Pity the Poor Pantry

Invaluable Kitchen Resource Gets No Respect

Pity the poor pantry.  It’s always getting lumped with all that old-time stuff our mothers (or grandmothers) did.  Remember the stuff they would drag out of the pantry?  Canned vegetables that tasted like cardboard and boxes of Jello that got turned into something with “salad”

Jello--A Pantry Classic, Perfect for Jello Salad!

Jello--A Pantry Classic, Perfect for Jello Salad!

incongruously in the name.  And that thing they did called “stocking the pantry?” That took a whole lot of time, and for what?

Nowadays, we’ve got at least a couple grocery stores within driving distance, selling everything you could ever want and we prefer our vegetable fresh rather than canned, thank you very much.  So why do we care about the pantry?

Well, we might laugh about our grandmothers’ pantries, but the joke might actually be on us.  Under the guise of modernizing our ways, we might have gotten tangled in a time-consuming, health-defeating, taste-stifling trap.  How can that be and, more importantly, is there a way out?

First, how could we have gone wrong by buying fresh at the grocery store?  To begin with, have you ever calculated the time cost of  our “quick” stops at the store to pick up something fresh?  It’s called “overhead” and it amounts to between 20 to 30 minutes, whether you stop to pick up two items or 20.  Secondly, grocery stores “selling everything you could ever want” are not a blessing on a weeknight at 5:30, when you’re racing home from work tired and hungry.  Tromping up and down their mammoth girth can make even Chinese take out sound good, to heck with any New Year’s resolutions to the contrary.

Which is exactly the problem.  Faced with spending 20 to 30 minutes in a stressful, artificially-lit, high-pressured mega-mart at the end of a long day, who wouldn’t opt for Chinese take out, or frozen pizza, or drive-through hamburgers?  So we end up in the curious predicament of having access to an extraordinary wealth of healthful, fresh, delicious foods and yet actually eating a narrow range of highly processed convenient foods.  Adding injury to insult is the fact that a lot (maybe most?) of what we buy on an average jaunt to the store isn’t fresh anyway:  Pringles, breakfast cereal, pasta and jarred sauces come to mind.

So is there any way out of this predicament?  You bet!  Dump any lingering mortification you harbor about the pantry and embrace it fully–but in a new-fashioned way.  No canned spinach and Jello for the modern gal’s (or guy’s) pantry.  Instead, stock yours with the makings for healthful, taste-tempting and fast meals–and skip that every day or every other day trip to the store.

Sarah is a perfect example.  We met at a dinner party last weekend.  She had brought some completely delicious hors d’oeuvres made completely from the pantry, which prompted a conversation about pantries.  “I never go to the store more than once a week,” she informed me.  “I figure out what I’m going to make for the week, then go shopping on the weekend.  What’s always amazing is how little I need to buy for my weekly meals.  Almost everything comes from the pantry.”

I couldn’t help but ask, “So are you able to make pretty good meals, even working more than full time?”  “No problem,” she replied.

Ready to get out of the grocery store and into the kitchen, making great meals instead of tromping up and down the aisles?  Read on. . . Here’s what’s in this series:

Remedy for the Post-Vacation Refrigerator Blues

Time Spent Stocking the Pantry Isn’t Wasted, It’s Invested!

How Many Great Meals Are Hiding In Your Pantry?

. . . or Do a Better Job Working the One You Have

Good News:  The Fun of a Pantry Journey Lasts More than an Afternoon

Pantries Save Time, Reduce Stress, Save Money, Produce Intriguing Meals and Maybe Even Lead to Enlightenment

How to Breathe Fresh Air Into Yours

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