In part 1 of How to Create the Self-Sufficient Homestead Pantry I addressed a low cost, easy to implement technique for stocking your homestead pantry shelves with shelf stable food staples. This go around I’ll try to give you guys some ideas for covering your other food needs. Keep in mind that we are not creating some kind of obscure prepper pantry here, these are the normal food items that you use on a daily basis from the list of ingredients that you created earlier (outlined in part 1). This is the designed for convenience and thrift.
With that in mind, the first thing we want to look at is exploring techniques for making those commonly used items we identified as not being shelf stable, shelf stable. I know, it’s kind of a wild notion and I might be hitting you from left field, but let’s go out on a limb and try it! This is pretty basic stuff and sort of common sense, but sometimes someone just needs to say it, you know for a reminder…
The easiest substitution can be made by simply purchasing and keeping a stock of canned versions from your ingredient list. Things like canned chicken, beef chunks, green beans, corn, etc. (whatever is on your list) can be added in limited quantities to your pantry shelves. Most of these items are pale comparisons to fresh, but will definitely fill the bill in a pinch. You’ll want to have something like 4-6 each of the canned versions of your favorite ingredients. You likely won’t be using these often so you don’t need a large quantity on hand. The next logical step is growing or purchasing the fresh ingredients and canning them yourself. Here’s a pretty good video explaining the basics of homestead canning if you are feeling nervous about canning or are unsure of yourself: Complete Home Canning Basics for Beginners | The Homestead Wife.
One method for putting up a lot of ready to eat meals is cooking in bulk and canning your excess. This is perfect for things like soups and stews. Just make some big double or triple batches of your favorite recipes while the weather is nice and cool (that way you’re not heating up your house with all of this stuff in the summer) and pressure can the leftovers. The key here is that you do not add thickeners to the product you are going to be canning, no rice or noodle either, and then process in a pressure caner. Things like squash or tomato soup are good here, along with beef stew, chicken soup, chili, bbq beef, beans, and bone stock. Make sure to consult a good canning book for processing times, and don’t be afraid!
A couple other methods for increasing shelf life are lacto-fermenting your foods or curing meats. You can also purchase dehydrated specialty items like meat chunks (for soups, stews, or stir fries) as well as veggies. These would be used mainly as adjuncts in your recipes and not as a featured ingredient. Using dehydrated chicken cubes and carrots in your homemade chicken noodle soup for example would hardly be noticeable, and wouldn’t tap into your fresh stores.
Finally let’s not forget that having a well stocked freezer is an integral part of the homestead pantry. A good reliable chest freezer is going to be your most energy efficient option here. You’ll want to keep track of your inventory in a notebook or something, since it can be pretty easy to loose things in the bottom of a chest freezer if you forget they’re there. Ingredients like meat, veggies, some types of mushrooms, and berries are natural candidates for freezer storage. Having a good quality commercial style vacuum sealer is a great accessory for your freezer! A good low cost method for freezer preservation is to blanch and flash freeze your home grown produce (veggies & berries). To blanch you just want to quickly steam or boil your item, then toss it into very cold (ice) water to stop the cooking process. Next we like to spread the blanched item out in a single layer on a cookie tray and put it in the freezer just long enough to freeze the outside. Once that has happened we’ll gather everything up and put it in a freezer bag (this is where the vacuum sealer comes in handy). This way you can take out just a cup of say green beans and leave the rest in the freezer. You can use a similar process by cooking some foods in bulk (something like meatballs comes to mind here) and freezing the surplus.
By shopping for bargains or harvesting your homestead surplus and preserving it for future use it is easy to keep a well stocked pantry on the cheap. There is no better way to leverage the homestead lifestyle for convenience and thrift than to preserve your harvest and keep a well stocked homestead pantry!