As I pulled into my parking space, NPR was reporting on intense rain, mud and potential slides in California.

I stepped out into our own precarious weather (carefully, because I am old now and need to practice safe standing and walking all the time) and went around to get my bag out of the passenger side, another new habit to save my back and shoulders from dragging heavy things across the seats.

Sometimes a few steps out of the easy way can work out better in the long run. So, while I walked around the front of the car, I picked the wipers up off the windshield. Wild weather is pretty much everywhere on this planet; being prepared for a power outage or a flooded basement, whatever coast or plain you live on, is just good sense.

Anyone older than 25 is likely to hold some dim memory of Y2K, the panic that never needed to happen. We were living in Warren in a pretty humble way; I was already preparing ahead any food that would freeze well. Maybe a chest freezer seems less than humble, but it was 15 years old in 1999 and ended up doubling its age before it kicked the bucket.

My mother taught me how to be frugal with food. She’s the one who showed me the relationship between time and money in regard to good eating.

Anyway, back in the fall of 1999 an unexpected sum of money, I think it was $600, came into our hands just after we started volunteering at The Good Tern and getting a discount on our groceries. I ordered herbs and spices wholesale in one-pound bags. Cinnamon sticks and boneset and willow bark. The latter was for headaches and the boneset, never used, was composted the last time I moved.

I bought other things I like to keep on hand, in greater quantity than would be my normal stock. So I also purchased a 20-gallon plastic storage box, for flour, canned goods and other less perishable items.

Since the turning of the millennium, I have managed to use up that store or, as with the boneset, given it to the soil. Much of what I sought out then I still use now. What used to be in the big plastic box now occupies the pie cupboard that Jennifer gave me when I started Just Desserts Fine Baking. Some of these things are staples; others luxuries, a pinch of which can change rations into pleasure.

If you are new to herbs and spices, don’t start hoarding yet. Cooperative stores and some others generally carry tarragon and thyme, lemon balm and cumin, all in bulk. Some even have wax paper bags and little scoops, so you can just try a tablespoon or so. Dried beans and grains — same story, though the bags are a bit larger and you should probably get a cup or two for starters.

If you like something you have tried enough to stock up, you probably have a jar around to bring back to the store for the refill. Wash it and its lid with dish soap and very hot water. Let it dry for a couple of days before using it for dried foods.

Now when I open my pie cabinet it smells like the Old City of Jerusalem. Here is a brief inventory of the contents, more than 50 years of small, inexpensive decisions that have produced a substantial repertoire of flavor choices:

Top shelf — onions, garlic, shallots, thyme, bay leaf, marjoram, whole black pepper, crushed chilis, whole dried chilies, nutmeg and grater, cinnamon sticks, cumin, Berber spices, slippery elm, cloves, mace, dried oregano and lemon thyme.

Second shelf — oatmeal, canned fish stock, pepitas, slivered almonds, pecans, rice pilaf mix, Bell’s seasoning, ground cinnamon, more cumin, turmeric, cayenne, coriander, back stock of Better Than Bouillon, kasha, baking soda and Shabbat candles.

Third shelf — Wheatena, Cream of Wheat, matzo, tuna and other canned fish, canned soup, beans and tomatoes.

Fourth shelf — baking powder, back stock of salt, rice, more tuna, corn starch, lentils and other dry beans and dried seaweed.

Bottom shelf — flour: whole wheat, gluten free and corn, corn meal, breadcrumbs and pasta.

Good food can serve as entertainment and help maintain health, saving you far more than you spend on an ounce of oregano or a pound of flour. Open your cabinets, research the ingredients you have on hand and let the experiments begin.

Home Ecology is a synthesis of two related academic disciplines: human ecology and home economics, both born of the idea that we live in a world of limited resources. When we recognize the limits, our lives can be both comfortable and sustainable. Shlomit Auciello is an award-winning writer, photographer, and human ecologist who has lived in Midcoast Maine since 1988. Home Ecology is published here on a bi-weekly basis.