What You Need In Your Food Pantry

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Have you often wondered what you need in your food pantry to be properly prepared? Sometimes it’s hard to get started. It can be overwhelming sometimes, I know. This is one question people ask me whenever I’m asked to speak on food storage or how to stock a pantry.

I’m really lucky because my mom taught me how to stock a food pantry. Her example also taught me how to cook from scratch.

I remember years ago thinking, what can I fix for dinner tonight? Breakfast is easy, lunch is a snap. But dinner takes a little more thought regarding how to pull everything together.

My husband and I purchase ready-made salads every 10 days. That’s how long the salads last, according to the packaging.

Now, you may wonder why am I buying salads when I can make salads. Here’s the deal, in the summer when my garden is growing fabulous vegetables I can make my own salads.

But in the winter I calculated the price of these bagged salads with the dressing, nuts, etc. that you add before serving, it’s cheaper than if I bought all the stuff separately.

Plus, there is no waste. I understand many restaurants serve chopped salads from a bag, so I thought, why not? Unless you are eating at a 5-star restaurant, there’s a good chance they are serving bagged salads because they are a time saver.

I watch for them to go on sale, and life is good at dinner time with less time and money spent to prepare meals.

I can make something from my pantry to go with a fresh salad and dinner is ready in no time. Let’s get started, so you know what you need in your pantry.

What You Need In Your Food Pantry

What You Need in Your Food Pantry:

  1. Beans
  2. Rice
  3. Soups
  4. White bread flour
  5. Yeast
  6. Crackers
  7. Peanut butter
  8. Jams and jelly
  9. Powdered eggs
  10. Instant milk
  11. Popcorn
  12. Dehydrated onions
  13. Lemon juice
  14. Cocoa
  15. Garlic
  16. Raisins
  17. Spices
  18. Tortillas
  19. Chicken broth
  20. Olive oil/Coconut oil
  21. Dehydrated or fresh potatoes
  22. Pasta: who loves spaghetti?
  23. Tomato paste or flakes
  24. Salt
  25. Sugar
  26. Honey
  27. Baking soda
  28. Baking powder
  29. Cream of tartar
  30. Canned meat
  31. Wheat
  32. Dehydrated carrots & celery
  33. Salsa and green chilies
  34. Water
  35. Fruit
  36. Vegetables
  37. Oatmeal
  38. Cornstarch

What You Need In Your Pantry:

Beans:

You can buy dried beans in a bag, or purchase ready-to-use canned beans. You can make soups, hummus, side dishes, or chili, and you have great protein for nutrition at the same time.

I can make a meal with beans and my favorite spices then add some tortillas and salsa. I don’t think the variety of beans is really important, whether pinto, black or others. Try them all and see what your family prefers.

Rice:

White rice has a longer shelf life than brown rice, so I store very little brown rice. I can use rice to stretch so many frugal meals, love it! It’s fairly inexpensive, even in smaller bags. I love buying 25-50 pound bags of jasmine rice and filling my 5-gallon buckets with Gamma Lids attached.

We also have white rice in #10 cans. The shelf life is 30 years (unopened) because it is commercially packed compared to the bagged rice from supermarkets.

Mylar bags are a personal preference for some, but I don’t use them. Brown rice lasts about 6 months from the grocery store because it has a higher fat content than white rice. You can store brown rice in the refrigerator for 2-3 months longer if kept in an airtight container.

Soups:

Some people make their own creamed soup from scratch. I buy Campbell’s cream of chicken by the case.

I can make just about any casserole or soup with it. I watch for the case lot sales in the fall. Be sure and check the expiration dates. Soups are particularly great when it’s cold outside, or when a family member isn’t feeling well. Again, try different brands and different varieties based on price, flavor, and how you plan to put them to use.

White Bread Flour:

If you can make bread you can barter and survive. Trust me, people love hot bread right out of the oven. You can make muffins, pancakes, waffles, cookies, cakes, and so much more with flour of any kind. Some people prefer all-purpose flour.

Over the years and with many different recipes, I’ve found bread flour to be the best solution for my baking needs. I call my bread recipe the no-fail approach to delicious bread. Many of my readers have reported super results.

Please remember, if you buy 25-50 pound bags, as I do, it is only good for 12-18 months. Please be safe, mold spores can develop in flour. Be safe, not sorry.

