Salt is a staple in every kitchen. Salt is in virtually every recipe because it influences the flavor of food. It enhances the natural flavors of grains, vegetables, and even fruits! It can deepen the flavor of desserts, and give extra oomph to a bland starch. If you have ever tasted a loaf of bread or other baked item where the salt was omitted, I'm sure you'll agree it that the finished product left much to be desired. Salt has also been used for centuries as a preservative.
In addition to being an integral part of most recipes, it is also a household staple in other ways. Salt can be used as a cleaning abrasive, and when mixed with water, it makes a brine which can be used to clean out foul smelling food containers and help make that greasy and stinky garbage disposal fresh again. Salt mixed into a paste can be used as toothpaste and as a scrub for the skin. When mixed with water as a mild solution, it can be a mouth gargle and eye wash. Salt is helpful in the laundry too, as it can freshen clothing and remove perspiration stains. I recently read in a magazine that sprinkling salt will keep ants out of the kitchen!
Who knew that salt was such a versatile item? Make sure some of the salt you store is iodized because it provides iodine, a much needed micronutrient. Salt is a mineral, so if properly stored it should last indefinitely.
Sugar and Honey
Storing sugar and honey will provide you with another recipe staple. Like salt, sugar enhances and develops the flavor of many of the basic foods you'll be storing. One of my favorite breakfast cereals is six grain rolled cereal, but without a pinch of salt and a healthy tablespoon of sugar, it wouldn't appeal to me very much!
Sugar is a simple carbohydrate and provides energy for the body. Honey is a wonderful storage item because it is a concentrated sugar, so you can use less than a refined sugar. Be aware that honey is not recommended for children under age one by most pediatricians. Honey is a great addition to cereals, breads, and a drizzle. Don't forget that along with white sugar and honey, you can also store brown sugar. Like salt, sugar if properly stored should last indefinitely.
Living in a world where fats are considered the bad guys, it seems that storing oil or other fats isn't very important. However, in the context of food storage, fats are very important! Did you know that Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat soluble, which means that they need fat to be digested, absorbed and used within the body? Fats are sources of essential fatty acids, another important dietary requirement. Though low fat diets are preferred, eliminating fat completely from the diet would be harmful to your body.
In regards to food storage, fat is equally important. It helps add flavor to foods, aids in the cooking process, and is an effective energy source. You can choose to store fats in oil form, though shortening is also a good food storage item. Butter, margarine, and shortening powders are also available. Be mindful that liquid fats purchased at your local grocery store will need to be rotated every few years. Dehydrated products can be stored longer, especially if they are kept cool and dry. Though many of may be diet conscious these days, please don't neglect this important food storage item!
As you can see, our basic pantry would simply be incomplete, and quite frankly, lose much of its palatability without these three essentials. So please add them to your list, because sugar, salt, and fats will go a long way in making everything taste better!