Winter Pantry

Weather governs everything we do, what we wear, what we choose to eat, and how we feel. I accept that, but didn’t realize how much winter in the Poconos would dictate my daily schedule and how I shop. Although my neighborhood supermarket is quite close, sometimes (like this morning when it’s 9 degrees), I’m unlikely to venture out just to find fresh produce. Besides, I went shopping yesterday because I knew it would be sunny and warmer than today. It’s not clear whether I think about these things because I have to, because I’m retired and have time on my hands, or because I live alone. I choose to believe that it’s because I’m super-organized and am trying to eat freshly prepared foods and less meat.

When we decided to drive straight through from Tallahassee to Lords Valley last week, I realized that I had enough food in the pantry and freezer to make meals for a couple of days — in case I couldn’t get out to shop because of the freezing rain and snow. (That wasn’t the case, but it was comforting.) This led me to make a list of the items that one should have in a “winter pantry,” to make sure that there are nourishing, nutritional items available just in case! Then I thought why not share this with my friends? So here goes. This is a list of what’s in my pantry right now and items that I replenish immediately upon using OR buy two of when I can. Since my local market is limited in some of the more exotic items (exotic to Lords Valley includes things like quinoa), I often pick things up when I go into the city especially since my dentist is across from the largest Whole Foods in New York! Spices and herbs are not listed since that’s a matter of taste and there are so many. Suffice to say the spice racks that were installed when the kitchen was renovated is full! Coffee, tea, and hot chocolate are staples as well.

In the pantry:
Pasta
Quinoa
Bulgur wheat
Rice, brown/white/arborio
Orzo (yes I know this is pasta but I decided to list it separately)
Couscous (also pasta — I like the Israeli couscous because it isn’t as grainy)
Beans, canned and dried
Stock, veggie and chicken (not to mention homemade turkey stock from Thanksgiving)
Soups (canned just in case)
Soy/rice milk in a carton (in case I lose electricity)
Lentils
Tomatoes, diced/crushed
Flour, sugar, and salt of course!
Jar of pesto/marinara sauce (these are fun to buy at Eataly in NYC)
Olives
Artichoke hearts
Dried fruits, apricots/pineapple/cranberries/cherries

Then, in the fridge I keep the following (these are the items that keep over weeks):
Frozen peas
Frozen bagels
Frozen whole wheat English muffins
Peeled garlic (I just found this in a jar with a rather long off expiration date)
Hard cheeses, parmesan/cheddar
Smart Balance and Earth Balance
Eggs

If I’m not going to be gone long, I’ll keep a couple of onions and shallots in a bowl on the counter. Keeping in mind that all of my garbage has to be taken to the dump on a schedule that’s not always convenient, I choose carefully what I leave behind. There are things in the freezer that I don’t care to reveal because they are going to the garbage but needed to not smell up the place. The other thing I have to keep in mind is that groceries have to be hauled the 40 steps down to the house from the upper driveway in the winter. Not so bad other times when I can drive down, but the driveway won’t be usable until the spring thaw.

I feel virtuous having all these things in the pantry and fridge. I’m so smart, I think. So why is it that whatever I want to make needs an ingredient that isn’t there? Life in the mountains changes everything!