If pantry organizing gets you hot, pour a glass of wine, slip into something a little more comfortable, and come on in. Organizing porn abounds in this post! If it isn’t your thing (yet), no worries. Just don’t let your pantries get in a bunch.
There are few things more terrifying than realizing you have no idea what to make for dinner. Or lunch. Or breakfast.
Well, rats are more terrifying. No questions. I would take meal planning over rats any day. :shudder:
There are loads of meals that can be made on the fly (another topic for another post), but part of being able to be so flexible with your cooking, involves constantly having staples on hand. A well-stocked pantry is like an insurance policy or a fire extinguisher; break open in case of emergency.
It is easy to get a bug up your butt and rush out and buy a bunch of new stuff for your cupboards and pantry. I recommend a slower approach because it will make you focus on what you really need. And it can be done in a frugal manner that doesn’t blow your grocery budget.
You do have a grocery budget, right? 🙂
Here is the approach I suggest for building a stash without a huge output of cash. Pull everything out of your pantry or cupboard. Everything. Scrub down the shelves, and dust out the cobwebs. Then take a good hard look at what you have, and commit to making one or two meals per week for the next three weeks out of what you found. Fresh ingredients can be added of course, but really dig deeply and get creative with the dishes. Set aside the money you could have spent making those meals, and at the end of the month, you should have a small nest egg for rebuilding what you need.
What you should stock really comes down to what you and your family actually eat. Below is a list of what is in our pantry, but it likely won’t fit everyone’s needs – especially if you adhere to a special diet like Paleo, gluten-free, etc.
- Bread flour
- All-purpose flour
- Whole wheat flour (pastry and bread)
- Baking powder, in bulk
- Excellent cocoa powder I get in bulk at a local store
- Dried/powdered milk
- Baking soda
- Chocolate chips
- Vital wheat gluten (to be used with whole wheat flours)
- Organic sugar
- Organic brown sugar (simply made from sugar and molasses in my Kitchen Aid)
- Old fashion oats
- Corn meal
- Nutritional yeast (so good on popcorn!)
- Coconut oil
- Avocado oil
- Olive oil
- Worcestershire sauce
- Soy sauce
- Sesame oil
- Sweet chili sauce
- Hot sauce (Siracha, Korean chili paste, and Yin Yang)
- Apple cider vinegar
- Brown rice syrup
- Lyles Golden Syrup
- Rice vinegar
- Rice wine vinegar
- Raw honey
- Homemade vanilla extract (brewing, or done)
- Peanut butter
- Beans (dried) – black, pinto, white, kidney, garbanzo. And a few cans of ready to eat black beans. Dried beans are really cheap, but canned beans are still damn cheap, and ready to go!
- Pasta – spaghetti, rotini, penne, and dried mini cheese ravioli from Trader Joes that improve almost any soup they are added to
- Sesame seeds (usually for making tahini for hummus)
- Sunflower seeds
- Various cereals for snacks
- Onions. Always onions.
- Garlic. So much garlic.
- Potatoes – russet, gold, and sweet
- Canned artichoke hearts
- Annies cheddar bunnies
- Organic goldfish (stupid expensive and not at Costco, but picky Jack prefers them to bunnies)
- Triscuits – the baby loves them when he is teething, and Costco now carries an organic version!
- Dried apples. Jack and I dry them in fall in our dehydrator.
- A bin of various snacks that are odds and ends of goodie bags from school parties, sports, and purchased stuff, etc.
- Tea. Not really a snack, but I have a lot of it.
A well-stocked pantry is like having a solid foundation and good bones for a house. Once it is built, you get to do the fun stuff like decorate! Well, really, it is cooking a meal. Which depending on the day could be thrilling, or make you want to stab someone’s eyes out with a spork. Potato, po-ta-toe.
What is the one item you could never be without in your pantry/cupboards?