Read More of My Articles  Cheap And Easy Oatmeal You Make Once A Week

Yeast:

I purchase the brand SAF Yeast for my bread and biscuits. Period. I have not had good luck with other yeast brands. I store in the refrigerator the amount of yeast I will use for a month. Having fresh ingredients, particularly yeast, makes all the difference.

The rest of the packages I store in my freezer. They have lasted three years or more for me in the freezer if unopened. If you can’t find it where you live, you can buy it online: Saf Instant Yeast, 1 Pound Pouch

Crackers:

Need I say more. Crackers are great with chili, soups, and topped with your favorite chicken salad made with mayonnaise. We enjoy it with sliced cheese too. What a wonderful snack treat.

Peanut butter:

Sometimes my husband and I have peanut butter and jam sandwiches for lunch. I make homemade whole wheat bread which is a bonus for my budget. We tend to buy our peanut butter and jam jars on the smaller side so the contents stay as fresh as possible. We don’t refrigerate the peanut butter, but once opened, the jam for sure gets put in the fridge.

Jams and jelly:

We can use them for sandwiches, biscuits, rolls, and bread.

Powdered eggs:

For baking only, it’s nice to have a can of powdered eggs in the pantry if you run out of eggs. Of course, fresh eggs may be better flavor and texture-wise. But if you have an ice storm you can still make cookies and stay off the icy roads if your egg cartons are empty.

Instant milk:

This is a bonus for every family. I store my opened #10 can of instant milk in the refrigerator so it’s ready in a flash if I run out of milk. It’s good for two years after opening. Check the date on the instant milk you buy because every manufacturer is different when it comes to shelf life.

Popcorn:

Popcorn is a great tummy filler and comfort food in a bad storm. Add some melted butter to popped corn with a smidge of salt and you have a great treat for everyone! You can add other spices as well and flavor the popcorn to your preference.

When it comes to a really special treat, I’ll make some homemade caramel corn, boy is it delicious!

Dehydrated onions:

I personally rarely buy fresh onions, except maybe in the summer if my garden hasn’t produced enough yet. I love knowing I can add a scoop of dehydrated onions to taco meat, soups, chili, casseroles, and omelets. There’s the added benefit of not having to peel, cut or chop them. Love it!

Lemon juice:

I do buy lemon juice for the refrigerator, but I also buy these packets I use every day and for emergencies: True Lemon Bulk Pack, 500 Count

Cocoa:

Can you smell the chocolate cake baking or relish the taste of hot chocolate right now? There’s nothing like a hot cup of chocolate on a cold day.

Garlic:

Now you can buy a HUGE jar of garlic like my daughter, Heidi, and store it in the refrigerator. Buy some fresh garlic, or buy air-dried minced garlic and it is so awesome to add flavor to almost any dish! I love that I can store it in my pantry, no refrigeration is necessary.

Raisins:

These are great for snacks, muffins, bread pudding, etc. Think of raisins as another fruit to add to your meal planning.

Spices:

Be sure and keep your pantry full of your favorite spices. I can’t get by without vanilla, chili powder, and cinnamon. You know the ones you need based on the types of meals you generally prepare. I’ve always told my readers to buy and store only those food items their families will actually eat.

Tortillas:

I can make my own tortillas with the stuff on this list, except my corn tortillas. Keep a few tortillas on your pantry shelves (check the expiration dates) and a few in the freezer. If you feel so inclined, learn to make tortillas. They taste yummy and fresh!

Chicken broth:

If I have some leftovers from cooking a chicken I’ll freeze it, but I prefer to use: Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base 8 oz. Of course, you’ll need water to generate the broth for a recipe.

If I see a good buy on canned or boxed chicken broth I will pick up a few for the pantry. You can always boil a carcass too.

Olive Oil/Coconut Oil:

We can make so many things with oil. We need it for cooking, baking, and salad making.

Dehydrated or Fresh Potatoes:

We can mash, fry, or bake potatoes. I love dehydrated potatoes to add to soups and chowders, no peeling or chopping. I can add them right from the can to my soups. Mark found some instant potatoes recently that only cost $1.00 a package, what a bargain and they taste great.

Read More of My Articles  Safe Food Storage Containers

Pasta:

Who loves spaghetti? Oh, and mac and cheese. Everyone needs pasta in a pantry to provide a great deal of flexibility to meal preparation. Don’t forget to make some salads with the pasta in your pantry, what a refreshing change of pace.

