empty shelfWe’re okay. I went shopping right before the pandemic. Things looked good. There was bread and milk

Less than a week later, lines wrapped around the big store. Shelves emptied.

People rushed the fork lift guy who was refilling the water at the warehouse store. They cleaned out the toilet paper aisle–then bought junk food.  It didn’t make sense.

“They’re not buying food,” I said.

“They are here,” said my friend in different regions of the country.  Then, one by one, I got the reports. People were looking for flour, yeast, anything with a disinfectant. Meat plants closed down. Panic buying began. Who’d have thought the new 1% would be measured in bags of flour or toilet paper?

“Mom, what are we going to do when we run out of food?” Declan asked.

“We are not going to run out of food,” I said. It’s true. My pantry is stocked. I have every grain, bean, spice, and meal building block. I hate shopping.

“I mean…stuff I like, like Oreos and stuff. And we’re out of bread!”  While it’s true, I cannot recreate an Oreo, but I will not run out of food. With a well-stocked pantry, neither will you. I promise you.

Most people today do the food thing backwards.  You say, “I want (this specific food) for dinner.” Then, you go to the store and get it, along with twenty other things you “forgot” or saw on sale. It’s better to stock up then look at your ingredients or garden and say, “I’m making that!”

It’s not something most people are used to. We’re used to on-demand food  half-prepped in bags, boxes clamshells and cans.  Cooking from scratch is not the same as using your microwave, but I promise you the food is better.

We’re going on year three of pandemic supply chain issues.  Stores may not have your favorite brand, and many prices are through the roof. Don’t worry! This is when your poser homestead will shine!

Remember: this has happened before—just (maybe) not to you.

Every older person remembers rationing. remember some glitch in the force.  1970’s inflation. Wartime rationing. Victory gardens. The Depression.  It’s why my grandma always told me to, “Have some tea with my sugar.” She wasn’t being overly healthy. She remembered going without. It’s why my friend’s great aunt always stole sugar and condiment packages from restaurants. Who knows–maybe we’ll be the generation that swipes toilet paper from their bathrooms.

American’s aren’t used to glitches in supply chains. That’s why it’s time to change the mindset. Poser Homesteading will help you do that–to cook in season, to shop less, and to cook from scratch more. It’s a great flow in normal times but today, while everyone else is complaining about what their store doesn’t have, you’ll be eating five-star meals.

Think like an Iron Chef…

Instead of thinking about what’s not in stock, think like an Iron Chef.  If you’ve never seen the Iron Chef food battles, two chefs are given one ingredient and have to make as many dishes as possible before time runs out. Iron Chefs can take any ingredient and make ten signature dishes. That’s not only good pantry cooking, it’s good seasonal cooking as well.

I lived in Moscow for a short while. Russia wasn’t famous for its full shelves at the time. Getting a loaf of bread at the bakery took a solid half-hour, two hours if they closed for lunch while I was still in line. Empty shelves were the norm. Because of this, people learned to adapt. They cooked what was available, they didn’t plan them meal then shop for it.

Russian dinner featured that in several little dishes. It looks like a table full of tapas–a few spoons of this, a little of that, but everyone left full. It was a million microdishes, prepared simply. Delicious!

“Iron Chef” and “shelf cooking” reminds me of this. I see what’s in my fridge or pantry, and I craft some food. This style of cooking is delicious when I’m on point, but it also reduces food waste and saves money avoiding all those “just one thing” trips to the store.

Stock up when you can

Read my “pantry raid” post, and take a quick inventory of your ingredients. Keep “The Basics” on hand, with a couple extras if you can. I keep flours, grains, sugars, and baking ingredients on hand at all times. I also have a full freezer with fruit frozen in season and bulk-cooked meals frozen in portion sizes ….. Once you start to fill up your pantry, you’ll never stress over an empty shelf in a store again. You’ll be a better cook, too.

But if you’re trying

gotten too far away from our food sources. There is an entire section in the produce aisle filled with pre-chopped $6 veggies. Skip those. Go right to the whole veg. Pick up a vegetable you’ve never seen before and learn about it.

