You’ve heard the saying “Variety is the spice of life.” Well, spices bring variety to your menu, as well. You’ve been spending all year investing in and improving your food storage basics. But who wants to eat just bread, rice and beans? It’s time to fill your pantry by stocking up on the extras that will add variety and make everything more palatable.
And by good fortune (or good planning) you will find that a lot of these extras are on sale this month as stores start catering to all the people baking for the holidays. Take advantage of these sales and buy as much as you can (perhaps even a year’s supply?) of all the spices, flavorings and other extras that make cooking more flavorful and add variety to your menu.
Time to fill your pantry
You’ve been working on expanding your food storage all year. Hopefully you have a good three-month supply of regular food as well as a good start on long-term food storage basics: wheat, rice, beans, etc. Now let’s fill in those basics with some of the comfort foods that make the basics more appealing: spices, sugars, cocoa, gelatin, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
Between now and the end of the year most baking staples will be on sale, some for incredibly low prices. Home baking is popular during the holidays and a lot of the baking staples will be offered as loss-leaders (items sold below cost to entice you to shop their store.) Make a list of the items you use most often for baking and calculate how much you would need for a year’s supply. Then start shopping the sales to fill your baking pantry.
The Well-stocked Pantry
My pantry staples include:
- Leavening: baking soda, baking powder and yeast.
- Chocolate: cocoa powder, chips, almond bark, baking squares.
- Spices and herbs: buy enough to last you all year.
- Corn starch
- Pudding: instant and/or cooked pudding, tapioca
- Flavorings and coloring: food dye, vanilla, other extracts that you often use in baking
- Sugar: If you don’t already have a good supply, get as much as you can now, when it’s on sale. You should also have powdered sugar, brown sugar (or molasses and sugar to make your own brown sugar) and white sugar.
- Milk: Always gave plenty of evaporated, sweetened condensed milk and dry milk on hand
Do you have a good supply of meat in your food storage? In extreme need your family will get all the protein they need from a good supply of grains and beans. But a diet of rice and beans can become rather monotonous. Add variety to your food storage diet by stocking up on meat. Turkey is one of the best meat bargains around. At Thanksgiving time it will go one sale for half (or even one-third) of its regular price. Buy several turkeys, or as
many as you can afford and have storage space for. If you don’t have freezer space, and live where temperatures will stay in the 20’s or lower for several weeks, you can store them in a plastic tote in your back yard. Then, when the holiday rush is over (and before the weather warms) cook or can your turkeys.
So much from one bird
One turkey can feed your family for several meals. You can cut the raw bird into family-sized pieces and store each portion in a Ziploc baggie. One drumstick and one thigh each make a meal, two wings make a meal and divide the breast for another 4-6 meals.
But don’t stop there. The bones and carcass will give bone broth and a bit more meat, enough meat for 3-4 soups and casseroles. I like to use my 6-Quart pressure cooker for this. You get falling-off-the-bone meat in
a fraction of the time as boiling. Be sure to save the resulting broth for gravies and as a base for soup. That gives you 12-15 meals from just one turkey.
Or you can cook the whole bird in a roaster. Debone the cooked meat and portion it into 12-13 baggies and freeze for later use. Again, boil the carcass to get any remaining meat off the bones. This will probably only give you 1-2 meal-sized portions, but it will also give you 4-6 pints of broth to add to the broth in the roasting pan. Put the broth into baggies, lay them flat on a plate and freeze. When they’re frozen, take them off the plate and they’ll store flat anywhere in the freezer.
Lastly, consider canning one or two turkeys. A 24-lb bird yields 14 quarts of meat and 6-7 pt of broth. This will give you a lot of shelf-stable meat to use later on. Keep the turkey frozen until after the holidays have passed and then, when you have a day with few demands on your time, spend it canning and stocking your shelves with tasty turkey.
Here’s hoping that you can go into the new year with a pantry filled with staple and basics that you bought at great prices.