Tomato paste or flakes:

You can make soups, spaghetti, chili, stews, etc. Tomatoes, in general, are so useful in so many recipes, and they’re good for you too.

Salt:

It’s all about flavor and using it for baking.

Sugar:

I have to have sugar to make my white bread, cinnamon rolls, cookies, cakes, and to put on certain cereals. I know we all need to watch our sugar intake, but so many foods need a little sugar to make them taste just the way you want. I’ve tried sugar substitutes and have some in my pantry, but real white granulated sugar is such a good food storage item.

Honey:

You can make bread with honey, peanut butter with honey sandwiches,  cookies, and all kinds of other baked goods. I only buy honey from Cox’s Honey because it’s pure, raw honey. Honey is a natural food and is so good for you. Give it a try in place of sugar next time.

Baking soda:

I need it for baking muffins, cookies, etc. Baking soda is generally used as a leavening agent and used as a base. When mixed with an acidic ingredient, like a citrus juice, it comes to life.

Baking powder:

I need it for baking, muffins, biscuits, etc. It’s also a leavening agent but is generally used when the recipe doesn’t call for any acid ingredients.

Cream of Tartar:

I know this is a spice, but I need it to make my biscuits and play dough for kids.

Canned Meats:

If you pressure can your own that’s awesome! I buy mine at Costco. I like chicken and tuna with water. I stock up big time when they go on sale. During the summer, Mark and I often make chicken salads and also chicken salad sandwiches. So delightful.

Wheat:

If you can grind wheat and make bread that is awesome too. You can also make hot cereal with just wheat and water to make a wholesome meal.

Here is how I make hot whole wheat cereal: 1 cup washed whole wheat berries, 3 cups water, 1/4 teaspoon salt (optional). Place all the ingredients in a slow cooker at night for 12 hours and you will have hot cereal in the morning.

Drain off excess water and store unused wheat in the refrigerator. Add a little milk and honey when serving, if desired. You can double or triple the recipe if your slow cooker will hold it. You can add the cooked wheat to many meals, as you do with rice or quinoa.

Dehydrated Carrots and Celery:

These are always in my food pantry. I can throw them in soups and stews. Take the time to re-hydrate and you can use them in salads too.

Salsa and Green Chilies:

I can eat salsa on just about everything, just saying. Plus, green chilies are good in casseroles since they add such a unique flavor.

Water:

Store as much as your budget allows. We need water to survive and to make most meals out of our food pantry stash.

Fruit:

Cans of fruit, freeze-dried fruit (longer shelf life), or dehydrate your own for a shorter shelf-life option.

Vegetables:

Store canned, freeze-dried or dehydrated. We’ve been told for years to make sure we eat lots of fruits and veggies. I think fresh is always better, but having some in cans or bottles on the pantry shelf adds so much confidence that you are ready for emergencies and disasters of all kinds.

Oatmeal:

Typically lasts about 2-3 years, depending on the type you buy, whether it’s steel-cut, old-fashioned, or instant (quick). Always store these in airtight containers in a cool dark place.

Cornstarch:

We can always use a thickener, right?

Final Word

Please start stalking what you need in your food pantry, one can at a time. You can do it, I promise. If you follow my recipes you can learn to cook from scratch. It’s easier than you may think.

If you were lucky enough to have had someone teach you to cook from scratch, please pass on that awesome skill to friends and family. May God bless this world. Linda

Food Storage by Linda

Utah State University Extension Canning

Copyright Images: Pasta Depositphotos_41609615_S

44 thoughts on “What You Need In Your Food Pantry

  • February 20, 2022 at 7:57 am
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    Growing up I just assumed everyone knew how to cook, and as I got older I found out I was so wrong. Guess when you grow up with a grandma and mom that cooked and you sit and watch them it is easy to get that idea. I learned from them and I learned a lot more. I took Home Ec in high school (no other class open) and one of the studies was how to buy a fridge.They handed out little books for us to read. I never opened mine and use my common sense my mom taught me
    and passed the test on how to buy a Fridge. To me cooking is that way, just use your head. If something is burning just turn the heat down. Like you said before buy what your family will eat. You do have the best lists we can always double check and make sure we aren’t forgetting something. Keep up the great work.