I once had someone ask me how to make mashed potatoes. Another person asked how to boil an egg correctly. If that’s your starting place, so be it. But, make sure to expand from there. No starting point is too “beginner”–I’ve had friends ask how to reheat spaghetti without a microwave. It’s not your fault–you’ve been trained this way by your grocery store.

“You can MAKE bread?”

“It doesn’t grow in plastic bags.”

We’ve lost touch with some basic skills–things our grandparents could do without thinking.  If you get those skills back, you can inflation bust like a pro. Your supply chain will never be broken.

Today, we live in the land of boxes, and delivered-to-you meals. If that went away, could you survive? Now’s a great time to learn to cook your favorite things from scratch. I’m not saying you need to eat healthy, either.  Author Michael Pollan discussed limiting junk food to “only what you can make from scratch.”

He never met me. I can make candy, ice cream, cookies–all the crap you want.  I don’t, but by that rule, I could eat more junk food because I have a deep pantry and a high level of knowledge.

I have a friend who said, “I live in New York City, no need to cook, ever.” At the time, he was right. For him, it was nearly as expensive to go out and get the ingredients than to let a famous chef make dinner, and the chef cooked much better. But during quarantines, that Chef went away. No restaurants… just people stuck in very small apartments.  Everyone had to cook.

Even now, supply chains are still fragile, things come from around the globe and aren’t always easy to get. But with a little knowledge of ingredients, a stocked pantry, and a few chef skills, you won’t care that Honey Nut Cheerios were sold out and you will never, ever get a pre-cut onion again.

Learn something new–every year, whether it’s to beat the empty shelves or to eat better food.

Learn to fix, build, cook, substitute, create, and enjoy. Even if it’s a simple home-sprouted bean sprout stir fry, a loaf of daily bread or a case of home- brewed beer. Cheer, and enjoy the ride.

Here are a few recipes you can probably make right now:

Blueberry Corn Muffins: I pick and freeze berries once a year. I also can a few when my freezer space runs out.  Any berry will do. You can also use apple chunks, or no fruit. It’ll still be a great muffin–better than your coffee shop ones!

Banana bread. I make this from dying bananas. They’re the sweetest. If you have way too many bananas, peel and freeze them. Thaw them when you need them. This is coffee shop good.

Pesto. This costs a billion dollars in the store, but I make it by the quart in the summer and freeze it.

Tomato soup.  You definitely have these ingredients on hand. Except for the tomatoes, it’s easy to swap out things. You can swap out the cream–or dairy for milk or non dairy. Swap fresh garlic, onions, and thyme for dried and powders. Soup is one of the best pantry cleanouts there is.

Bread pudding.  Got stale bread and the bread aisle’s empty? Turn it into croutons or bread pudding.

Bread.  You can make this. It’s easy.  Make the dough at night, let it rise, and bake it in the AM while you’re getting ready for work or your day. If you’ve got a mixer with a dough hook, the active time here is about three minutes of measuring and dumping and a few seconds to heat up your oven and plop the dough on a stone or baking sheet.  Never worry if the bread and milk aisle are picked clean again!

Rice and grains. They store well, and you should always have them on hand. See my pantry article if you need to.  Here’s my recipe for stir-fried rice. There are better ones out there–I’ve recently been working hard to up my Chinese cuisine game.  You can also make sushi, risotto, rice-based casserole,

Pancakes and waffles. If you’ve still got flour, you have breakfast. If not, see “eggs.”

Black bean burgers. You should definitely have some dry or canned black beans on hand. If not, sub pinto beans or something else.  Veggie burgers are not just for vegetarians. The meat people here ask for them, too.

I’m listening to a lot of people complain about the latest product that fell victim tot he supply chain. Instead, channel your inner Iron Chef, go one step deeper into your pantry, and cook something amazing.  You can’t fix the Port of Los Angeles which held your products hostage for half a year… but you can cook an amazing meal. You got this!

 

 

 

PS: I have a newsletter. It’s been a “when I get to it,” thing. If you sign up, you’ll get a recipe or a few tips once in a while.