The Winter Pantry: Surviving a New England Winter

I am not a weather junkie like my husband so I don’t usually plan for a snow storm or bad weather.  I try to check the weather periodically so my children are dressed properly for school/daycare, but even then I am not so consistent.  So what do I do to avoid dirty looks from my children’s teachers and my hungry family?  I keep well stocked cubbies, backpacks and pantries.

At school, my daughter has extra everything, clothes, hats, gloves, shoes and a pair of slippers.  That pretty much covers her.  I did learn this past week, however, that clothing has to be replenished since her mittens were wet and she had put them in a pocket of a different coat so one day her teachers had the great idea to put socks on her hands for recess (desparate times call for desparate measure).  I do the same for my son when he goes to family daycare.  I try to keep his backpack stocked with all the right gear for the worst possible weather rain, sun, sleet and snow.

To avoid dirty looks at home when the hibernating bears and cubs have rumbling tummies, I have a well-stocked pantry.  Given that this is our first snow storm and I didn’t check the weather, I have a relatively well-stocked pantry but it needs a bit more winterized.  The next time I go shopping I will be fully stocking my Winter pantry.  In my pantry, I have some of my  basic items that can get you through several meals in a pinch.  For me all the necessities are:

Starches & Grains
couscous
rice
dried pasta of all shapes and sizes (usually chosen by the kids)
quinoa
barley (or whatever grains you like to eat)
matzoh ball mix

Tomato Goods
tomato paste
crushed or diced tomatoes
pizza sauce
pasta sauce
sundried tomatoes
salsa

Vegetables
I am not a fan of canned vegetables but there are three that I like to have on hand.
artichoke hearts
hearts of palm
green chiles
In jars, I will also usually have:
marinated artichoke hearts
roasted red peppers
capers

Beans
black beans
garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
kidney beans
cannellini beans
chili beans

(Any kind of beans are good, but definitely start with the top three beans and then add whatever other beans you like or would like to try.)

From the Sea
canned tuna
smoked oysters
canned salmon

Stocks
(I know one should make one’s own broth, but I never have and I prefer to fake my own broth.  I buy the good tetra-pack broths preferably low in sodium and I saute some carrots and onions and add some herbs and pour the broth over it.  When I don’t have enough I refill the box with water and add it to my faux home-made stock)
free range chicken broth
no-chicken stock
vegetable stock

Seasonings & Mixes
onion soup mix
taco seasoning
falafel mix
salad dressing mixes (for marinades)
dried herbs & spices

The Snack Shelf
tortilla chips
water crackers (such as Carr’s)
family favourite crackers (Stoned Wheat Thins)
granola bars
fruit leather (such as fruitabü)
graham crackers

In the Fridge Long-Term
Vietnamese fish sauce
hoisin sauce
oils: canola, olive, peanut, sesame
mustard
ketchup
jam
soy sauce
worcestshire sauce
yeast

In the Fridge Less Long-Term
cheese (many cheeses if wrapped correctly will last a long while in the fridge)
yoghurt
sour cream (full fat or low fat)
corn tortillas
olives
citrus: lemon, limes, grapefruit
milk (if you are a bit milk drinking family or you cook a lot with milk, you can buy UHT milk that has a pretty good shelf life in the pantry.  For your fridge though non-UHT milk is much better and tastier.)

In the Freezer
fresh ginger root
organic frozen vegetables: spinach, peas, green beans, corn
frozen garlic in mini ice cube trays
frozen leeks that I sauteed this summer from the farm
frozen puff pastry
frozen ground meat (beef, buffalo, chicken, turkey)

In the Root Cellar
(No, I don’t have one…but I wish I did.  I have a small basket with a lid that I bought at Pottery Barn that works fairly well as a mini root cellar.  Air can flow in and out while the roots are in the dark.)
onions
garlic
potatoes

In the Baking Cupboard
rolled oats
flour (whole wheat, unbleached white, gluten free)
baking soda
baking powder
kosher salt
chocolate chips
baking chocolate
polenta
cornmeal for baking
honey
mollases
sugar: white, brown, dark brown

Ok, so now you have your pantry stocked.  What do you do with all of this?  I will try to write a weekly recipe that you can make straight from your pantry.  I usually work the other way from a recipe, to my grocery list, to my kitchen.  I find that if I have some ingredients in my pantry that I need to use because I can’t get out to go shopping or I don’t want to go out and buy groceries, then I just do a search onepicurious.com or foodnetwork.com For example if I have frozen corn, some beans, and a can of chopped tomatoes then I will find this recipe:  Taco soup.  If you don’t have ground beef in the freezer just skip it.  If you’re stuck inside with the kids you can bake a loaf of bread or some cookies.  So for dinner you have soup, crackers or fresh-baked bread, some cheese from the fridge, cookies from the oven or the pantry for dessert.  If you are a fairly carnivorous family be sure to have frozen ground beef, buffalo or chicken in the freezer to round out the meal.

Bon courage.  ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info: Teri’s PantryThe Well-Stocked Pantry(Mother Earth News),Tips for buying and keeping food in bulk (Martha Stewart), Martha Stewart’s Winter Pantry(includes recipes), Fresh Start for a New Year?  Let’s Begin in the Kitchen (Mark Bittman – NY Times)

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