    Reply
    • February 20, 2022 at 10:17 am
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      Hi June, I think we all need a reminder once in a while. Two years ago when the C started I hadn’t realized I was down to one bottle of ketchup. I buy small bottles so it was like a panic attack (not really) LOL, but one bottle is like no bottles. LOL! We all need a reminder to stock! The fridge story is awesome. We are so blessed to have been taught to cook!!! Thank you for you kind words!! Linda

      Reply
      • February 20, 2022 at 5:03 pm
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        Oh Linda you sound like me, I usually keep things like ketchup in 3’s and the bigger bottles and if I take one out to use it goes right on my shopping list (to avoid a panic attack) I know what you mean. I have almost hyperventilated
        when I run low on a item. I have done that about other things too. It’s just the security of knowing that you have it just in case. I buy the Mortan’s salt in the canister and I have 11 of them but if I can get one at the Amish store for 40 cents
        you bet I am going to buy it. Can’t think about cooking even in hard times without salt. Just keep stacking them up.

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        • February 20, 2022 at 6:43 pm
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          Hi June, I’m so glad I’m not the only one!! 12 cartons of salt are awesome!! LOL! What’s one more, right??? We all need salt and sugar, oh, and chocolate. LOL! Linda

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    • February 20, 2022 at 11:01 am
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      I learned several years ago to add a bay leaf in my jars of flour and grain products. They won’t get buggy.

      Reply
      • February 20, 2022 at 1:20 pm
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        HI Evelyn, thank you for the tip on the bay leaves in your flour and grain products! I love it! Linda

        Reply
  • February 20, 2022 at 8:49 am
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    Great post Linda! I have one thing to say about cornstarch. It can be used as powder for chapped skin.

    I do have most of the items you listed. I need more of some and less of others. LOL I have vacuum sealed flour in jars and it’s still good after 2 years. It is stored in a dark closet in quart jars. I didn’t have any half gallon ones at the time or I’d have used them. I did use a coffee filter between the vacuum sealer and the jar. Another thing I store is cornmeal. Gotta have me some cornbread with my beans. We don’t have anywhere here that has case lots, but I do buy on sale. Most everything we stock is bought on sale.

    Reply
    • February 20, 2022 at 10:20 am
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      Hi Deborah, I love the tip about the coffee filter, good one! I hope my FoodSaver made it through the storage unit!! LOL! We’re still living in one bedroom, life is good, though! I need to stock some cornmeal, thanks for the reminder. Linda

      Reply
  • February 20, 2022 at 8:57 am
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    I didn’t know that other people couldn’t cook either. It was a shock. It isn’t hard. If you can read and follow directions, you can cook.

    We are starting our garden. We already have tiny tomatos. Planted peppers today. Of course, in Ohio, these are all indoors for now.

    Reply
    • February 20, 2022 at 10:26 am
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      Hi Janet, SQUEAL!!! I can’t plant seedlings right now, I LOVE hearing you have tiny tomatoes! Gardening is so fun!! I thought everyone knew how to cook, too. When we lived in Southern Utah, I learned that most people have never cooked from scratch. Or, they thought a cake mix was cooking from scratch to make a cake. No judgment here, people learn from example. Most people in our last neighborhood ate out every meal. Linda

      Reply
      • February 20, 2022 at 1:48 pm
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        I really don’t enjoy eating out much. Food is better at home, and not loaded with things I would rather not eat. Just finished some sourdough bread. Yum.

        Reply
        • February 20, 2022 at 2:20 pm
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          Hi Janet, oh I love sourdough bread!! Food really is better at home! Yummy! Linda

          Reply
  • February 20, 2022 at 9:19 am
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    Hi, Linda. If you had to evacuate but had an hour to pack, what would be the most important foods you would grab from your pantry? Let’s assume you have a small car to travel in and limited space for food. Just something I’ve pondered over the years.

    Reply
      • February 20, 2022 at 4:51 pm
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        I love the idea of freeze-dried food ready to go but I was thinking just everyday food someone could grab from their pantry. What do you think would be most important? If you take flour, sugar etc. you might not be able to cook so I guess canned, boxed food would take priority – you could eat right out of the can/package if necessary. I’d also take a can opener, cast iron skillet that could go on a campfire, a pot with lid, and long handled spatula. And matches! But I might still grab some flour/sugar/baking powder/etc. because if you did have access to a cooking stove/fire, fresh biscuits or pancakes would be a real morale booster! Also, it’s a good idea to keep a couple of small cardboard boxes on hand – they would make packing food supplies into your car a lot easier.

