Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Benefits of a Well Stocked Pantry

Once upon a time, in every corner of the world, food security was the first priority of every family and/or village community. Food was harder to come by, took effort to grow or hunt or gather and it was the difference between hunger and health. If you didn't store food for the lean times you went hungry or died. 

A well stocked pantry is insurance against roller-coaster prices, financial trouble and external adversity. When your pantry is full, you're prepared for any kind of siege; cut off from civilisation by flood waters, snowed in or the financial wolf is at the door.

Food security was paramount in the thoughts of most communities until relatively recent history. 'Just in time' logistics systems apply not just to the movement of stock to stores but also of produce to plate. How many times have you gone to the supermarket to buy food for just one meal? Dropping into the shops on the way home from work to pick up what you need for dinner is 'just in time' logistics.

A well stock pantry or stockpile is central to patchwork economics. It enables you to shop less frequently, buy in bulk and take advantage of specials at the supermarket. You've probably heard this before, but to put its value in context, you just need to have read, watched or listened to the reports of panic buying in Queensland during the floods to see the value of a well stocked pantry or stockpile. Panic buying was experienced in a lot of towns and suburbs that were faced with being cut off from that 'just in time' logistic system during the floods. Supermarket shelves were emptied in hours. In some cases, police had to be called as violence erupted and some supermarkets were forced to employed security staff. There were also reports of price gouging. In most cases these localities would have been without fresh supplies for only a few days, a week at most.

You can avoid scenes like this if your pantry or garage or spare room contains the basic supplies for at least a month. This doesn't mean three dozen tins of baked beans stacked up in neat rows, unless of course you love baked beans, it means a back up supply of the ingredients you use every day. If you cook from scratch, you understand intimately which ingredients you need a decent supply of. If you rely on prepackaged foods it might be a bit more of a challenge - they will take up more space and cost a lot more.

My pantry it an integral feature of my patchwork economics approach. It has ample supplies of white and wholemeal flour, other baking requirements like yeast, the raw ingredients for baking powder plus salt, sugar, milk powder and cocoa. Protein ingredients are dried legumes and tinned tuna, plus there's also tinned tomatoes and tinned fruit in the cupboard. And, complete meals will be added to the shelves as I get the hang of using my new pressure canner. I also have a stock of basic consumables on hand too; toilet paper, soap, toothpaste, etc. I keep a supply of fresh milk, meat, butter and lard in the freezer. Oh, and cat food, lots of cat food (Woolworths recently had my cats' favourite at brand half price). These are just some examples of what I keep a stock of in my cupboards, your needs will probably be different. 
Presto 23 Quart Pressure Canner/Cooker
A well stocked pantry gives you choices not available to those who operate on 'just in time' logistics. It saves you money if you buy only those ingredients you use, and you buy them in bulk or on special. It gives you a buffer against financial adversity because even if you're without an income for a few weeks, you still have food in the cupboard. And, the future always looks brighter on a full stomach!

Not sure where to start when it comes to building a stockpile? Stay tuned as we cover the basics on putting together a stockpile over the coming week.

Here are some news reports on panic buying:

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