How To Start A Traditional Food Pantry

Okay, so we’ve covered the grocery mindset (go read it right now if you haven’t yet!), so now we’re here to talk about a better, more sane way to manage a traditional kitchen. It’s the way of our grandmothers, the way of sustainability, the way of peace of mind.

Under the pantry mindset, you start out with the magnet. You determine, in advance, the likely amount of certain kinds of food that your family will need. Then you carefully, thoughtfully buy the best foods you can in bulk. You build up the pantry with all your staples and, for items that you can freeze or otherwise preserve, buy enough at one time to last until the next re-supply of that item.

It takes a bit of time to get up and rolling, but after you do, you will have your staples on hand at all times. This, on its own, is a great deal of comfort.

Then, once your staples are secure, you simply supplement with whatever delightful things you have access to throughout the year (fresh peaches! tomatoes! a gift of three pineapples!)—buying fresh foods, local if possible, as they come in season.

It’s a shift in perspective, sure. But it changes everything. You will no longer be subject to flash sales and tempting promotions at the grocery store. You won’t be at the whim of marketers and can laugh at the coupon circulars that come your way, because your food supply chain is secure and you are always well-stocked.

You can walk in the grocery store without fear. You will not be dependent on it. It will be a tool for you, but it will not run your life. You will be in control. And you will likely save a lot of money, because buying things in bulk is almost always cheaper than buying them one at a time.

An important note: the pantry mindset does not happen all at once. Like all good things, you must settle yourself in for the long haul. There will be many habits to unlearn, especially if you’ve had a grocery store mindset for a long time. And learning to plan for a household efficiently takes a lot of trial and error and, usually, a few treks down roads you wouldn’t expect.

Where is it possible to buy the best beef? How will I store it? How much does my family need and can I stretch it by making more soups and fewer “just beef” dinners?

All of those questions will take time and experience to answer, and I’ll take the suspense out of it and tell you right now: you’ll never arrive. Laurie and I have been at this for decades and we are still fine-tuning our food supply chains and storage plans. I never stop looking for a way to make my kitchen better. But — and here’s the key — if you can learn to see this process as a bit of fun and not drudgery, you’ll have a better time of it.

So, how do you get started making your own pantry?

If you feel overwhelmed, start with one food that your family loves. Maybe it’s ground beef. Maybe it’s some kind of canned good. Maybe it’s chicken. Whatever it is, take this opportunity over the next few days to find it from the best source you can. It may not be from a farmer right now, either. Perhaps a grocery store will give you a good deal on bulk, organic chicken (probably not objectively the best, but definitely better than the sale chicken in the Sunday brochure!). Figure out an amount for your family that you can reasonably store with the resource you have now (and maybe some creative rearranging of your current food stores).

Buy it.

Congratulations: you now have a supply of chicken.

That’s really how this goes: you don’t conquer the whole mountain in a day. You start with one thing, figure it out, and then move on. You don’t have to run out immediately and buy an industrial freezer: start with what you’ve got, make it work, and then improve on it as you have the resources and experience to back it up.

One step at a time. Don’t begrudge yourself the journey.

Start transforming your table. Try our free broth class here.