In Kitsap we have two seasons: farmers market and pantry. From May through December fresh food is abundantly available; I shop at a farmers market once a week to restock fresh foods and make meals from what’s in the fridge and on the shelf. From January to April I depend on what’s in the pantry, freezer, and refrigerator.

What’s your pantry goal? Amy Pennington’s goal is to cook dinner from the pantry any day of the week (Urban Pantry). Sharon Astyk’s Independence Days aims for a more ambitious goal, putting by three months worth of food. Once I thought that was a lot of food – is it really necessary? As I write, some of the communities hit by Hurricane Sandy do not yet have an open grocery store one hundred days after the storm hit. Having a three-month supply of food in the house is a measure of food security.

Another goal of the pantry is to provide a variety of foods. When Chef Chris Plemmons took us on a tour of pantry essentials, it was a good touchpoint to review how far I’ve come in learning to keep the pantry stocked and some new areas to try. He reminded me of the many kinds of grains, beans, rices and flours available to expand our culinary palette.

Five years into the eat-from-Kitsap project I have developed a system to turn over the food in the pantry every year. I am feeding three adults, which could also feed two adults and a teen or two adults and two smaller kids. In an emergency we could eat out of the pantry without any other input for at least one month.

Turning over the pantry every year keeps the food in our diets. As Sharon Astyk points out, this builds resilience. In an emergency if you are eating foods that you don’t normally eat that adds to the misery of the situation. Eating entirely from the pantry would be somewhat monotonous for us, but it wouldn’t be unusual. The emergency store mantra is, eat what you store and store what you eat.

My family constantly refines our pantry management skill set. We strive not to waste food, but to make sure to have enough on hand for nightly dinners and hope-we-never-have-to-face-one emergencies.