Stocking Your Homestead Kitchen: Essentials for Nourishing Meals from Scratch
Cooking and baking from scratch can seem overwhelming at first.  At this point I've been doing it for so long I don't even think about some of the staple items needed.  It all becomes second nature and I now automatically keep a well-stocked pantry.  But what if you're new to this?  What are some items you need to be sure you always have on hand?

For a well-stocked pantry to make nutritious meals from scratch, there are some categories to focus on:

Grains & Dried Legumes: Grains and dried legumes are easy to store and can usually be bought in bulk, which can save you some money. Having a variety on hand can give you many different meal options.  I like to can some beans ahead of time for a quick and easy meal.  Wheat (or a gluten-free option if you prefer) and oats are some other staples.  These can be used for all sorts of baked goods as well as thickeners in soups.  White or brown rice is a great filler and gives you many different meal options as well.

Fats & Oils: They are shelf stable and add some essential fats and oils to your diet.  My favorites are a hight quality olive oil (extra virgin, first press), coconut oil, avacado oil, and butter.  You can also save grease from bacon to use to add flavor or try making tallow from beef.

Sweeteners:  Opt for natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, and molasses to add sweetness to your dishes. These alternatives to refined sugar bring depth of flavor and nutritional benefits to your homemade treats.  Of course, it never hurts to have "regular" sugars (granulated and brown) or coconut sugar (a great substitute for brown sugar) on hand for those homemade chocolate chip cookies. 

Baking Staples & Other Pantry Staples: Baking powder, baking soda, and yeast are indispensable for baking bread, cakes, and pastries from scratch. Dried herbs and spices (I like to dry my own!), salt and pepper are some other ways to really add some flavor to any meal.  Vinegars (white and apple cider) are also great for salad dressings and more!

Meats and Proteins: If you raise animals on your homestead, you may have access to fresh meat such as chicken, beef, or pork. If you don't raise your own, find someone local and purchase in bulk.  We like to do a quarter or half cow at a time.  This helps us keep our freezer stocked at all times.  I also like to can some of the meat (chicken and beef) to have shelf-stable in case of a power outage.  And let's not forget that homemade beef jerky!

Fruits & Veggies: Seasonal fruits and vegetables are the backbone of a healthy diet. Whether you grow your own or source them locally, aim to incorporate a variety of fresh produce into your meals for optimal nutrition and flavor.  Preserving fruits and veggies when they are in season will not only save you some money, it will also allow you enjoy them year round.

Convenience Foods: While the focus is on cooking from scratch, it's also practical to have some convenience foods on hand for busy days. Canned tomatoes, broth, pasta, and frozen vegetables can help streamline meal preparation without sacrificing quality.  I like to can my own meals in a jar.  Things like stews, chili, or even potato soup are some great ways to have a nutritious homemade meal at the ready.

Comfort Foods: Finally, don't forget to stock up on ingredients for those comforting dishes that soothe the soul. Whether it's a pot of homemade soup, a batch of freshly baked cookies, or a warm loaf of bread, these comforting foods provide nourishment and solace during challenging times.

When it's all said and done, the biggest thing is to buy in bulk when you can, preserve your own foods when you can, and only purchase things you know you will use.  There's no reason to have a pantry stocked of items you know you'll never eat.  Also, remember to rotate items in your pantry so that the older items are the ones you can easily grab and use first.

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