Kitchen Basics: Organize your pantry

I believe in a stocked pantry. When my supplies get low, I start to get twitchy. Same thing with the refrigerator. From now on, when I say “pantry” I’m referring to all of the places where you store food, condiments, and spices. Often I refer to these as my pantry places. This includes your refrigerator and freezer, your cabinet shelves or closet pantry, and even places where you store non-food items, such as freezer bags and paper towels. These are all essentials for creating a successful and efficient kitchen environment, so I will include them all.

Stocking all of your pantry places doesn’t have to be a daunting task, especially when you are organized. In this section, we will talk about the following:

·         What staple foods to stock (or what foods/products I always have on hand)
·         Organizing your pantry places
o   Cabinets and pantry shelves
o   Refrigerator and freezer
o   Non-food essentials
·         Shopping to stock

If you keep these three things in mind, your pantry-stocking experience can be easy peasy.

All that said there are times I let supplies get intentionally low—in most of my pantry places (except for the non-food areas)—and I do it for two reasons. One, when food supplies are low, it is easier to clean both places. I’d much rather clean a near empty refrigerator or freezer, than to remove food from a fully stocked one. Same thing with the pantry and cabinet shelves.

The second reason is to use up most of the purchased supplies so they don’t get shoved too far back on the shelves, roll past their expiration dates, and eventually get thrown out. Although many staple items have relatively longer shelve lives, it’s best to keep track of what is what. Use it up, don’t throw it out, is one of my mottos. So, a couple of times a year, I intentionally stop grocery shopping, and tell myself that I can only prepare meals with the foods I have on hand, in order to use them up.

I do love a challenge.

This can be creative and a little fun. Some of my best new recipes were created by making “something out of nothing.” By that I mean, making things from scratch and using up what I have on hand. Many people can open up a pantry door and proclaim, “There is nothing to eat here!” I’m not that person. I enjoy looking at what I have, and creating a meal of what is there. It is a challenge but it is also being resourceful. I feel good knowing that I’m not wasting food and money.

I’m all into that sort of thing.

My upcoming The Home Ec Teacher's Guides cookbook series starts with the Kitchen Basics book, and helps the modern cook to look past the deficit, and to the positive. I'll be posting sections of the book here too, as I write. I like helping a new cook realize that the leftover (and still good) rotisserie chicken and the half-eaten bag of perfectly good tortilla chips, are the beginnings of a meal. And, to realize that with the addition of the jar of salsa in the fridge, plus a few other ingredients and spices, we could have share lovely bowl of chicken tortilla soup for dinner.

Sound good? Does to me. Watch for future posts on getting back to the basics. The Kitchen Basics.