The Advantages of the Traveling Pantry

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The beauty of having a pantry on wheels is that you can grocery shop at home prior to taking off. And when you come back from a trip, the home store has an incredibly friendly return policy. For years, we would rent a lovely beach house that slept 10-12 in Holden Beach, NC. They’d have great names like “A Million Dollar View”, “Stepping Stones” or “Lobster Mobster”. For 10 years we went every July for a week. It was and still is one of our favorite beaches in the country. If you haven’t been, it’s a definite must see especially if you just want a quiet, family-oriented beach town that is nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intercoastal Waterway. Check out Alan Holden Vacations or Hobbs if you want to rent out a house. It was a 13 hour drive from Ohio to the shore and the very first task that needed to be done when we arrived was to shop for food and toiletries. Afterall, you can only pack so much in the car and in the overhead storage turtle. So my sister and I would immediately go Walmarting while the rest of the family would unpack and get settled in the house. We pretty much bought everything food related that we’d need for the week… meat, condiments, frozen pizzas, veggies, eggs, and so on. If I was a really good planner that year, we had very little left overall, but in general, we did ALWAYS end up with ketchup, mayonnaise, eggs, cooking oils, yada-yada-yada, that we didn’t finish and that we simply didn’t want to somehow load up in our now sandy, tetris-style packed mode of transportation. I always felt guilty that last morning as most items that were opened went in the trash since nothing could be left behind at the house and the donation kitchen couldn’t take “open” items.

Can you imagine the joy of discovering that I didn’t have to buy a second jar of mayonnaise or yet another bottle of ketchup, only to have to discard it at the end of our trip? I suppose I could have packed a little cooler for the car trip home to take back some of the condiments or perishables, but then I’d come home with duplicates… all open and half-way consumed. And after a long drive home, no one really wanted to eat any if the food that is now swimming in melted ice. not sorth packing and taking up valuable interior car space. But now… the question comes up, “What about that half-eaten box of Coco Crispi cereal”? With Silvia, it’s no problem! I just dump it back into my cereal bin when I get home. 🙂 Another added benefit is that we truly do have meals on wheels! The fridge stays charged as we’re driving, so all the food stays cold and available. Instead of pulling off to eat at a fast food joint or better yet eating a bag of chips or Ted’s beef jerky from the gas station, we park our traveling kitchen and have a home made meal at a scenic rest stop, or parking lot of our choice. Either place it’s comfortable and lovely in my book!

As far as Silvia’s pantry, the previous owner must have had in mind that we’d need a lot of cupboard space. Afterall, if the travel trailer sleeps 6, it’s got to feed six, right? I’ve designated several bins in my home pantry just for Silvia. In them, I keep the staples that won’t necessarily go bad in containers until my next trip. Examples of these would be sugar, flour, olive oil, vinegar, cooking spray. I’ve got containers to hold my coffee and tea bags; and another container that holds pre-packaged spices and dry rubs. These “Silvia bins” as I call them simply slide into her pantry prior to a trip, and slide back onto their designated shelves when we return. For other items, I have empty containers that I simply fill with what I need for the week. A favorite of the kids is the cookie bin. That one is usually empty upon our return. 😉 Of course, we do still hit the grocery when we arrive to get perishable items. But the trip is less expensive and doesn’t take nearly as long. Not to mention, if we get in really late, we can still survive until morning without having to do a store run.

During our adventures we will be scouting for another quiet beach town, similar to Holden Beach out on the West Coast. I’m told that we won’t find it – at least not one that has the same sleepy beach town feel, but I look forward to looking for one. So far, we’ve been to Oceanside, CA. Great little town and nice place for us to park our silver bullet. See my earlier post New Year, New Beginnings & Adventures. I hear Malibu has a nice little spot on the ocean… so maybe we’ll head up there in the near future!

Below are pictures of our pantry and kitchen starting out. Very basic. Clean slate as I say. As I learn more and as we travel more, I’m excited to find new ways to organize our belongings. My ultimate goal is to make our pantry functional and comfortable. While I’d love to glam it out, it may not be entirely practical with 4 active children. Plus I’ve got the extra challenge of how I pack and unpack Silvia between trips and during towing. Unfortunately I have found that can’t leave too many things inside the trailer when she’s parked at home since we regularly hit temperatures of over 100F. Exploding cans and melting plastic… not so desirable. Excessive heat really does funny things to all your stuff! Anyway, I did find a great set of blog posts on a wonderful “Glamping” blog by Monica Bennett called Just 5 More Minutes. You can see some of her colorful creative ways in this post here. Her trailer is in my dreams of what Silvia could be. She has some great visual suggestions for making the most of the space. It definitely gives me some ideas… Maybe it will be food for fodder for you too! 🙂

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Why won’t it freeze? The trials of making our own ice cream…

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How hard could it be? Visions of having a never ending supply of our very own homemade ice cream danced through my head. I remember doing it when I was really little. I was 7. I was in the Philippines visiting family for an entire month. It was jungle hot and as kids we were probably bored. For a fun activity, my grandmother brought out an old fashioned ice cream maker. I’m not sure who made the recipe or even what was in it, but I remember helping put in the ice, adding chunky salt and turning this metal crank for what seemed hours. Simple in process that became harder work as the ice cream thickened. I remember too, the joy of seeing and tasting whatever ice cream we made. Anyway… I’m browsing Amazon and come across an old fashioned ice cream maker. It’s a prettier version of the one my grandmother had, but made out of lightweight plastic, a pretty baby blue and most importantly, electric! So I ordered it.

Let me tell you, it’s not as easy as it looked or as I recalled. I really do think, my grandmother must have done most of the work. Seriously. This is what I learned: Lesson #1, a single recipe requires a lot of milk and cream…. I mean A LOT. Lesson #2, buy the right salt. There apparently is salt specifically needed for ice cream making. I thought I could just use more of the rock salt I had in the house. More does not equate to equivalent or better. I kid you not, it seemed like days before any ice cream magic would happen. Lesson #3, if you’re fortunate enough to get your ice cream to thicken up, it’s still very soft out of the machine. To get solid ice cream, you still have to pour your milkshake into a container and freeze it. This means waiting and fending off little and big hands with spoons trying to sneak tiny tastes.

Don’t get me wrong. The stuff tasted fantastic. It wasn’t so pretty the first few (and yes, I mean few) times we did it. We made several super rich milkshakes because the kids couldn’t wait for the frosty treat to firm up.

Would we make it again? Of course! Especially now that I think I know what I’m doing. I’ll have to buy a small cow and tons of ice cream salt… but we’ll do it again.  Someone did tell me that there are spherical type ice cream makers… Hmmmm… may be an idea for our road trips.  I can have the kids roll the “ball” to churn the ice cream!  See related posts below.  I even found one that gives a recipe on making ice cream in a bag!

You’ll note that I don’t have any finished dessert pictures. It took so long before we could get the finished product that I completely forgot about capturing any pictures as everyone was lapping it up.  Sorry!