        Reply
        • February 20, 2022 at 6:39 pm
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          Hi Kay, I think some cans of food with a can opener would work great in a box in the car. We can eat beans, vegetables, and fruit right out of the cans. Pancakes would be awesome, but I’m afraid we would not be able to cook anything if we must go to a school or church for shelter after a major or minor disaster. We will never no until the last minute, right? Pack a box then it will be ready to go. Linda

          Reply
  • February 20, 2022 at 10:09 am
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    I really love how thoughtful this blog is! So much information packaged in a really digestible way, every time!

    Question about flour storage… have you looked into oven canning flour? Is there still mold concerns associated with heated-through flour?

    Thanks!

    Reply
  • February 20, 2022 at 12:07 pm
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    I have diced and frozen onions and celery. I have found dehydrated onions, but am unable to find dehydrated celery. All I can find is celery seeds and celery salt. I confess to being one of those people who use cake and cookie mixes….. actually the truth be told, after decades of cooking and baking, I have relinquished that honor to my husband. I actually got him a new angel food cake pan when my son in law said his cake was better than the store bought. I do buy 20 loafs of bread at a time from Longhorn Steakhouse. The loafs are perfect for two people and they freeze wonderfully.

    Reply
    • February 20, 2022 at 1:23 pm
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      Hi Chris, it is getting harder and harder to get dehydrated vegetables. I use cake and brownie mixes, I just add sour cream and pudding to my cake mixes. It’s all good, nothing better than a warm cookie coming out of the oven!!! I love your idea of buying 20 loaves of bread at a time. I bet they are delicious!!! Linda

      Reply
  • February 20, 2022 at 12:32 pm
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    Make your own flavored yogurt like those expensive little cups by mixing a spoonful of your favorite fruit juice sweetened jam into your yogurt (I usually mix about a cup into a quart of Greek yogurt) and then I have several servings. Yum!

    Reply
    • February 20, 2022 at 1:25 pm
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      Hi JoEllen, great idea on the yogurt with fruit juice flavored sweetened jam! I love it! Linda

      Reply
  • February 20, 2022 at 12:43 pm
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    I am one of those who never learned to cook. I was raised by an Aunt who did not want help with cooking and never gave me any instruction. I made awesome ambrosia at Thanksgiving, could chop celery and onions, and made wonderful tuna sandwiches. To cook a meal was daunting to me. My first cheesecake never got baked because my friend had left off those directions and I did not know better. It has been a labor of love to learn to cook for my husband (43 years together) and my children as they were growing up. The best we can give our children is to teach them to cook. Both of my sons are wonderfully inventive cooks.

    Reply
    • February 20, 2022 at 1:28 pm
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      Hi KayK, aww, I love hearing your sons are inventive cooks! See, they learned by example! Being married for 43 years is a blessing!! You are so right, the best thing we can give our kids is to teach them to cook! Cheesecake sounds yummy! It’s too bad your friend left off the baking instructions!! Linda

      Reply
  • February 20, 2022 at 3:03 pm
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    Linda:

    Thanks for the list. There are a few items I would not keep. Cornstarch, Oatmeal, Instant Milk, and a few others. I can’t eat anything with sulfates, sulfites, and sulfonamides and of course anything that has a sulf prefix in the ingredients. I don’t use corn tortilla’s because no one in the family will eat them. They say Cornbread was good enough for their ancestors and it is good enough for them. The family also has a oral story that their ancestors Frank and Jesse James would only eat cornbread. I don’t know if that is true but oh well. But the thing is they are not direct descendants of Frank and Jesse but from their father’s brother. There has been a Frank and Jesse in the family somewhere from that time on.

    Reply
    • February 20, 2022 at 4:38 pm
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      Hi Jackie, oh the Frank and Jesse James story, I love it! I love cornbread, so cornbread it is! Linda

      Reply
  • February 21, 2022 at 12:33 am
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    If I had to grab and go instead of Sugar I’d grab Molasses I learned to make a pancake syrup. And it is UBER high in iron! Any where you’d need sugar or honey in small amounts can be substituted.

