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pantry mason jars

There are health and personal benefits to stocking a pantry for winter. Here is an overview that will help your winter preparation when it comes to food.

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As a gardener, my work is seasonal. Winters can be slim after struggling to make a year’s salary in six to eight months. I learned to squirrel away food for those dry times. Now I put food away to treasure the robust summer flavors from my garden, local farms and small growers.

Benefits of local food

In winter, you can’t get the nutritional or flavor quality that is available in summer. Fresh food is harvested and transported from thousands of miles away. It is picked under-ripe, not at its peak flavor and nutrient value. As soon as it is harvested, it further declines in quality. By the time you buy it in the supermarket, it doesn’t have much to offer.

It pays to visit local farms throughout the harvest season. Buying fresh and locally teaches you how to eat seasonally, while you support local agriculture and small businesses. Shop at farmers markets and roadside farmstands. Put in a little sweat equity at a u-pick farm. Support your gardening friends by buying their surplus.

preserving food kitchen

Consider growing your own food, too. Figure out how much you use, and plan your garden around that information. It’s a gargantuan effort to grow all your own food, but it is possible to grow some to put away for winter. Learn to can, dry, and freeze the bounty of the harvest season.

Be prepared

A pantry full of food buffers against price increases and shortages in winter caused by unexpected freezes or floods. This happens every year, but a pantry will help safeguard against it.

It helps to have extra food on hand for power outages and blizzards when you can’t get out for a few days. And don’t forget those busy days and weeks when there’s not much time to shop and cook! You can check your supplies, and make a nutritious meal with what’s on hand.

Pantry design

When I was a kid, there was a wide, shallow closet next to the refrigerator and hidden away behind a door that was always open. My mother called this the pantry. It held the items she used the least, but that she always wanted to have on hand.

I turned my linen closet into a pantry for canned goods, sale items, paper goods, and glass jars. I put a decorative set of shelves in the bathroom for linens and supplies, but that’s another story!

A pantry can be a small closet, a walk-in closet with room enough for small appliances and paper goods, or a freestanding cupboard or armoire. It will depend on how much space you have and how much you want to store in it.

Traditional Kitchen by Weymouth Closet Designers and Professional Organizers Marie Newton, Closets Redefined

Pantry contents

When you have a pantry, you can take advantage of sales and stock up on non-perishable items you use regularly. Your food dollars go farther this way, saving you money. You will also waste less food if you are not running to the store for one random ingredient. You’ll learn to get creative in the kitchen, and eat what’s on hand.

It’s easy to shop online at places like Amazon or Thrive Market. Warehouse clubs, such as Costco, pass wholesale prices on to retail consumers. This is a good way to stock up on non-perishables.

If you belong to a food co-op or buying club, you can buy in bulk. I get a 25# bag of rice once a year, and store it in large glass jars. This is a very economical way to buy grains, beans, nuts, and seeds.

I don’t recommend buying oil, coffee or flour in large quantity. Oil will go rancid, and coffee is best freshly ground. Unless you are an avid baker, flour may go bad before you get around to using it. These are best bought in small quantities as you need them.

A sense of security

A well-stocked pantry offers security in more ways than edibles. It takes a bit of planning, but being organized saves you time and money in the long run. It is part of a simple lifestyle. A healthy diet also contributes to a sense of well-being.

Organization = simplicity = less stress & good health. It’s not too late to get started!

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Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.