Hmm. Best by May 21, 2017. That may be a bit past its prime. But then, it is an extruded potato product heavily salted. Maybe it is fine. So goes my visit to my pantry. This coronavirus crisis seems like a good opportunity to review my stored food, and make menu selections accordingly. What can I make from Annie’s Mac and Cheese, shredded coconut, and a can of Pringles that’s three years past its “Best By” date?
Being a frugal folk, I try to keep my pantry full, but not too full. Living alone means it is easy to buy more than one person can eat before it all goes bad. I haven’t been to the store in about 12 days. My real estate office was (though no longer is – stay tuned for that story) beside a community grocer, The Goose. To most shoppers it looks like a medium size super-market. To locals, it’s one of the largest on the south half of the island (Whidbey). To me, I’ve appreciated that it is influenced by the local non-profit (Goosefoot) that figures carrying for people is the best way to care for the community. Or is it the other way around? Or is it circular? No matter. My almost daily habit for over two years was to visit at lunch, scope out the sales, and fill my pantry by buying on the way home from work. That certainly has come in handy.
Partly because of my blog that is about ‘news that is based on data and logic, significant, and apolitical’ (a tough criterion for the last few years), I’ve been aware of the virus since December. I waited for statistically significant data. In 2019, the data wasn’t as common as the anecdotes. In January, the first US case was discovered a short drive east of my home. By February there were over 37,000 cases. I began taking it personally seriously.
I also didn’t freak or panic, despite the name of the blog (PretendingNotToPanic.com). I did, however, review the gaps in my pantry. There weren’t many, but I filled in many of the niches whether there was a sale or not. As I mentioned in Personal Pandemic Prep, basically if I bought too much and the crisis was lifted, I could donate the rest.
So much for the crisis being lifted. The world now has over 1,000,000 cases of the virus, and billions haven’t been tested.
Tonight’s dinner doesn’t touch any of the past-best-by dates. This is an opportunity to thaw a meal that was intended to be an office lunch. Add some rice (sorry, Doc), maybe some cheese (despite the fact that I hope to never buy that brand of cheese again), and chili for dinner.
But, how out-of-date are things? Fortunately, I checked earlier and at least put the oldest things up front. In the next few days I’ll use one of the Annie’s Mac and Cheese mixes (though they give it a fancier name). The shredded coconut will either become an addition to oatmeal, or cookies, or – nope, almost out of yogurt. Not bad, considering. Certainly not a hardship. Oh shucks. I have to make cookies. Oh darn.
To quell the idea that I have some massive storage facility, I have a small house (~860 square feet) with a small kitchen – and still have nearly-empty drawers and cabinets.
The photos may not look packed, and they’re not. Between their contents and what’s in my fridge and freezer, there is at least a month of meals. Maybe two if necessity drives me to adding tomato sauce to various types of beans and noodles. And then there’s the rice. And then there’s the truly emergency food that may last forever, but would only taste good at the edge of apocalypse.
Canned goods and such in one place. Another holds staples like flour, mixes, sugar (leftovers from a different diet), and beans, lots of beans. One last cupboard has pasta, rice noodles, lots of popcorn, herbs and spices – and of course tea. (See #TomTea on Twitter for pieces of that story.)
At this point, preppers are scoffing and laughing. “Only a month’s supplies! Ha! How about a decade’s?” An impressive accomplishment, and a time when they can feel justified for stocking up.
The world is weird enough. As I mentioned earlier (Personal Pandemic Prep), dedicating an emergency preparedness kit for only one thing is better than nothing. It is more than most folks accomplish. Having a full pantry without a kit is also better than nothing, as long as the power and water flow. Having both, that’s a luxury.
And yet, imperfections happen. I don’t expect to cover every possibility. Life’s too short to worry that much. But, covering most of the cases is comforting, especially when there’s already enough to be anxious about. Three items past their “Best By” date? Not a problem. A slight imperfection. Forgetting to stock things that aren’t stored in the pantry, like toilet paper? Well. Let’s give a new definition to three squares a day.
My pantry is overfull of outdated products. I am loathe to toss food that doesn’t appear to be fouled in some way. The nut flours emit a stale nut aroma but I can use them in pancakes and cookies even though I have to use non-sugar sweetners. I check cans for bulges and have had only one blow up as i opened it. But it has made me rethink canned goods and depend on frozen now. I have been using up a lot of the freezer food, which doesn’t spoil as long as the freezer is working. I have bought a lot of provisions in the past and I am now rethinking just how much food do I need to stock up with just two of us? More fresh in the future. And less volumne, I think.