My pantry is not a 100% Nutritarian safe-haven. I do share this house with an omni-husband and a cracker/cereal-loving toddler. I keep a small stock of baking items such as flour and sugar, just in case I need to make any baked items for guests or an event. I also have some sweeteners like honey and maple syrup that I bring out for special occasions. For the most part, I keep these non-Nutritarian items on very high or very low shelves in my pantry so that they are not easy to get to. (My husband's snacks and goodies are in our kitchen on a shelf next to the garbage... so I remember not to touch them because they are garbage! ;))
There are a few things that are not in my pantry because I've either learned to live without them or avoid them for a good reason. Here is what I don't have stocked:
1.) Canned tomato products
I've been learning more about BPA in the linings of metal food cans. The higher acidity tomato products in these cans cause the chemicals to leach into the food more so than other canned items. This summer, I plan to buy a lot of tomatoes, cook and jar them myself to store in the freezer. In the meantime, I have been mostly going without tomatoes. If I need to make a recipe that calls for diced tomatoes, I have been having good results using chopped Roma, grape, or cherry tomatoes instead.
I know an alternative to canned is the shelf-stable boxed variety, but, in working towards producing less waste (including less recyclable waste), I've started avoiding boxed tomato products too. As with most everything Nutritarian, fresh is best!
2.) Vegetable broth cartons or bouillon
Over the last year, I have gotten in the habit of making my own veggie broth. I save most of my veggie scraps when I'm prepping meals or cooking during the week. I keep a bag in my freezer that I stock up with veggie scraps, and, when I have enough, I make a pot of veggie broth in my Instant Pot. Not only is this free, but also I know exactly what is going into it and can make it richer than storebought varieties.
Some of the veggies I like to include are onion peels, carrot peels, celery scraps, garlic peels, herb stems, apple peels, bell pepper scraps, fresh ginger, and older dried up mushrooms. Vegetables that I don't include in my veggie broth are potato or squash peels, soft lettuces, cruciferous vegetable scraps, beet scraps, and no moldy/slimy veggies. If you'd like to give it a try, start with adding onion, garlic, carrot, and celery, then try out different "more experimental" veggies. Just because I don't add cruciferous veggies doesn't mean you can't try it and like the results!
When it is time to cook my veggie broth, I empty the bag of scraps into my Instant Pot (no need to thaw), add water to cover (but below max fill line), and set it to cook. If I need it quickly, I set for 15 minutes high pressure and release the pressure 30 minutes after the timer goes off. If I need it in a few hours, I set for 15 minutes high pressure, then allow for a quick release in "warming" mode. If I'd like veggie broth ready by morning, I set it to slow cook for 6-8 hours. Obviously, the longer cooking periods you give the veggies, the richer and more flavorful the broth will be.
I generally like to use my veggie broth up within a week. I use it in soups, to thin dips and sauces, to cook whole grains in, and to water saute veggies. I like to think it adds some extra flavor and nutrition.
The steeped veggie scraps can be easily composted. I recently started thinking of blending up the spent veggie scraps, straining and dehydrating it into a powder to make an instant veggie broth powder or no-salt seasoning. Crazy? Let me know if you think it might work.
3.) Excess dried goods
This includes dried legumes and grains. I have been working for the last two months to whittle my supply down, and I still have a lot to use up. I used to think I NEEDED a pretty little jar full of every type of grain and legume at my disposal. In reality, I often repeat the same grains (brown rice, quinoa, rolled oats) and legumes (chickpeas, pinto beans, lentils), and when I do have a planned recipe that needs something other than my regulars, I buy just what I need that week.
This has made managing and navigating my pantry easier since there are fewer items in general. It has also helped to lower our grocery budget. Even when I do run out of one of my regular beans or grains, I challenge myself to use up more of what we have before feeling like I need to run to the store. Especially since I am following Dr. Fuhrman's aggressive weight loss plan, we go through grains very slowly since I never eat more than 1 cup of cooked grains in a day.
This isn't to say "shame on you" for having a large stock of dried goods. If that works for you, great! Personally, the excess of jars made me feel overwhelmed, but somehow still like there was nothing good to cook. Simple works best for me.
If you feel like you'd like to reduce your stock, you might be ready for a Pantry Challenge. I did this in the month of April this year and set my goal to not buy any dried legumes or grains (really, the only pantry items we bought were cereal and crackers for Ben). A month and a half later, I've finally used up all of the pinto beans from a gigantic bag I bought nearly two years ago (yes, they were still good but required more soaking and longer cooking times), and I also used up all of our lentils, split peas, mung beans, and millet.
I still have quite a grain stock, including quinoa (10+ cups), brown rice (2 cups), white rice (1 cup), cornmeal (3 cups), steel cut oats (6 cups), wheatberries (6 cups), quick oats (5 cups), and rolled oats (6 cups). In reality, this amount of grains could last our family of three for more than two months. For beans, I only have ground green split peas (1 cup), chickpeas (2 cups), black beans (2 cups), and multi-bean mix (3 cups), which could last us two or three weeks.
This topic, along with everything else I write on this blog is merely my experience. What works for our family may not work for yours. I've been working on being a more conscious consumer, but I still have many areas I can improve. I've spent the last year learning lots of kitchen skills in order to DIY more items which produces less waste, saves money, and tend to be healthier. My recent favorite DIY kitchen staple has been homemade hot sauces.
What pantry foods do you prefer to DIY?
Health and Happiness,