Until a few years ago, I shopped explicitly for specific needs for the week. We planned out menus, and I went to the supermarket on the weekend to buy everything we needed for our meals. If food wasn’t intended for a designated purpose, it didn’t make the list.
This was great for our limited income and to ensure dinner was already planned and taken care of on work nights. The problem was when we forgot to list an item, and we’d run out of something mid-meal-prep. Or when we didn’t feel like making the thing on Thursday that we’d planned for nearly a week ago, but then had no ingredients to make anything else. Or when I wanted to bake on a whim and we didn’t have baking chocolate or cocoa powder.
When we moved into our house, which has more space than the place we lived before, my husband looked at one of the closets down in the basement and suggested, maybe we should start a pantry. Like, a real pantry where we keep staples and backups: flour, sugar, pasta, cereal, beans, rice, coffee. Foil, toothpaste, bath soap, dishwasher detergent. Garbage bags. Tortilla chips. Peanut butter, honey, chocolate chips. With me working and with us figuring out how to budget our money, we could finally afford the initial outlay to stock a pantry with all the stuff we know we will use but that isn’t allocated for a specific dish that week.
This is basic, I realize. Like, embarrassingly basic. But it’s one of my favorite things my husband has ever suggested. It makes my life better every single day. I feel a rush of gratitude each time I run out of something in the kitchen and realize we’re not out of that thing. When I scoop the last few coffee beans out of the jar and I know there’s another bag waiting downstairs, when I see the flour canister almost empty but I know I don’t have to go to the store to refill it, dopamine floods my system. I don’t have to go to the store right now to replace this. It’s as good a feeling as the first sip of coffee after you haven’t had it in a while, and the caffeine hits you and you want to spread love around the world.
Scarcity is stressful. Whether it’s time, money, or food that’s scarce, scarcity provides no buffer. You can get by if everything works out perfectly, but there’s always the underlying, low-grade stress that there’s no backup if unexpected things happen.
This morning, as I made my oatmeal, I scanned the cupboard to make sure the kids had stuff for their lunches. When I saw the fresh box of granola bars our daughter had brought up from the pantry last night, and the near-empty bag of Goldfish that had a backup downstairs, I felt that rush of gratitude again. The opposite of scarcity is abundance. Abundance provides a buffer; it removes that chronic background stress. And our pantry makes me feel a sense of abundance every day.