There is an art to keeping a well-stocked pantry. Just about every cookbook I’ve read lately includes a list of “must-haves”. I always mean to use one of those lists as a guide so that I’ll have all the fixins for a quick and delicious meal on-hand.
Unfortunately, our pantry is currently stuffed to the gills with items that apparently cannot be readily used in the meals I’ve been preparing. So, in the spirit of Conservation Month, I’ll be working on using up the current inventory so that I can start fresh.
Part of this exercise will be using up the sort-of perishable emergency foods. By “sort-of”, I’m talking about crackers and peanut butter and stuff that has a pretty long shelf-life, but doesn’t get any better with age. And, people, I cannot stress this enough: Think it through when you buy your emergency staples. Here along the Gulf Coast, we’re supposed to have Hurricane Kits. I thought that I’d compiled a pretty good one; that is, until we actually had to use it during Hurricane Rita. Now, if you live in East Texas, Rita was no joke; this storm left horrible wreckage in its wake. Here in the northern parts of Houston, though…well, it was right after Katrina and I think we were a little more skittish than normal. It ended up being more like the storm that wasn’t, but left thousands stranded on the highway for hours. We decided not to evacuate (we’re not in an area that advised evacuation, and the idea of being stuck on a road with a two-month-old was at the forefront of my mind), but many of our friends and neighbors opted to stay in shelters. This city was shut down; businesses closed and we just sat and waited for the storm to make landfall. Fortunately, we didn’t get more than a strong wind that night, but it was still a couple of days before even fast food restaurants began to open their doors again. Not to worry, though — we had plenty of supplies! Yes, plenty of canned tuna, and popcorn, and Cheetos…. It was a little raggedy. I mean, we didn’t know if we would lose power for days on end (which is one of the greatest concerns out in these parts), so I hardly wanted to stock up on fresh items. But there has to be a better way; one of my goals is to find it.
Then there are the questionable cans that find their way into the pantry. The cream of asparagus soup there? Yeah, I think the store stuck it in my bag by mistake, because I have no idea why it’s here. There are also no less than five kinds of pasta, and also a whole shelf of baking supplies that were purchased for recipes which were later abandoned, and I’m not even including the spice cupboard. Only the ones actually considered stale will be discarded. I mean, there’s no bringing ’em back at some point. As for the others, we’re thinking of attacking them Iron Chef style. Maybe making it into a “fun” creative challenge will make the whole thing a little more palatable. Better yet, it should be a good way to stretch the ol’ food budget. He-llo, Conservation.