What do you do when you buy a house with no pantry? Today’s $20/$20 Challenge submission from reader, Veronica, shows us just that. Here’s her story:
My name is Veronica and I live in a suburb north of Seattle, Washington, with my husband and 3 kids – ages 5 and younger. I have been following your blog for a couple years now and have loved adapting my Texas (where I grew up) gardening skills to NW Washington! I wish I had your time to garden, but also know that your teenagers are a lot more helpful and self-sufficient than my young crew.
Last November, my husband and I bought our first house!!! The previous owners had been gardeners (one of the reasons we bought the house) and they installed 4 raised garden beds, an apple tree, a strawberry patch, and a rotating barrel composter. There are also many beautiful perennial flowers (a flowering plum tree, irises, day lilies, roses, tulips, hyacinths, hydrangeas, crocuses, and a few rhododendrons). The year before we bought the house, it was a rental, so we are in the process of pulling all the weeds (I passionately dislike horsetail and dandelions!) and getting everything back in ship shape. After the gardening season is more progressed, I will send you garden photos. So far, though, we have added blueberry bushes and raspberry canes outside of a traditional vegetable garden. Next year we will add rhubarb and rosemary.
As for the food storage, the major downside of the house is that there is NO PANTRY! I have had to make do with cabinets, which I dislike storing food in, and shelving units. (We will redo the kitchen in a few years, after saving up some more money.) The one cute cabinet in the house is in the wall in the kitchen. It is built between the studs spaces and is only as deep as the wall is thick! I keep my small-containered open baking goods in the top and the kids’ dishes in the bottom of it.
When we lived in Utah (yes, we are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints; the Mormons), our friend built us this awesome canned good shelving unit and we moved it with us after college graduation. We also brought our larger dry goods containers with us; they are re-purposed 3-gallon ice cream buckets from The Creamery on 9th at Brigham Young University (BYU). I store my rice, wheat (which I grind for baking), various dry beans, flour, sugar, milk powder, dry onions, old fashioned oats, etc. in them. I adore their easy to get on and off lids and the fact that I can lift them with a couple children clinging to my legs. I also have some outside, housing my container garden on the porch.
I love my spice rack. It is so big, but the real reason I love it is that my husband made it. He gave it to me for our first Christmas after we got married. It has moved homes with us five times since then.
My mother taught me to water bath can when I was a kid and I have since made and canned various jams, jellies, and butters, sliced fruits, tomato products, and everything apple you can think of. One of the neatest things Mom did was to require our significant others through high school to participate in apple processing week at our house. They picked, peeled, sliced, cored, boiled, mashed, sweetened, canned, and tasted apple everything with us. She would label jars with who helped can it. My husband and I are high school sweethearts, so we have jars with both our names on them from a decade and a half ago!
I now have a pressure canner and a friend of mine is going to teach me how to can chicken at the end of the month after we pick up our Zaycon chicken order! I am excited! We don’t eat jam as fast as I like to make it, so I have put a limit on myself to not make more jam until we finish the jam we have. It is so hard not to turn all these Washington berries into jam each summer! The first summer we were here, I canned 4 dozen or more jars of blackberry jam, jelly, syrup, and whole berries. It was a bit too much for our family of (then) 3.
We have 2 refrigerators: 1 in the kitchen for open and in-use items and 1 in the garage for extra and stocked-up food items. (I haven’t been to the store in a while and we just finished the leftovers, so the kitchen fridge picture is somewhat bare.) It is so nice to have extra space for dairy products, produce, and meat when they go on sale. I buy 2 or 3 of a specific kind of meat at a time, so there is a ham, a couple pork loins (the 3-5 pound kind), 3 beef roasts, and a stack of sausage currently in the garage freezer. We also freeze extra berries from the U-pick farms we visit each year, but all those berries are gone now. I also occasionally double a recipe and freeze half of it for a later day.
Also in the garage is our water storage. I reuse the thicker plastic drink containers to store water in for use in emergencies. When we were in married student housing, we found out that plastic milk containers are not thick enough for water storage! I got the containers mainly from when I used to work as an engineer and the company would buy soft and juice drinks for the office parties. I think we have water for a week or two for our family of 5.
I shop the grocery sales at various stores, buy seasonal, buy certain items in bulk, and keep a rotating food supply of between 3 and 6 months for our family. I try to teach my kids something new each time we go to a store, so I don’t feel so bad schlepping them across town for a couple items in our shopping adventures. We try to visit 2 or 3 stores in an outing to save on time and gas.
I cook dinner every day from scratch and do all our baking from scratch. I am pleased to say that, so far, we have purchased 1 loaf of bread in our 8.5 years of marriage. We do need to replace our bread maker though… I am saving up for a Bosch mixer from Costco! We have outgrown the 2 pounds of dough I can make in the bread maker. I use the bread maker to mix, knead, and rise the bread dough. I shape the loaves after the dough cycle and bake them in loaf pans in the oven because I like the texture of it better than the bread baked in the machine. We sometimes make pasta from scratch, but that is an all afternoon activity with 3 young kids. Breakfasts tend to be some type of cereal and fruit so the kids can eat FAST after they wake up. Lunch is either leftovers or something quick, easy, and homemade. I try to do 2 meatless dinners a week. I do have a few convenience items in the freezer and pantry for when my husband cooks or when one of us is sick. Some of them are leftover from our baby’s birth in January.
I hope you enjoyed the tour of my pantry-less kitchen. Thanks for putting this together; I have enjoyed reading about your other readers’ food habits.
Are you getting your pantries camera ready? You can participate in the $20/$20 Challenge by simply sending in pictures of your pantry. Find out more about the $20/$20 Challenge: Show Your Pantry – Fill a Pantry!