When the budget is tight we turn to meals from the pantry, cupboard and refrigerator. We cook.
It reduces the need to shop for anything but essentials. It enables dollars in the checking account to go to utility bills, fuel, interest and insurance. Cooking from the pantry produces great meals from forgotten times and ingredients.
From memory come preparations for roux, sauces, reductions, soups and stews that are filling and fill in the financial gap for those who live on part-time work without the regular big paycheck of a career.
Energy remains inexpensive in the U.S. kitchen, so there is no endless searching for firewood for the cook stove as there is in other countries. Just turn on the stove and there it is. Turning to food is turning to the source of our memory and being.
When I was young there was a mom and pop grocery store on the corner. Mother would send me the block and a half to pick up a forgotten ingredient for dinner. If there was a question when I arrived, they would call her for clarification. I mostly remembered, so it wasn’t a problem.
I remember the cost of 10-ounce bottles of soda pop at the store. Depending upon the brand, a six pack was either 54 or 60 cents. The idea of buying the sugary treat was present long before sodas became ubiquitous. One of the bottling works was on Washington Street, and we would watch the process through the large plate glass window on the sidewalk. I looked forward to earning enough money on my paper route to buy a whole six pack in varied types.
While in Colorado Springs helping our daughter move, I checked the pantry for dinner ingredients while she was at work. There was a lot to clear out before moving day. Some frozen chicken breasts, brown rice and vegetables made a delicious dinner for the two of us when she returned home. I used a meat thermometer to make sure the chicken was done and instructed her in how to use it. I remember the sun setting over Pike’s Peak as viewed from her front doorstep.
On Thursday, I sought ingredients for stew. I had a bag of steak tips vegetarian-style, and used organic carrots, the last of the summer potatoes, turnips and celery from the garden, and a big onion. After learning to make a roux, stews became an easy way to use up old vegetables and make several meals. I’m thinking about having some leftovers for lunch before my shift at the warehouse.
More than anything, maintaining a well-stocked pantry is a source of food security. If income slows down, we can draw the provisions down, ensuring we won’t go hungry while working toward better times.
That’s why tough times have us turning to food.