The "Be Prepared" Pantry
If Covid 19 has taught us anything it’s that a well-stocked and well thought out pantry can be a life saver, keeping you far away from panic buying crowds in supermarket queues.
In my "Be Prepared Pantry" I’m assuming that we are able to access our kitchens and are not on the run from a Zombie apocalypse (although I have a plan for that too), so you will have on hand your usual stock of spices, stock powder, spreads, sauces and so on – for as long as they last. Just not the freedom to whip out to the store and top up for a few weeks.
You may want to do a quick inventory – do we need tomato sauce? Peanut Butter? Tea bags?
The items I am suggesting are perhaps not things you always keep a month’s supply of but you might find them useful and if there is no emergency you won’t be stuck with a thousand packs of instant noodles that no one can face eating anymore.
- Milk powder: use for drinks, in baking, in porridge and to make yogurt, mix the night before in empty milk container, after chilling overnight the kids will never notice a difference.
- Oats: a veritable superfood, use to bind meatballs, make a filling breakfast or snack, combine with peanut butter and dried fruit to make energy dense sweet treats or snack balls
- Dried fruit: Apricots, sultanas, dates, raisins...Natures sweetener, add to porridge and baking. Use dried or poached in water to make them tender and soft
- Seeds: pumpkin, sunflower, sesame and others are great for adding texture and flavour to baked goods, cereals etc
- Bean sprout or alfalfa seeds for sprouting on the kitchen bench – fresh, nourishing cheap and easy
- Bread: Doesn’t keep long and takes up a lot of room in the freezer, I would go for a big bags of flour and Instant yeast sachets. See some of my easy bread recipes for inspiration.
- Fats: Butter freezes well, in an emergency we’d likely try to eke it out but if you have some stashed in the freezer you might appreciate it if you need a bit of normal – a kids birthday during a crisis for example. Cooking oil – a vegetable oil that can do everything from sauté́ to deep frying – rice bran or canola. Cheap and versatile.
- Flour: essential for keeping folks full. Add yeast and water to make bread, add raising agent and milk to make scones and quick breads, add eggs to make pasta or butter
- herbs for dumplings or cobbler, oil and water for Roti, or fat and water for pastry and dough. Don’t forget the coeliacs – GF flour for them.
- Eggs: will keep for several weeks in the shell; or break single eggs into a 12 cup muffin pan then transfer to a plastic bag when frozen. Defrost overnight – use in baking.
- Canned goods: Tomato paste, canned chopped tomatoes, sweet corn, baked beans and chilli beans are all useful additions that will contribute flavour, nourishment and make a meal go further. Canned fish is flavourful and nutritious – tuna and salmon in particular can be made to go a long way tossed through pasta or rice. I wouldn’t bother with canned soup as you can make better cheaper more nourishing soup from other things on this list.
- Pulses and legumes: Red lentils don’t need pre-soaking and are great for a quick filling nourishing meal – packed with protein, iron and fibre they’re bland but make great curries, soups and patties. Chickpeas are also good for turning into other stuff – a chickpea burger with curried spices and some sort of veg and oats to bind it together makes a nourishing filling meal. Either buy canned, or buy dry and soak your own which is much cheaper. Dried “old fashioned soup mix” is a great base for a hearty soup and is made from a mix of dried beans and barley.
FODMAP sufferers should consider canned lentils over dried as they are less “disruptive” to a troubled gut.
- Arborio rice: Risotto is really good for making a little bit of something go a long way. If you find yourself having to stretch one or 2 rasher of bacon or one sad sausage into a meal for 4 soup or risotto are my recommendations. They’re also both One Pan dinners so Yay! Less dishes. Arborio can also be cooked like sushi rice – so its sticky. See recipe below for homemade sushi vinegar. Nori, dried seaweed keeps very well and takes little space – you could make acceptable sushi to turn 1 small can of salmon into lunch for 4 people.
- Long grain rice: I prefer Basmati as its lower GI than other white rice so keeps you full longer without blood sugar peaks and falls. Fried rice, biriyani, kedgeree, add to soup to thicken or make a paella type dish with whatever you’ve got.
- Qunioa: More nourishing than rice (also more expensive), its nicer to eat cold than rice, so good for an alternative. Can also be eaten as porridge.
- Dried pasta: Pretty much pure energy, but a great carrier for flavour so good when you have hungry teens to fill and not much to fill em up with.
- Vegetables: Frozen veg are grand but take up a lot of room in the freezer, great to have if you’ve got the room. If space is limited frozen Spinach is compact, nutrient dense and versatile. Add a chunk to a risotto, curry or soup to bump up the vitamin c.
- Dried green peas: – like the ones you buy frozen, only dried instead will add a pop of fresh green to a dish and will keep for ages. Pumpkins can be stored in a cool, dark, dry place for 3 – 6 months. Potatoes, onions and garlic also need a cool dark place with good ventilation – use cardboard boxes, with air holes and lined with paper, so air can circulate. The laundry cupboard or the bottom of a wardrobe may be cooler than the garage or kitchen.
- Meat: Your freezer is your friend. Choose things you can stretch – freeze boneless chicken breasts singly – cooked and shredded into soup, stir fry, risotto or pasta a little can go a long way. Freeze sausages in ones or two’s to be used as an ingredient NOT eaten wrapped in a slice of bread by one teenager. 1 Spicy chorizo sausage packs a flavour punch that will flavour a whole dish, so go for flavourful varieties and make them go a long way. Freeze bacon in small packs – use as an ingredient NOT a meal.