I've been having fun this past week reading about pantries again. It got me motivated to make homemade mixes. It finally dawned on me how convenient this would be and how it would save on time in the kitchen and how much healthier our food would be. I'm a label reader and when I read a label on a certain product and cannot pronounce some of the "ingredients" I put it back on the shelf. But if I make my own I know what ingredients went in to making it. I'm really trying to think of my pantry shelves as a mini grocery store. When you go into a grocery store the shelves are lined with ready made food. Bottled salad dressings, sauces, soups, jams and jellies, cereal, cake mixes, etc...... - when you think about it, everything that I just mentioned can be made at home or at least a part of it and then just add a few fresh ingredients to actually prepare the product. That's where homemade mixes come in. So, what I've been doing is going through recipes that I prepare quite often and see how much of those can be made ahead of time and put on the pantry shelf until I need it. For example, I use Italian salad dressing for salads and a marinade for steaks and chicken. Instead of pulling a bottle off the shelf at the grocery store (that has ingredients that I'm not happy with) I can take:
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. dried basil
2 Tblsp. garlic powder
1 1/2 Tblsp. salt
2 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. paprika
6 Tblsp. sugar
1 tsp. black pepper
Mix these up and put into a labeled Ziploc bag or small jar and put on a shelf or in your spice drawer or cabinet. When you need Italian dressing, take the pre-made mix and add 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil and 1/2 cup white vinegar. Shake well and there you have it! All fresh ingredients and the ingredients can be tweeked to your liking. I just used this recipe as an example. That's the fun of cooking - you can do what is good for your family and their specific tastes.
But think, also, of the money saved by doing this. Most of us have the above spices available at home already. All you would need to do is keep vinegar and oil on hand. With the above spices and the vinegar and oil you can make a lot of dressing for a fraction of the cost of a convenience-food bottle.
I'm so excited about thinking this way. I spent this morning making a few mixes of my own. And I'm glad I did because it allowed me to go through the spices I had and threw a few out that were old and I made a list of everything that I need to stock up on and then continue on to making even more. So far I've made taco seasoning, dill dip seasoning, cream-of-soup mix, pizza seasoning, fajita seasoning, oatmeal pancake mix, and an all-purpose bread mix. Next week when I purchase the spices that I ran out of, I want to make muffin mix, brownie mix, pumpkin bread mix, and pudding mixes.
In my meal planning notebook I have a section on what to check weekly to make sure that I always have these on hand and this list includes:
*sugar (brown, granulated, powdered)
*spices and herbs
*milk (make sure to include dry milk for pre-made mixes)
I think I've posted before on how just these few ingredients in the house can make a lot of different kinds of food!
I hope I've motivated you to take out a few recipes (especially baked good recipes) and see how you can break it down into dry ingredients vs. the wet ingredients and put the dry ingredients in a container, label it, put it in your pantry, and see how fun it is to build a mini-mart in your own home.
*Just a little note - a pantry can be any usable space in your home. I have a couple of areas. One is right down the hall from our kitchen for those items I use almost every night when I cook. The other is downstairs in a storage room for long shelf-life foods. But you can use under bed storage or in a closet or an extra cupboard.
*Also, I re-found a website that has TONS of mix ideas that you will love to look at. I've already printed a few that I want to try. It's called "Budget 101" and it's especially for those of us who want to keep a close eye on the food budget.
I really do hope you have fun with this. I would love to have you share what you've "mixed up" for yourself!! : ) Have a good evening.