Friday, January 8, 2010

Panic In The Aisles

Conspiracy theorists contend that weather forecasters get a kickback from grocery stores during winter. A mere hint of snowfall sends people scurrying to the grocery store to stock up on milk, eggs and bread.

I don't think it's due to a craving for french toast or fried egg sandwiches, but rather because those three items have a pretty short shelf life. In a pinch you could substitute powdered eggs and evaporated milk, and you can freeze extra loaves of bread. However, fresh is always better, right?

Here's a list of items I've found to be pantry essentials. Keep these items stocked up in your kitchen, and you'll be ready for the next blizzard without joining the hordes of last-minute shoppers. You might have to stop for fresh milk and eggs, but most gas stations/convenience stores carry it at a comparable price to your grocery store. You can get a candy bar while you're there to eat while you're sitting in traffic, too.

  • Baking essentials - flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cornstarch, salt
  • Assorted pasta - not just spaghetti but also shells, elbow mac, rotini, lasagna
  • Rice - a box of instant, as well as flavored varieties, like beef, chicken or spanish flavors
  • Oils and fats - olive oil, vegetable oil, a small can or sticks of shortening. Keep extra stick butter and margarine in the freezer.
  • Canned or frozen vegetables, including tomatoes, beans, potatoes, mushrooms
  • Canned or frozen fruits, like strawberries, blueberries, applesauce, and pineapple
  • Canned soups (low fat/low sodium, of course).
  • Canned beef, chicken and/or vegetable broth, or bouillon cubes
  • Jars of pasta sauce
  • Peanut butter
  • Jelly
  • Honey
  • Chocolate - baking chocolate, unsweetened cocoa, hot chocolate mix and Hershey bars hidden in an empty Hamburger Helper box (freeze Snicker bars in a broccoli box)
  • Condiments - bbq sauce, mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise, salad dressings
  • Milk - fresh if you have it, but also stock cans of evaporated or a box of powdered for cooking
  • Eggs - fresh eggs will last 3-5 weeks. Egg substitutes (Egg Beaters) last about 3 months.
  • Cheese - block cheese is cheaper, but bags of shredded cheese can be frozen
  • Bread - I love the bags of frozen rolls - bake only what you need. Sandwich loaves and buns can be double-wrapped and frozen for a few months.
  • Spices - garlic powder, dried onion, vanilla, chili powder, cumin, pepper, parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme (now I dare you to not sing that the rest of the day)
  • Meat - chicken breasts, ground round, bulk sausage (like Jimmy Dean), pork chops, beef or pork roasts
  • Fish - frozen filets, shrimp, canned salmon and tuna
  • Wine - white and red cooking wines, Marsala, sherry. I cook with wine, in a glass next to the stove. I hear some people put it in the pan with the food, too.

Of course, this list is based on my fallback recipes, so your list may vary. I'm not a vegetarian, I eat red meat, I drink, and I'm not a huge fan of fish.

These items can serve up a variety of meals. They might not be exotic but they'll keep you warm and well-fed on a cold winter's day.


Welcome to my new venture, Cooking Without A Net. I agonized for days about the title of this new blog. I wanted to be quirky, different, fun, and memorable. Finally it dawned on me - Cooking Without A Net. It's a play on the title of my other blog, and it is an accurate description of my culinary technique. I'm totally self-taught, no lessons, and boy, does it show sometimes.

My vision for this blog is to make it a place to entertain you with tales of my cooking trials and errors, to experiment with new recipes and update old ones, and ask you to share your stories as well.

I also hope that this will help me substitute comfort eating with comfort cooking. I know I sometimes eat to fill the void left when my daughters died. I figure if I'm going to be in the kitchen, I might as well be productive.

Thanks for stopping by!