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What Is a Well Stocked Pantry?

Updated on February 21, 2010

A Well Stocked Pantry

What is a well stocked pantry? A well stocked pantry can mean several things. First off, a well stocked pantry means you have back ups of your favorite items, items like ketchup or salad dressing. Heaven forbid you should run out of one of these during dinner! But more than that, your pantry should have the building blocks for meal preparation. You should be able to pull out out your pantry anything than is non-perishable that is called for in your recipe, unless it is a specialty item.

What are the benefits of a well stocked pantry? If your pantry is well stocked, you will be prepared for almost anything (at least food related!). Unexpected guests? Grab an extra box of pasta or rice to stretch your meal. Need to make a quick sauce? Pull out a box of chicken stock. What about a financial savings? You will find that if you plan around sale prices, you will be far ahead of the game by buying several of that sale item at one time. Not only will you have paid less for the item, but you will not incur extra fuel costs for additional trips to the store.

What should you have in your pantry to be well prepared? There are several categories to fill: herbs and spices; canned goods; pasta, rice and dried beans; and baking ingredients. Let's start with herbs and spices.

Herbs and Spices

Herbs and spices, or aromatics, make an otherwise ordinary meal, over-the-top. Having a good supply of herbs and spices is vital to a good meal.  As you learn how to pair herbs and spices with different foods, you can expect others to sit up and take notice! Use herbs like sage and thyme to infuse roasted chicken with wonderful flavor.  Use a little freshly grated nutmeg in your white sauces and you'll turn an ordinary sauce into a masterpiece.

I like to purchase my herbs and spices in bulk. Take out a portion for your cupboard, and freeze the rest until ready to use. This will help extend the life of your dried spices.  Buy fresh herbs and keep them wrapped in moist paper towel in your refrigerator to keep them fresher, longer.

Canned Goods

It is important to keep a good supply of canned goods on hand. Most canned goods will last for a year in your pantry. They are helpful for supplementing a fresh item you may be using, such as tomatoes. And in case of a power outage or disaster, you could just open...and eat!

I like to keep canned beans, for things like goulash and chili, or even refried beans. Several types of tomatoes are helpful. For instance, I keep diced tomatoes for the chili, tomato sauce for making pizza sauce, and puree and paste for making spaghetti sauce- you can't have too many types of tomatoes in my opinion!

Canned fruit is nice to have to add to recipes, or make a quick cobbler. Soup in cans is great when you're in a pinch. I even keep a good supply of canned evaporated milk. I use it to make rich sauces, like for chicken pot pie.

Even though I try to make my own chicken stock, I always keep several cans or boxes on hand. It is helpful to stretch soup or make sauces or gravies. There are several good brands out there. Try to purchase those with as few ingredients as possible. Watch for MSG or any other term associated with MSG.

Dried Goods

Dried goods such as pasta, rice and beans are a great thing to really stock up on in your pantry. These items virtually last forever, if stored well. Pasta is so versatile, that you can serve it with almost any meal. Picky eater? What kid doesn't like pasta with a little butter and parmesan?

Rice can be a wonderful side dish or it can be incorporated into a main dish. Rice not only tastes great, but is gluten free for those who have gluten sensitivities. I like to keep both white rice (I like either Jasmine or Basmati) and brown rice. Brown rice is very nutritious- I like to mix it into different dishes to give my kids an extra "boost."  I usually by Brown Basmati rice. It has a wonderful flavor.  Because of the naturally occurring beneficial oils in brown rice, it is important to keep brown rice in your freezer to keep it from turning rancid.

Dried beans are a great source of protein and fiber. They can be prepared in so many different ways that it is easy to make beans a weekly meal. Beans are also very inexpensive, giving your food budget a little breathing room!

Oil and Vinegar

In case you have haven't heard, oil is good for you! Our bodies need "good" fats to be healthy. So what kind of oil is good? I use several different types of oil in my kitchen. First pressed olive oil is wonderfully fruity and fragrant. I use this type for salad dressings or to dip fresh bread. For sauteing, I use either light olive oil or grapeseed oil, which have higher smoking points.

It's fun to experiment with oils like walnut oil or toasted sesame oil. These oils can really jazz up your salad dressing or stir fry.

Like oils, there are many different vinegars on the market with different uses for each. Again, I like to keep several on hand. My vinegar of choice is apple cider vinegar. It has great flavor and is good for you.  Rice vinegar is great in salsa or in Asian cooking.  I keep white distilled vinegar around for things like poaching eggs or cleaning.

Baking Ingredients

One of the most important sections in my pantry is the baking section. I do a lot of baking in my house, making most of our bread, cookies, and muffins. It is important to me, therefore, to keep a good supply of baking ingredients. I like to use whole grain flours in my baking, such as kamut flour or whole wheat flour. When I use white flour, I prefer King Arthur brand. It seems fresher than most. I keep both brown and white sugars, but I also use demerara sugar, or raw sugar quite a bit. Demerara sugar is a healthier option to regular sugar or brown sugar, so I try to substitute at least part of the sugar for Demerara.  Don't forget to stock up on baking soda and aluminum free baking powder.

Keep Progressing

Once you get the basics, keep progressing. This is by no means a comprehensive list. But it is a great place to start. Stock your pantry with these basics and then build upon it, based on your own particular style. And as you find recipes that your families love, you will know what to add to your pantry.

It will always pay off to think ahead when it comes to your pantry. You will be more prepared, and you will save money in the long run.

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