Pantry Provisions – Perfect Portions by R. Ann Parris
When we’re at our lowest ebbs and-or our busiest, cooking can be a major chore all on its own.
Further compounding the effort of making foods, both in the time it takes and the energy and effort expended, a lot of times, appetites shift massively. Sick, hot, bummed about being hurt, stressed, sometimes we just can’t make ourselves consume the typical amounts we need in a sitting. The effort of eating alone, even if it’s right there, can be almost insurmountable.
That can start a spiral of low energy, low appetite, low drive to prepare and consume foods, further decreased energy available (and increased fatigue from it), which again lowers appetite and the willingness to force ourselves to eat and drink, especially if we have to prepare it.
Balancing our pantries with foods that appeal and that require minimal if any effort to consume can help us keep going and in peak condition, both in daily life and a crisis of any scale.
The easier we can make our meals to prepare, the more likely we are eat, and eat properly, whether it’s a daily doldrum when we have arthritis and need a cane, and thus just the trips back and forth to the stove and then the table requires more effort than we want to summon, or the need to fight through a bad head cold or migraine — and possibly the tweaked back/arm/leg from slipping on ice along with it, possibly after working in 30-90 minute bursts to care for livestock and gardens and family, so we feel completely done-in on top of all else.
That easy access includes how we plan to open our foods if what’s busted is a hand — or two, or elbow, or shoulder — and whether or not we have the pliers, scissors, jar pry’s, and can openers that ease the effort, or in some cases, even the ability to clamp those to a counter so we can work one-handed.
It also includes whether foods need cooking, and how long they have to cook, using which types of fuels.
If we have to choose between a lot of effort, knowing we’ll also have to make a trip to reload fuels if we do cook, and clean up afterward, chances increase that we’ll be skipping that meal.
If we have something that requires a flick — and an easy flick — and fuels that won’t create significant work later, in a single container and one that isn’t going to cause added work, either, that can be consumed right away or in less than 5-10 minutes, chances increase that we will eat — and eat right, the actual nutrition our body needs for fuel, fuel we need more than ever when we’re already seeing diminished returns.
No-cook and just-heat foods are a big part of that convenience. So are the single-container items that at most might go into a single pan and a single bowl.
That can take all sorts of forms.
Much as I don’t overly care for pressure-canned meats or noodles, or rice, or most veggies, having those ready-to-go, all-in-one soups, kasha, and hashes are part of my pantry. They’re there for times when I need a quick and easy meal, whether I’m sick or super busy.
The same is true of pre-seasoned taco/fajita, oriental, and Italian meats and veggies that just need to plop onto bread, tortillas, or crackers. Instant pasta, rice, mashed potatoes, and couscous that’s ready in 5-10 minutes further increase my capabilities on that front.
We can set the same things up for dehydrated foods we do ourselves, with boiled and then dried beans, or purchased TVP and freeze-dried meats and camping or survival meals. In the daily world, we can also make big meals, and then freeze some in light and heavy supper sizes to pull out when we want something easy.
We can also make sure we have things like propane stoves for camping and miniature rocket heaters — with the fuels right there and ready to go — that really will get hot fast enough to work for us even at a low ebb.
And don’t forget: Part of the easy-access convenience is the portion size, and whether we’re going to have to deal with mess and packing leftovers after we eat, or if it’s a single jar/bowl/pan that can get slid into water and wait for washup.
Portion size also applies to some of our other options.
Sometimes, it is beyond our capacity to even force ourselves past our flu exhaustion, migraine, or old and achy body (which isn’t even all that hungry, anyway) to pop a jar or can or make a sandwich.
Sometimes, we’re so busy with kids, a sick or injured or absent partner, animals, and everything else that chooses perfect timing to require repair and attention, or push us into doing things the long and hard way, we just don’t even want to eat. We don’t have time, we’d rather have our eyes closed, we’re stressed and not interested.
Single-serve meal replacement bars or drinks and one-bite snacks that make sure we’re getting decent and supportive nutrients — then, when we need it more than ever — shine just as bright as when we’re trying to get somebody past food fatigue or a stomach bug or jaw injury, or trying to keep packs condensed and light.
Even if we’re not aging yet, consider keeping in some of the drink mixes for seniors like Boost. Drinks and bars intended for dieters can be nice adds so long as they do offer some calories. So can regular ol’ Carnation Instant Breakfast and workout drinks like Muscle Milk.
Some offer a wide variety of vitamins and minerals that help along with the basic macros. Other times, we may want to turn to the instant smoothies and the hot mixes like Green’d, Sambucus and Sambucol, or PediaSure shakes and kiddie snack pouches to make sure those are covered as well.
We can also make homemade energy bites and balls, granola bars, breakfast biscuits, dehydrated leathers, and jelly-candy power-ups to keep us going. Some store well enough in a pantry, while some need to occupy space in a freezer and be pulled out a few at a time.
Again, remember that portions — and the time/effort our existing portions are going to take — can be part of the effort of eating when we lose interest or don’t have time. Layer those items in paper even in big tubs, or stack up smaller tubs that can be pulled in whole to increase the ease.
Don’t let food options start a cycle of further diminishing returns.
Whether the challenge is keeping interest in foods through the moods and aches and fatigue of age, or a specific short-term crisis like a severe cold or injury with a homestead to keep afloat, having the right foods on hand to stay fueled can help limit just how run down we end up.
The lower we go, the more it’s going to take to bring us back — both in time and effort, and commonly in resources. We’re also more vulnerable when we’re at our low ebbs, to injury and illness, and to mental states that can affect our relationships and our physical bodies. Limiting the time we spend at our lowest reduces those risks.
It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive to keep a couple of weeks of stressed-sick foods on hand, things we can nibble here and there or pull for an actual meal no matter what’s going on, and avoid those cycles and the extra wear and tear they’ll add to our bodies, and our productivity.