Thursday, April 23, 2009

Pantry History


In Blogland, there seems to be quite a bit of interest in stocking up - on food and other items. There is a renewed interest in gardening. People seem to want to make food and cleaning products from scratch. Some people want to save money. Some are worried about the economy. Some want to have a supply for emergencies such as natural disasters. Some do it as part of their religion. Some are trying to get away from commercially processed foods with all of the additives and preservatives. Some are worried about the environment. Some are doing this for a combination of these reasons.


A while back, I mentioned to P at The Chicken Coop that I would post how and what I stock in my pantry. Here is the history of why I keep a stocked pantry.

I learned the hard way that I needed to start a pantry. A few months after my husband and I were married, my husband took a job in Oregon where his work site was about 20 miles from anywhere. We lived in a tiny town that was 50 miles from any town large enough to support a real grocery store. And, sometimes in the winter the highways in all directions would be closed. This "town" that we lived in had a bar, a "drug" store (kind of a junky store without a pharmacist), a gas station (that sold only gas and oil), a grocery store, a tiny library (I think I read almost every book in it), two or three churches (one served several denominations), a school, a post office, and a fast food "cafe".

The local grocery store's selection was poor at best; sometimes there was no fresh food or even toilet paper, sugar, or flour. Add to this, the owner opened and closed the store on his whim. The prices were extremely high, and we were extremely poor.

My husband often worked 10 days on and 4 days off, but the schedule was subject to change without notice. Sometimes he would have only one day off in twenty. My husband had to use our only car to get to and from work, and he would often just show up from work with a dinner guest without letting me know ahead of time. Remember, this was pre-cell phone days. (One time I had to serve a guest tough stringy tasteless "roast" and canned corn with water to drink. There was barely enough to go around, and there wasn't anything else in the house. We didn't even have enough money buy a soda pop much less go out to eat. Talk about embarrassing! I can't remember what we did for breakfast the next morning.)

I had to learn a whole new way of thinking, budgeting, and shopping. The pantry was born. And, yes, I made mistakes - like forgetting to take the checkbook (on Sunday when the banks were closed and before ATM's) and/or the grocery list with me when we went shopping.

We lived there for two years. For the next 11 years we lived roughly 150 miles from any town that had more than 15,000 people.

This move took us to rural Idaho. The area we moved to had a relatively (for the northern US) mild climate. However, we would often go hours and hours without electricity and sometimes several days without being able to go anywhere due to road closures. Luckily, almost everyone, including us, had fruit trees, and we planted large gardens. What one person didn't grow, another did. Produce was traded, given, or "gotten". I relearned (Grandma had taught me when I was younger) to can, freeze, and dry fruits and vegetables. I even bought raw milk and made butter and ice cream.

Some of this time was before microwave ovens. (My first microwave oven cost almost $400! It still works.) I didn't own a dryer. We heated the house and our water with a wood burning stove. We cut and chopped our own wood. I had a toddler. Then I had another and home schooled my son. And, several of of those 11 years, I worked full time outside the home being gone for 12 to 14 hours a day sometimes for several weeks at a time. (Wears me out just thinking about it. And, I thank God for my neighbors and my grandparents who were healthy enough and willing to help take care of my son while I worked.) Sorry, I regress.

For almost twenty years now, I have lived in a town with two largish grocery stores and several convenience stores. There is an on-going battle with the shoppers and the store owners, because groceries are incredibly expensive. The store owners used to say that it is because the delivery charges were so high, but all the small towns around us with farther delivery distances were less expensive than the stores in this town. Now, the store owners say the prices are high because of delivery costs and they have lost business to Costco and WalMart. The stores in the outlying towns still charge less on most items than the stores in this town.

So, I keep my pantry. I stock up when there are really good sales. Now that there is a Costco and WalMart (about 80 miles away) I go every few weeks to restock and add to the pantry. (I did have to learn to ignore all the fun stuff.)


I really don't know whether it is less expensive grow and preserve your own fruits and vegetables. It can be quite expensive to get started. If you have to consider your time, it probably isn't worth doing your own. If you don't like gardening, then it probably isn't worth it. If you have to pay for water to irrigate it might be cheaper to buy your produce.

What I do know is that I like knowing that what I preserve is fresh and clean when I start. I like that I know what is in the food I preserve. I do know that most home preserved food tastes better than commercially processed food.


I still haven't answered P, but I need to stop for today. Hopefully, tomorrow...


Anonymous said...

This is great. I love reading how people come about to stocking a pantry. Even though we live in the "country", Walmart is about 10 miles from me and a country grocery store is about 3. If the worst happens (ie: no cars) I could bike to the country store.

But, if the worst happens, then there won't be any food at the store anyway! I'm really hoping to be able to put up quite a bit of produce from my garden this year.

I'm looking forward to part two.

Anonymous said...

I found you just now from comments on Coffee tea books and me. So glad I did! I will be reading more after I finish this. We also have always had a pantry and many of the reasons you have given have been ours too. ..Just wanted to stop and leave a thanks for you now...Jody