Insights by Goldie
Pantry preparedness: your best home-security system

Sound Consumer | February 2009

by Goldie Caughlan
Quality Standards Specialist

These are challenging times, weatherwise and otherwise. January’s warmer temperatures and relentless rains followed December’s heavy snow and ice. Our Cascade mountain passes from the east were closed for days. In southwestern Washington, the flood-damaged interstate and connecting highways forced closure of rail service and freeways. Shipments of fresh produce and other perishables were blocked or delayed for a time.

This is a sobering reminder of the tenuous threads that our food system relies upon. At PCC, where the emphasis is on providing the most nutritious and freshest whole foods, we focus on supporting our region’s sustainable and organic farmers and ranchers.

Tragically, many of them are experiencing very heavy losses, a repeat of the experiences from floods in late 2007 and early 2008.

Such factors inevitably affect both the present and future availability and cost of many foods. It can create chain reactions that extend to many regional processors, packers and shippers and ultimately each of us. We are interdependent, each a vital link in the chain, as we strive to “provide this day our daily bread.”

It’s prudent and sensible that each of us learn to take as much responsibility for our own food security as circumstances permit. The most basic level of food provisioning is planning and stocking up to weather a sudden emergency.

Emergency foods
The Red Cross and www.Ready.gov (a program of U.S. Homeland Security) urge us to stock at minimum a three-day supply of non-perishable, shelf-stable foods for each person. My additional advice: think of your neighbors, too, and consider doubling your emergency stash. It can’t hurt and it may become critically important.

Choose foods that need no cooking and require little or no added water. Avoid salty chips and crackers because they increase thirst. Store water, allowing one gallon per day for each person and replace it regularly with fresh.

Check the www.Ready.gov or other Web sites for advice to guide emergency planning for health and safety items, including medicines, herbs and supplements, accounting for ages and special needs.

Avoid glass containers. Choose cans, boxes or sealed pouches. Recommended choices: fish, meat, protein bars, dried fruits, dry breakfast cereals, nuts and seeds, nut butters and crackers. Include cartons of juice, milk (dairy or alternative), and high-energy “comfort foods” (such as chocolate) and extras of dried fruits. Check use-by dates and periodically use and replace.

The primary pantry
This is what many of us routinely rely on for our daily diet. For me, I need to feel that I could, if required, provide nutritious, good-tasting foods for two or three weeks or more, without added provisions.

But deciding how to stock the pantry needs to be tailored to the habits of the cook, who needs to assess: how regularly do I cook or bake and what food needs, allergies or preferences should I consider?

After 25 years of teaching the Walk, Talk and Taste classes via PCC Cooks, giving shopping and cooking advice here at PCC, I’ve tried to listen carefully and gauge advice to individual needs and concerns. Some will resonate immediately with my and my co-instructors’ concepts of what we consider a well-stocked, organic, natural foods pantry — but others will not.

Whatever your circumstance, we’re here to help you gain confidence in how to best “stock up.”

As natural foods educators, we emphasize whole grains, flours, dried beans, seeds and nuts, oils, dried seasonings, yeast, natural sweeteners and condiments from the bulk section. We know that buying in bulk saves money and provides delicious, essential nutrients. But it does require forming a habit of basing your meals around such foundation foods and regularly replacing them because, rotated regularly, they remain at their best for flavor and nutrition.

For those not ready for that extent of a commitment (yet!), we can help you learn as you go. You can benefit immediately by beginning to emphasize more of the most nutritious foods — including “convenience” items such as cartons of soup, canned beans, nutritious packaged grain mixes, and whole-grain crackers, cereals and pastas.

Add sauces, condiments, and perhaps nut or seed butters, canned sardines, anchovies, salmon and tuna (or shelf-stable tofu) and you have a good beginning at a nutritious food pantry. We’ll coach you.

We hope to see you in PCC’s free Walk, Talk and Taste classes soon!

More about: food politics, food security, food systems, PCC Cooks

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