- 1-2 jars of maple syrup
- 2 bags brown sugar
- 1 box yeast
- 2 cans baking soda (all winter)
- 2 cans baking powder (all winter)
- 2 cans shortening
- 2 cans pet milk
- 2 cans sweetened condensed milk
Putting in the work
Now, if you don’t garden or have an affinity for preserving your own food– you can purchase the items I’m about to list from the store. Depending on what type of gardening season we have had, I will supplement that way as well. However, because fall and winter are such a season where we eat a lot of soups, casseroles, etc., I aim to have a decent supply of canned vegetables and various soup stocks ready to go.
- 2 cans of broth/ week
- 2-3 cans of vegetables per week. We mix and match a lot but always can or purchase more tomatoes than anything else.
- green beans
- corn (we actually freeze all of our corn but will buy a few cans for emergencies)
- carrots (we canned all of our carrots)
- “quick” beans such a black or kidney for chili. This eliminates the need for soaking. Only 1 for every other week or so.
- Canned Sauce
- 1 can per week tomato sauce
- tomato paste (1 a month for me)
- Spaghetti sauce (1/wk)
- Dried Herbs
- Frozen herbs
- basil in olive oil
- Frozen Vegetables
- Same list as canned but maybe add some wok style veggies
If we are being honest, no one feels like cooking a home cooked meal 7 days a week, 365 days a year. We aren’t perfect though we like to try and eat at home and cook with wholesome ingredients as much as possible. There are just some days and/or nights where I feel so exhausted there is no way I can manage anything above some boxed Mac-n-cheese and browned beef with seasoning.
I’m calling this category a splurge because they are by no means necessary if push really came to shove. These items increase convenience and sometimes cut down on dishes.
- boxed meals (1per week)
- hamburger helper
- pasta sides packaged pastas like broccoli and cheese, etc.
- the store bought kind that is loaded with sugar. It is such a guilty pleasure of mine.
- Candy chips
- chocolate/white chocolate/caramel chips for baking the really good, seasonal items
- Pie filling
- Instant mashed potatoes (1/ every 2 weeks or so)
- buttery homestyle is the only way to go if you don’t want to wash, peel, boil, then mix for some mashed potatoes!
And that’s a peek into my ever growing pantry that has now expanded into the mudroom on industrial sized shelves. I cannot tell you how many times I have gone to whip together a quick meal and realized I was out of a particular item only to go to my own mini grocery store and have just what I needed.
In addition to all of that, we have a baby on the way in just a few short weeks and I’m not the least bit stressed about grocery shopping during those first intense few weeks. If nothing else, we have fresh eggs from our hens and plenty of staple goods to make soups to see us through. That is a true beauty of having a baby in the depths of winter.
I hope this helps give you an idea of where to start if you fall somewhere between “I never feel like I have any groceries” and “I’m not a prepper”.
Happy fall, everybody!