Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Kitchen Matters: Stocking the Pantry

No matter how long or how short of a time you have been keeping house, stocking the pantry always seems to be a challenge.  After all, these are the items that can get expensive as you work to purchase spices, condiments, and a few extras to keep on hand for emergency.  

While I buy groceries weekly, I always have enough necessities on hand that will allow me to change up dinner plans, adjust for unexpected (but always welcomed) guests, or if I'm running short on time, allow for me to wait a few days before I have to go to the grocery.  This is where you can really benefit from using coupons and price matching at the grocery store.  Your cabinet doesn't have to be overflowing with staples, just the basics for creating quick and easy dishes.  The idea is to be prepared for anything that could happen.  If you have stocked up on some basics, you will be able to whip up a meal quickly.  I try to keep these items on hand at all times to use along side what I have planned on my menu.  You don't purchase these every time you buy groceries, but gradually build your supply, then replace as necessary.


Here is a list of my pantry necessities:

*Pastas (all shapes, sizes and even grains), perfect for a quick dinner accompaniment or even main course

*Rice; brown, white and wild.  Couscous also fits into this category.

*Canned tomatoes, tomato sauce & paste, and tomato juice; for making pasta or pizza sauce

*Beans (Navy, Pinto, Black & Garbanzo); dried & canned. For soups or even a salad topper.

*Assorted stocks (Chicken, beef, vegetable); perfect for making soups or sauces

*Assorted nuts (Pecans, Walnuts, Almonds); can be toasted or eaten as a snack.

*Sugar (Brown, White & Powdered)

*Cornmeal (plain & self-rising)

*Flour (whole wheat, plain & self rising)

*Cornstarch

*Evaporated & Sweetened Condensed milk

*Baking chocolate or chocolate chips (white, milk, semi-sweet) for an easy dessert

*Baking powder & Baking Soda

*Panko (Japanese Bread Crumbs)

*Vanilla or other flavored extracts

*Peanut Butter/Nutella

*Assorted Crackers (a party pack from Costco is perfect to keep on hand)

*Olive Oil, Canola Oil, Truffle Oil (definitely a splurge, but so luscious!)


*Vinegars (Balsamic, Apple Cider, Red Wine, or Rice); perfect for making a salad dressing

*Dijon, Whole grain, & Spicy English Mustards

*Assorted salts (sea, kosher, maybe add a Hawaiian or Black sea salt)


*Section of peppercorns; try a colored mix, each has a different flavor.

*A good mix of herbs and spices.  I prefer using fresh, but dried spices will serve many needs.

*White & Red wine (good quality, but inexpensive for cooking)

*Tea & Coffee (decaf & regular)



Stocking the refrigerator is a little different.  You want to use your ingredients fresh, so keeping all of these always on hand can be a challenge.  I find myself using the following ingredients weekly in a variety of ways, so I always want them in my refrigerator..

Here are my necessities for the refrigerator:

*Salad ingredients (fresh lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onion, etc..).

*Favorite condiments (soy sauce, hot sauce, jams or jellies)

*Fresh fruit; including lemons, limes & seasonal berries

*a dozen eggs

*Bacon

*Potatoes

*Onions (red, sweet, green, & shallots)

*Milk & Butter

*Assortment of drinks (bottled water, soda, tea)

*An assortment of cheeses, including cream cheese (cheddar, feta, blue, Parmesan, brie); some cheese  keeps better than others, so check out your family's favorites and keep them fresh.

*Whipping cream


And for the Freezer:


*Packaged vegetables

*Whole chickens; from soup to salad to a main course you can do so much with a chicken.

*Homemade stocks (Beef, chicken, seafood)

*Puff pastry for quick and easy appetizers or an adventurous beef wellington.

*Rolls or other favorite bread

*Soups, Stews or chili; over make a recipe from time to time and put some up for a quick meal later on.

*Ice

*Frozen appetizers (sausage rolls, mini quiches, etc)



A couple of suggestions (that work well for me); if you choose to keep wine on hand for cooking, the small bottles that are usually sold in four-packs are perfect for recipes.  Also, don't be afraid to keep pre-made sauces on hand for meal accents.

I love this foundation sauce for a meal accompaniment when I have fixed a London broil or chicken breast.  I found this at Fresh market, but I believe Publix might carry it.

Compared to some lists, this may seem rather sparse, but look at what you can create from just these ingredients:  a fabulous salad with homemade vinaigrette, any number soups or stews, a delightful pasta dish fit for company, breakfast sandwiches, and even homemade ice cream.  Always keeping your spices and baking products stocked will help with any meal you have planned.

Use a tiered storage system to help organize your spices (Bed, bath Beyond have several varieties that start at $10.  I keep my spices in alphabetical order, for easy access.  If you choose to do this, be sure to instruct your teenage daughters to replace them correctly or you might wind up with cinnamon in you spaghetti sauce instead of basil!

A note of importance in keeping your kitchen stocked; keep up with expiration dates.  If any of your dairy products or mayonnaise is expired, just throw it out.  As for spices,  if you can get a good strong smell of the spice you are using, it's not even flavoring your meal.  If your baking soda or powder is expired, breads or cakes will not rise.  Using expired products or products that have not been properly stored after opening can really make you sick.  This is especially so for things like milk, cheese, mayo, etc... If you have purchased meats and cannot use them within two days of purchasing, freeze them.  They will keep two-three months (often longer) in the freezer.

I hope you find this list useful.  If you are prepared with your staples, preparing meals will go so much easier and can actually be fun!

Tell me, what is your one item you must have in your kitchen?


1 comment:

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