Monday, August 10, 2015

Living Out of Your Pantry

August is Rally Time in the Black Hills.

Not just any rally, though. During the past couple weeks the Black Hills of South Dakota has been the site of the biggest, baddest, rowdiest, noisiest rally of all: The 75th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

And why do they come? Well, here's one reason:

And here's another:

But this is the biggest reason:

Photo Credit: South Dakota Tourism

 There's nothing like spending a week or two hangin' with people who speak your language!

No one is saying the "M" word yet, but attendance estimates are well over the record of 700,000. I wouldn't be surprised if the final count is at least one million attendees.

(To put that in perspective, the population of the entire Black Hills area is about 150,000. That means that during a normal rally week our population quadruples - this year has been crazy!)

Great for the bikers! But what about the rest of us?

Many people (including several of our friends) rent their houses to attendees and leave town. The rest of us just hunker down for the duration.

After all, with that many bikers descending on our area, the streets are almost too congested to go anywhere!

This is when I use my pantry!

We've talked about pantries here in the Cafe before. They're great for saving money - you can stock up when items are on sale; they're also wonderful when the local food bank has a special need; and they're the best when you can't get to the grocery store for an extended period for some reason.

Usually those reasons are natural disasters like blizzards or hurricanes. But around here, it's the first week of August :)

So the week before the rally was scheduled to start, I did a quick inventory of the pantry and made a list. I stocked up on all the basics: chicken (we already had beef), canned and frozen vegetables, tomato sauce, flour, sugar, butter, milk, bread, etc.

The pantry and freezer were full!

Then I made a list of all the meals I could make with my stash of staples - eighteen meals for the eighteen days I planned to be staying at home.

The main thing to remember about living a pantry lifestyle is to always follow the rule: "Store What You Eat and Eat What You Store." I do keep a few special canned goods on hand for a rare emergency (like our big blizzard a couple years ago - you can read how we survived that HERE) - things we don't normally include in our menu but are fully cooked and only need to be heated up. But everything else I store is part of our normal eating.

So my eighteen day menu included summer family favorite meals like tacos, steak, grilled chicken, Baked Parmesan Chicken (recipe here), hamburgers, brats, spaghetti, breakfast burritos, Philly Beef and Cheese Sandwiches (recipe here)...I think you have the idea!

Of course, since I'm on a deadline (20 days to go!), the meals also had to be quick and easy. No problem with the menus planned and a full pantry!

Hubby and I did venture out one night - there's nothing like going to Lone Star Steakhouse with a crowd of bikers. I've never seen so much black leather IN. MY. LIFE.

But the pantry continues to be a success. I'll do another pantry inventory after September 1st to make sure we're well-stocked for winter. I think of my pantry like I do my savings account - I don't want to deplete it if I don't need to, but I sure appreciate knowing I have the cushion!

So, I have a question for you - are you prepared for a disaster (natural or otherwise)? Share what you and your family have done so we can all learn from each other!


  1. Probably not as prepared as I could be, but... we have a wood stove for heat and plenty of firewood, so if we lose power, we stay warm. A gas grill with a back up propane tank so we have cooking possibilities if we can't use our stove for some reason. Batteries of all sizes, and a radio that uses batteries so we can tune into the emergency stations.... or music! :)

    The freezer is full, but I don't have stored water. I have plenty of chocolate chips! Does that count? Food in the cupboards, and frozen veggies, too.

    We use a lot of gas for the tiller and the mower and the wood splitter, so that's a downfall. Having a couple of big gas cans (full) is a smart thing to do. And then we go and USE IT!!!! :)

    Great ideas, Jan!!!

    1. Chocolate chips always count! I only have a few left in the bottom of my bag, but at the same time I have a lot of unsweetened cocoa powder. No running out of chocolate here!

      Oh, and thanks for the reminder - we need to fill our spare propane tank!

      We have water bottles for a short emergency, but I'm looking into longer term storage - where to put it, what to put it in, etc.

      Of course, if the emergency is a blizzard, we can always melt snow!

  2. Alas I'm not prepared at all. Not like Ruthy with her alternate sources of heat and cooking. But I've often lived out of my pantry -- especially in the winter when it's hard for me to get around. There's a kind of special euphoria that comes from making something out of nothing. LOL

    That rally was featured on a news show a while ago and I immediately thought of you. Feel for the police who have to keep the peace during those couple of weeks. Ugh.

    1. I love how the police approach things at the rally. Knowing that most people are there just to have a good time, they remain pretty good-natured about things. Rather than give someone a citation for carrying a glass of beer down the street (illegal to drink on the street in Sturgis - beer needs to stay in the bars), they'll just turn them around and send them back to the bar to finish it.

      Some of the more serious crimes - like drugs, sex trafficking, etc. - are handled differently. They crack down pretty hard on those.

      And police from all over the country come to work the rally - the little Sturgis police force bursts its seams with temporary workers during that time!

      Years ago - 15? 25? - there were problems with gang violence at the rally. The extra police presence has pretty much eliminated that.

  3. We always have a supply of food and water in the motorhome and keep it full of diesel so we can get out of harms way and/or survive where we are. I do that even when we are home. I guess growing up in California and earthquake country taught me well. smile
    Hang tough with all those bikers. We do the same thing on big holidays. We close the curtains and hunker in and let them do all their crazy fun because we get the park the rest of the year. smile

    1. Growing up in California would keep you conscious of the need to prepare, just like growing up where heavy snowfalls are common, or along the coast where you can count on a hurricane every year or so.

      And I feel the same way about the Rally (and tourist season in general). It's exciting and fun when everyone is here in the summer months - but starting in September, we get our Hills back :)

  4. Jan, that's just crazy! I would plan to stay home as well. You know, my son lives in Augusta, and it's similar there during The Master's. Many people rent their houses out (earning enough to pay the mortgage for the year sometimes!) and leave town.

    I'm not usually prepared for disasters or even a snow day. I should do better!

    1. I think the biggest difference between the Rally and the Masters would be what the crowds are wearing. I just can't see a golfer wearing leathers.... :)

      And yes, Missy, you should do better in you preparations! A couple cases of canned goods can sit in the back of your kitchen cupboard and make a huge difference during a snow storm!

  5. City girl checking in here to say I'm woefully under-prepared because we have no place to store it. Living in an apartment, you barely have room to store stuff from a Costco trip that you'll use up within the month.

    We do stock up when blizzard or hurricane warnings come in, but generally it's not been a problem because the city gets up and running pretty quickly.

    My husband has a question for you - where do all those bikers stay? I know you said some people rent out their homes, but what about the other half million or more?

    1. You would be surprised where people store non-perishable foods! One idea: make a stack of like-sized boxes, throw a table cloth over it, and you have yourself a new end table for your living room :) There are tons of ideas like that, but you have to think outside the pantry.

      And where do the bikers stay? Anywhere they can! Every hotel within 150 miles fills up, every camp ground is full, and even the "transient" motels have rooms booked a year in advance. And then there are dozens of campgrounds that are only open during Rally week. It's worth the money - if you have the land - to put in the bathrooms and electricity (or porta-potties and no electric) - and let people stay in your cattle pasture for a week.

      And then there are people who let their friends, or even fellow bikers they met last year, set up a tent in their yard.

      You know how a flood just keeps coming and coming and fills up all the available space? Yup, you've got the idea!