    Reply
    • February 21, 2022 at 6:01 am
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      Hi Hazel, I love hearing this!! I have never made homemade pancake syrup with molasses!! Linda

      Reply
  • February 21, 2022 at 2:41 pm
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    Hi Linda! Terrific list, thanks! At this point in time, I think folks should be stocking up their pantries with everything they need to make meals. Some people I know still don’t believe there are any supply chain issues or shortages. It’s as if they’re in some kind of trance. I hope your readers take heed of your advice & get what they need for their pantries!

    Reply
    • February 21, 2022 at 3:27 pm
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      Hi Amy, I have a few more Sam’s Club posts coming. I’m hoping people get out of that “trance”, food is becoming scarce every day. We must be prepared more now than ever before. Linda

      Reply
      • February 27, 2022 at 12:01 pm
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        Looking forward to the Sam’s Club posts! 🙂
        Yes, folks need to snap out of the “trance” for sure.

        Reply
        • February 27, 2022 at 1:36 pm
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          Hi Amy, you made my day! Another one is scheduled for March 1st! Linda

          Reply
  • February 22, 2022 at 7:56 am
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    Salt is one of those interesting items… I mainly stock plain table salt and iodized table salt (since post event we may be unable to get foods rich in iodine.) But I also have plenty of kosher salt for cooking and a number of finishing salts including sea salt, Himalayan pink salt (not the same as pink salt used for preserving/curing meats!) and a couple of fancier ones in tiny jars. My latest salt purchase was actually Flavocol which is specifically to flavor popcorn like they do at the movie theaters. (I’ve been using 1/4 tsp per batch of popcorn so I’ve probably got 10 years worth of popcorn salt.) 😛

    As for soup, while I have plenty of the Progresso heat and eat soups, I stock 3 types of Campbell condensed soups for cooking: tomato, cream of mushroom and cheddar cheese. Lots of casserole dishes use the cheese or cream of mushroom, and I love American chop suey, hence the tomato condensed soup.

    Crackers are definitely a staple in my home. Definitely have a nice stash of saltines, but for more than 6 months out I keep pilot crackers both in #10 cans and in mylar pouches. If we can’t make bread for a bit, then the crackers are a decent substitute to use with canned meats, peanut butter, etc.

    Definitely been careful to keep my stock levels up as we approach more uncertainty with Russia and Ukraine right now and China/Taiwan are potentially just down the road….

    Thanks for helping folks stay prepared!

    Reply
    • February 22, 2022 at 9:31 am
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      Hi DmWalsh, oh my gosh, I tried the Flavocol salt!!!!!! I need to order some more. I stock the soups, tomato, cream of chicken, mushroom, and potato. I have never purchased the cheese. Now I will. I’m worried about our food chain. Stay safe, great reminders, thank you. Linda

      Reply
      • February 22, 2022 at 9:49 am
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        I use the cheddar cheese condensed soup in my Mac and cheese dinner. Three cans of cheese, one can of stewed tomato, one pound of elbow macaroni (cooked then add the cans) placed in a casserole dish and covered with hotdogs if I have them or bread crumbs if I’m out. Not a fancy meal, but super easy to prepare and everything other than the hotdogs are shelf stable. Actually just cooked it for dinner last night so I have leftovers for a few lunches this week.

        I’ll have to try the cream of chicken and cream of potato, since they sound interesting and could be the base of another casserole. Thanks for the ideas!

        Reply
        • February 22, 2022 at 11:06 am
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          Hi DMWalsh, oh my gosh, mac and cheese, I love it! I love hot dogs too! Great idea!! I love leftovers for lunch the next day! Linda

          Reply
  • June 28, 2022 at 6:31 pm
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    I am trying to get my husband to at least TRY instant milk. What brand is the best?

    Reply
    • June 28, 2022 at 7:04 pm
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      Hi Chris, I only buy Thrive Life, I have several #10 cans and then they came out with Pantry size cans. The cans last 25 years unopened in a cool place. Two years opened. I store the open one in the frig. I buy it for long-term and emergencies. It all depends on how you’re going to use it. I have heard other cans are good but they only last 2 years or so. Nica or MooMoo (not sure on the names) have a short shelf life or they used to anyway. Linda

      Reply

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