empty shelfI went shopping right before the pandemic. Things looked good. There was bread and milk

We’re okay.

Less than a week later, lines wrapped around the big store. People rushed the fork lift guy refilling the water and cleaned out the toilet paper aisle–then bought junk food.  It didn’t make sense.

“They’re not buying pantry stuff,” 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. My pantry is stocked.

“I mean…stuff I like, like Oreos and stuff. And we’re out of bread!”  We might run out of Oreos, but with a well-stocked pantry, you will eat well, I promise you. It’s not something most people are used to, and the food can seen a little weird. We’re used to food in bags, boxes and cans.  Cooking from the pantry is not the same as opening up a bag of Doritos watching TV, but I promise you I can make something better.

It’s been two years since that first empty shelf. Supply chains haven’t come back to normal and many prices are through the roof.

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.

Think like an Iron Chef…or a Russian.

The best thing to do is to keep a stocked pantry. But, if you’re behind the eight ball on this, it’s not a problem. Instead of thinking about what’s not there, I like to think like

Instead of thinking about what’s not in stock, I like this thinking better: Think like an Iron Chef.  Iron Chefs can take any ingredient and make a masterpiece. That’s not only good pantry cooking, it’s good seasonal cooking as well.

I lived in Moscow for a short while. It wasn’t famous for its full shelves. Getting a loaf of bread at the bakery could take an hour, two if they closed for lunch. Empty shelves were the norm. Because of this, people learned to adapt. It’s the opposite of the American meal, where we cook what we want–usually a main dish and a side or two–three or four heaps of things not touching on a plate.

Instead, people took what they had that day, and 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. Beet salad, a bit of an egg dish, shred up some carrots… a million microdishes, prepared simply. Delicious!

“Iron Chef” and “shelf cooking” is much more like this–I go into my fridge or pantry, and I craft some food. It’s creative–art that tastes great.

Do a Pantry Raid

If you’re not comfortable with cooking from scratch, start to practice. Take a quick look at the “pantry raid” post, and start by keeping “The Basics” on hand–flours, grains, sugars, baking ingredients, a full freezer with ingredients…. 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, probably eat healthier, but you’ll certainly waste less.

Demystify ingredients

We’ve 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.


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.