A well-stocked pantry is essential to eating from scratch homegrown meals in the off-season. We have a few tips to help you stock the pantry for winter as well as information for preserving homestead pantry staples.
How to Stock the Pantry for Winter
Planning, growing, preserving, and storing food for the homestead pantry is a year-round affair. The staples that you choose to keep in your pantry form the foundation of your family’s meals so it is important to plan with purpose so you can continue to serve nourishing meals throughout the winter months.
Tips to Stock the Homestead Pantry
Before you start filling up the pantry with canned goods, dried foods, and root veggies, take a few minutes to think and plan. You don’t want any of the food that you store to go to waste, so consider these tips when you are planning and stocking the homestead pantry for winter.
1. Be Intentional
Be intentional with your garden planning and pantry stocking purchases. Use your pantry space (and your time) wisely by only stocking foods that you will make use of. Don’t buy or grow pinto beans if your family never eats pinto beans.
Think about your typical menu and plan your garden around that. Think about how each plant can be used- for example, tomatoes can be canned diced, whole, as sauce, or salsa. They can also be sun-dried, preserved in oil, or frozen. This will help you determine how many of each plant you need to be able to cook the meals that your family enjoys.
After garden planning, you can make a refined list of food items that you will need to purchase from the grocery store.
2. Familiarize Yourself with Food Storage and Preservation Methods
Low-acid foods like meat, carrots, green beans, bone broth, etc. can be preserved and made shelf-stable in a pressure canner.
Hot Water Bath Canning
High-acid foods like jams, jellies, pickles, and tomatoes (with acid added) can be preserved using a water bath canner.
Many foods (think eggs, berries, chopped onions & peppers, etc.) can be frozen and stored in bags jars or other containers.
Freeze drying uses very cold temperatures to remove 99% of the moisture from food while maintaining the original nutrients, shape, and color. Freeze-dried foods have a self-life of up to 25 years!
Many foods can be air-dried or dried in the oven or a dehydrator. Dehydrating removes up to 90% of the moisture content in food making it shelf-stable for up to a year.
Vacuum sealing removes oxygen from food containers (usually jars or bags) which creates an airtight seal. This protects frozen foods from freezer burn and increases the shelf-life of dried foods.
Bulk dry goods like flour, sugar, and dried beans can be stored in large mylar bags inside food-grade 5-gallon buckets.
Some foods can be stored fresh as long as they are kept in cold temperatures.
3. Document & Rotate Pantry Goods
Keep a detailed pantry inventory list. Update it each time you remove food from or add food to the pantry. This will help you keep track of your food supply and prepare you to restock before a food item runs out.
Place new items in the back and move older items to the front (first-in, first-out system) to prevent the older ones from going to waste.
The Homestead Journal Planner has a Food Preservation Inventory sheet that you can use for this.
Homestead Pantry Staples
These staples are suggestions and they generally work for most families, however, the staples that each family needs to stock the pantry will vary based on preferences and dietary needs. As I mentioned before, be intentional. If there are items on this list that your family will not consume, don’t add them to your pantry.
Dried Herbs and Spices
Herbs are easy to grow and there is often an abundance leftover that can’t be used fresh. These herbs can be air-dried, oven-dried, or dried in a dehydrator and stored for use in the winter.
Herbs and spices can be used throughout the winter months to enhance the flavor of meals and as ingredients in herbal remedies.
Meat is typically preserved in the freezer, but it is a good idea to keep shelf-stable meat in the pantry as well. This can come in handy in case of a power outage and if you don’t have much freezer space. Meat can be pressure canned to safely keep on the shelf.
Dehydrating meat is another option. Dehydrated meat doesn’t have a very long shelf-life and it is usually recommended to keep it in the fridge. Vacuum sealing can prolong the shelf-life, however.
Meat can also be cured and/or smoked for long-term storage. This not only preserves the meat but provides flavor as well.
Stocking the pantry with beans can provide a great source of protein and nutrients for your family throughout the winter. You can keep beans for years when they have been dried or pressure canned.
Vacuum-seal dry beans in mason jars with an oxygen absorber to prolong their shelf-life. Green beans can also be fermented for long-term storage.
If your family likes to use whole grains such as oats, rice, corn, and wheat berries you can store them in sealed containers for years.
When choosing a container size, consider how quickly you will use the grains after opening. Smaller containers are generally the best option. Grab some 10-pound buckets with tight-sealing lids and oxygen absorbers for storing grains. The grain will start to go bad once the bucket is opened so if you use 5-gallon buckets, then you would need to use a large amount very quickly.
Stock the pantry with dry goods for baking such as flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and yeast. These ingredients can be safely stored in airtight containers with oxygen absorbers.
I keep flour and sugar inside mylar bags tucked into 5-gallon buckets with locking lids. An oxygen absorber is added to each bucket. I use flour and sugar quickly so a 5-gallon bucket works great. Smaller containers are good for ingredients that aren’t used up as quickly like baking soda and baking powder.
Natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, and molasses can be stored in airtight containers in the pantry for a long time (indefinitely if stored properly). Honey & maple syrup can be used to sweeten baked goods, drinks, and other dishes. Molasses can be added to granulated sugar to make brown sugar.
Root veggies like potatoes, carrots, onions, and beets can be canned, blanched & frozen, dehydrated, fermented, or stored fresh in cold storage. In order to store fresh, you will need a cold room, root cellar, or garage space that stays cold throughout the winter. Pack the root vegetables in damp sand, sawdust, or garden soil to keep the flavor, texture, and overall quality intact.
Some fruits, like apples, can be stored fresh in cold storage. Fruits can also be frozen easily. However, if you wish to preserve fruit to keep in the pantry, you can do this by dehydrating, canning, pickling, and fermenting.
Cooking Oils and Fats
It would be a shame to stock the pantry with all of the vegetables, grains, legumes, and baking essentials only to realize that you have no oils or fats to cook them with. Store up some extra oils so you can make nutritional meals each day.
Cooking oil and fats (olive oil, coconut oil, lard, and tallow) stored in airtight containers can last 6 months to 5 years depending on the type. Light, oxygen, and heat will make fats & oils go rancid more quickly so keep them in a cool dark area in an airtight container (glass is best). You can also keep oils and fats in the fridge to prolong their life.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple Cider Vinegar, homemade and store-bought, has an indefinite shelf-life when stored in an airtight container in a cool dark place. A cabinet or pantry works fine for an ACV storage area.
Dairy and Eggs
Milk can be dehydrated and powdered for long-term pantry storage. Butter can be rendered into shelf-stable ghee. Eggs can be frozen, dehydrated, or water-glassed. Cheeses can also be dehydrated to make a powdered cheese topping OR they can be stored in wax or oil.
You can make meals ahead of time and preserve them as well. For example, you can make soups to pressure can and make casseroles to freeze-dry.
Consider other foods that your family will eat throughout the winter and decide where those ingredients will come from. Will you grow those ingredients, buy them from the store, dehydrate or can them?
Your pantry can also store non-food items and household goods that you will need year-round. Homemade cleaning supplies, toilet paper, and toothpaste are good items to stock up on. It is also a good idea to keep an emergency kit in the pantry.