Fast and Loose: Building a Pantry

This post goes out to all of the youthful ladies I have been making promises to over the last several months. I’ve been joking about writing to you here about, well, feeding yourself. But this week I made a real promise that I need to honor.

I am going to help make cooking easy for you. I’ve done a few posts here about fast and loose recipes, and moving forward these will be dedicated to you. 

Don’t you worry, I’m not to going to try to turn you into a crazy food-lover who does sets all sorts of food related goals, or develops food-related websites. That’s crazy! I’m also not going to argue that the first step to getting in the kitchen is Instagramming your food.

I am going to try to convince you though that when you cook in your own kitchen, you can save time, save a little loot, and feel good about what you’re eating. While science is involved, cooking doesn’t have to be precise like science class.

You don’t even have to like it in order to reap these rewards!

You will need to build a pantry though. No, not physically, but you’re going to need some staples that you keep on hand in order to make this pain-free.

I’m reasonable though. I know that you have limited living space, so I’m not going to send you off to Costco to buy a bunch of potatoes you’ll be forced to store under your bed. I am, though, going to give you some homework.

Here are the basics you’ll need on hand in order to take advantage of my tips–from an  early middle-ager to a newly-minted adult.

  • onions
  • garlic
  • canned beans
  • flour
  • rice
  • pasta
  • salt 
  • pepper
  • dijon mustard
  • olive oil 
  • chili powder
  • cumin
  • sugar and or honey
  • eggs
  • plain yogurt

You might need some things for your kitchen too.

  • wooden spoon
  • skillet 
  • strainer
  • chef’s knife
  • paring knife
  • cutting board
  • large pot

If you’re feeling more ambitious, more spendy, and like you have more space, check out these lists, too.

The Most Essential Pantry Staples for Cooks on an Extreme Budget

10 Pantry Staples Not to be Caught Without

Pantry Essentials Checklist


I had forgotten just how much I am a fan of a good staycation. 

A couple of years ago, I took one at the end of a grueling summer. That one was so sorely needed that it barely counts.

Since I bought my car in 2013, I sort of got away from staycations and moved toward road trips.  In fact, Alex and I almost embarked upon a mini road trip that would have been ending right now, had I not decided to just stay home.

It was the right move. Alex and I mostly hung out at home, him doing him, me doing me all vacation long.

That is, until the night he decided that he wanted to teach me how to play a game that he learned at school. He taught me how to play a card game called, “Speed.”

He explained the instructions to me, and then we were off. He couldn’t believe how quickly I picked the game up. I think that he discovered just how competitive that I can be. I discovered that he inherited the gene. We stayed up past midnight playing the game. This alone made me grateful for our staycation.

Even if I can’t beat him every round.

In Search of a Coney Dog

On a whim, I asked Alex if he wanted to go on a quest to find the best coney dog in the area. Okay, okay, area  has a loose interpretation here. I included Flint because despite being from Flint, I’ve never had a coney at Angelo’s.

Why did I even do this? I’m not a huge hot dog fan, so the thought of chasing these saucy wieners around town isn’t right up there on the top of my list…but the universe must have known that this would be exciting to Alex. So, I asked and now we start the quest.

Being a planner, I had to start a list. What are we missing?


Ann Arbor



Any suggestions? Favorites?

Traffic #4

Megan. She gets worked up over everything.

It’s not like I called her a high school English teacher. Uptight. That’s what she is. Thank God I didn’t call her that.

And now I have to go buy her something.

When we met she was different, but she changed. They always go and change.

A change’ll do you good my ass.

I’ve been faithful to her; what more does she want? My life? My offspring?

She probably does.  One day I’ll come home from work, want to put my feet up. I can see it now; I’ll open the door and she’ll be there, moved in by then. I already found a box of her tampons under my bathroom sink. She’ll look all fresh and radiant. An apron. Maybe she’ll wear an apron.

I’ll be weak and vulnerable because I smell pot roast. She’s the kind to call my mom and get the recipe. Hell, she’s the kind to make an appointment with my mother for a one-on-one pot roast lesson.  The smell of the roast will hang in the air mingling with the smell of fresh homemade cinnamon rolls. 

There I am, feeling like I finally made it. I come home to what I should want. She takes my jacket and gloves at the door. I am sure that we’ll be getting our money’s worth out of the mattress warranty later that night.  She unties the apron, hangs it up.  Did she go buy that apron especially for me because she knows I appreciate the look, because she knows about my tapes of sitcoms from the 50s? Her body language’ll tell me to have a seat. I’ll sit, smiling, expecting her to massage, you know, really rub down my feet. I’ll scan the room for that special foot lotion she bought me and my toes tingle in anticipation. I’m smiling and I’m ready…and then she’ll hit me below the belt with a meat tenderizer.

“Honey, I’m pregnant.”

I want to vomit thinking about it. I can just feel the slimy acid residue in my mouth. I really need a glass of water.

And now I have to buy her something.


Want to catch up on the story? Do it here.