10+ years in NYC and I had all but forgotten that you can go to the market, stock up on items and have them at home ready for not one but multiple meal preparations. I have always kept a mini-pantry in the City but all-in-all I have bought what I need at the market for each meal the day I plan to prepare it. After spending the last few weeks in the suburbs of Knoxville, I came to appreciate the kitchen pantry. Okay, I don’t just appreciate. I am obsessed – What a delight to have enough storage space to hold all that extra food! When deepening a pantry you’ll have to decide what foods take priority and where you want to begin building up. Start with the goal of having at least one month’s worth of food-stuff for your pantry. It’s all a very personal choice dependent upon your needs. I always make soup and use fresh veggies, so you will not find Campbells Soup or canned corn in my pantry. If you’ve got kids I bet you’ll want a good supply of mac ‘n’ cheese in there. Below I have listed just a basic frame from which you are welcome to work from. First, I suggest obtaining two extra of items that are things you don’t want to run out of such as: paper goods like toilet paper, napkins, towels and cleaners such as dish soap or dishwasher detergent, laundry soap and bath soap. Second, I like to have a few extra bottles vegetable oil, extra virgin olive oil, REGULAR olive oil – so many people buy only extra virgin olive oil and don’t realize that extra virgin has an incredibly strong taste that you don’t always want in every recipe. Now that I have said that you’ll notice that most recipes differentiate between regular olive oil and extra virgin. Most at home cooks do not. They assume extra virgin is just “olive oil” and pour away. Try having both at home. I promise your food will taste better. *winkwink* I like to keep various pastas, noodles, rice, oatmeal, in large airtight containers that have a wide mouth. I leave a scoop inside each container. It makes for very easy use and even easier clean up. Just be sure to date the container when you throw away the original packaging. You’ll find canned or dry beans and canned tomatoes (both whole tomatoes and Italian style) in my pantry. A jar of honey, lemon curd, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, a few jars of minced raw garlic, garlic and tomato paste. I also don’t know what I would do without at lease 4-6 boxes of organic chicken broth and 2 boxes of beef broth hidden away. I am always sure there are dried fruits – apricots, prunes, raisins – and a variety of nuts on hand. This way you’ll always have an interesting mix to chop up and add to a salad or to put out as a quick appetizer with cheese, crackers and cocktails. You should also have selected nut-butters stashed away. I like to have almond and a few jars of peanut or hazelnut butter in the pantry. I also like to have several jars of preserves on hand for recipes and morning toast, to sweeten dressing or to add to bakery recipes. American Spoon Foods are my favorite. I will usually have a few of their salsas, spoon fruit and red pepper jelly in the pantry.
A little hint: dress up your maple syrup! Take 1/4 cup nut butter and melt it into 1 cup of maple syrup. Dress Sunday’s pancakes with that concoction and you’ll win *Very Best Chef EVER* points!
These baking supplies are needed to bake just about anything: extra baking soda, an extra baking powder, extra pure vanilla extract, almond extract, flour, cornmeal, different sugars, chocolate chips, dried coconut, a few box mixes, brownies, blueberry muffin mix, a few cake mixes. I’d deepen the bakery section of the pantry further when possible.
As a baking side note, I like to have at least two pounds of butter in the freezer. If you see flour or other bakery goods on sale, buy it and rotate the oldest package to the front to be used first. Be sure that everything is dated so that nothing does not go bad. If you wanted to deepen your pantry as quickly as possible, it will be necessary to go through the recipes you use the most often. Decide how much you want to deepen your pantry for each food item. Continue purchasing the items until you have the amount you want and then rotate, rotate, rotate. Remember to use the oldest and place the newest in the back of the shelf. Otherwise, I suggest when building up (or deepening) your pantry that you do it a little at a time as your budget allows. A kitchen stocking note: last week one of the blogs I follow suggested gifting the bride and groom with some quality kitchen ingredients as their wedding present. A few bottles of wine, a selection of spices and a few nice bottles of cooking oil would be brilliant if the couple likes to cook or if you know they plan to cook together as newlyweds. While a lot of people live together before the wedding, the fact is that many are both setting up house and getting wed within the same breath. Weddings are really expensive. Spices are ultra-expensive too! I know the last thing I wanted to do right after we got married and moved in together was try to figure out how to outfit my spice cabinet properly within a reasonable budget. Keep in mind that while it is always good to have extra Sea Salt, Kosher Salt and Pepper on the pantry shelf that other spices do not keep longer than six months without losing flavor. It is not realistic to keep the same jar of nutmeg from one winter holiday to the next. Buy your spices in the smallest jars that your store sells and don’t buy new until you have nearly run out.
If you’re interested in reading more about cooking from your pantry – read this article from the New York Times about cooking without grocery shopping and get recipe ideas from Martha Stewart’s Dinner Tonight where they attempted this one week “cooking from your pantry” challenge.