Cleaning Out The Pantry

I would love to say that 2020 is gone and with it the woes of the last year, but I’ve never been comfortable with unchecked optimism. Most of us are still holed up at home, making every effort to minimize contact with the rest of the world. We will be wearing masks and social distancing for months to come. However, it is the New Year, and we do have real cause for celebration. Hope is riding the coattails of a major vaccination campaign, and it is time to start making some small changes. For my family, changes are an emotional necessity; I will shift the order of things in my home just a bit as a reminder that this February, March, April…will not be the same as the last. I am starting with the pantry.

Last spring, I stocked up on non-perishables at Costco like everyone else and packed my small pantry full. Now, the sad tins of green beans and sardines are looking particularly lifeless as they approach their March expiration dates. They’ve got new shelf neighbors: the four cans of organic pumpkin I bought in the fall. I thought I’d make pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, but with just our small family there was really no need. One apple pie sufficed. I was again hopeful that Christmas would see at least two or three celebratory deserts. But, it turns out that being Santa in addition to managing pandemic life was quite a big enough task without the addition of pie-making (my family prefer chocolate anyway).

Food ingredients
Dog food in bowl

So, here we are. I want to make space for 2021, and I’m going to purge my pantry. Lucky for me, I have two dogs who are more than willing to help me finish the task. Lucky for them, it’s delicious and nutritious work! Tonight, we are making hamburgers. The pups will get their raw meat mixed up with pureed pumpkin. Fiber – check. Vitamins from A to Z – check. Tomorrow the humans are having a vegetarian meal, so I’ll add some tinned sardines to the brown rice for our meat-loving furry family. In fact, we include sardines in the pups’ meals most weeks because these little fish are so good for joints and muscles. Next week, I have my sights set on a dog-friendly green bean casserole, but if I’m feeling unmotivated I’ll just mix up the veggies with trimmings from a rotisserie chicken that we’ll undoubtedly have left over from a weekday meal. The beans, in addition to packing a nutritional punch, will help all of us get rid of a few extra holiday pounds.

The pantry purging process may feel like throwing caution and preparedness to the wind (or the dogs), but nothing could be further from the truth. I am preparing for difficult months ahead, but months that will not look exactly as they did last year. I’m relying on seasoned food-supply workers, grocery store staff who have learned how to safely serve us, and importantly, a new community of home gardeners and local farmers to keep my kitchen stocked with mostly fresh food.

Like many people I know, I have spent the last ten months finding depth and novelty in a very small world – one mostly contained within the walls of my home, but also in the new ways of creating community. Little shifts like a different kitchen landscape are symbolic and not; they are changes that mirror hope and make room for new ways of living and connecting in the year to come. I’ll be enjoying this shift by brightening my pups’ meals, taking stock, and imagining a better 2021.

About the author

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Jennifer is a writer and graduate of NYU School of Law. Jennifer researches and writes original, science-based articles for the NYC Doggies blog, and her writing on other topics can be found in the Huffington Post. Jennifer and Ovidiu have co-authored the upcoming book, RUN FREE, DIG DEEP: HOW TO RAISE A HAPPY, HEALTHY, AND WELL-BEHAVED URBAN DOG.