Tuesday’s Tip: The Pantry

A few weeks ago, I shared with you all about my Household Notebook. (Several of you asked for pictures, they are coming in another post!) We all have different ways we stay organized. There is no one-size-fits-all method. What keeps me sane, just might drive someone else crazy!

One section of my Household Notebook, is labeled “Nourishing.” It’s all about food. Here, I keep master grocery lists, meal planning forms, recipes (passed on by friends, torn out of magazines, printed off the internet, or ones I have created), pricelists for foods and household items, as well as freezer and pantry inventory lists.

I grew up in a small, rural town in Northern Louisiana. My mom shopped once-a-month because we lived an hour from the military base, where we did 99% of our grocery shopping. We couldn’t just run to the store for something that was needed. (Well, you could, but at the local store, you paid an “arm and a leg” for it.) Usually, if we didn’t have it, we just didn’t have it. We improvised, or created a “Plan B.” At this time, I think I learned the difference between a need and a want.

It wasn’t until I got married that I realized I didn’t have to shop once-a-month. We have always lived in locations that afforded me the opportunity to pop to the store, if necessary.  Yes, it was convenient, but it was, also, costly.  I learned all these trips to the store can add up, both in grocery prices, as well as gas prices.

From experience, I have found, it is best to purchase items at their lowest price, not merely when I need them, or when I run out of  a particular item. Trying to keep ahead of the “grocery game” has helped a lot. Sure, there are occasions where I have to make a last-minute purchase. Usually, though, I have what I need and purchased it at a good deal, too. For this, I am thankful.

However, having a well-stocked pantry is not just to save money. For me, it is about creativity.  You see, my Granny is an artist. In her creative space, as she is preparing to paint a picture, she makes sure to have out all of her paints, brushes, canvases, etc. Although, I am not a painter, I still like to think I am creative. My kitchen is my creative space. I love opening up my pantry, finding it stocked full of luscious and delicious ingredients, which I can use to create a fabulous (not necessarily fancy) meal for my friends and family to eat and enjoy.

Several years ago, I began keeping a running inventory of what was in my pantry, as well as what meals could be made from those ingredients.

There are many resources on the web to assist you in beginning this task. Check here and here. As well, I have checked out these resources: Natural Food Pantry and Thyme for Cooking’s article on “The Well-Stocked Pantry.”

Also, have a look at Organized Home for information on this, as well as a variety of other home-related topics, along with printable pages to get you started on this journey.

Here’s a glimpse of what you might find in my pantry:

  • Flours – unbleached white and wheat. As well, I am experimenting with others
  • Sugars – brown, cane, powdered, and white.
  • Dry Pastas – a few different shapes and sizes
  • Grains – couscous, rice, barley, quinoa, oats, flax, cornmeal/polenta/grits, bulgur, buckwheat (kasha), popcorn kernels
  • Oils – olive oils (I have a couple that are infused with either lemon or grapefruit. These are so nice to make homemade salad dressings), canola oil, coconut oil, peanut oil, sesame oil
  • Vegetables – onions, potatoes, garlic
  • Canned/Jarred Tomatoes – sauce, diced, stewed, paste, crushed
  • Spreads – peanut, almond & hazelnut butters, jam, jelly and Nutella (love it!)
  • Natural Sweeteners – honey, maple syrup, agave, molasses
  • Vinegars – balsamic, white, red wine, apple cider, rice wine
  • Specialty Sauces – hot sauce, Tabasco, fish sauce, soy sauce
  • Nuts and Seeds – almonds, walnuts, pecans, pine nuts, coconut, pecans, peanuts, pumpkin, sunflower and sesame
  • Dried Fruit – raisins, apricots, mangos, cranberries
  • Dried or Canned Beans and lentils– black, navy, pinto, kidney, garbanzo, lima, butter; as well as black-eyed peas, split peas, and brown and red lentils.
  • Canned fish/seafood – tuna, salmon, clams, crab
  • Specialty Items – artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, olives
  • Herbs and Spices – nutmeg, cloves, oregano, basil, parsley, rosemary, cumin, herbs de Provence, dry mustard, peppers, Cajun seasonings, Indian spices, Asian seasonings, and many more. (My favs!)
  • Salts-kosher, sea salt, rock salt (for ice cream)
  • Baking Ingredients – baking powder, baking soda, yeast, cream of tartar, cocoa, corn starch, sweetened condensed and evaporated milks, panko and regular bread crumbs (not really baking-related, oh well.)
  • Extracts – vanilla, almond, lemon, peppermint
  • Beverages– coffee, tea, cocoa, apple cider packets and cans of V-8
  • Canned/Boxed Soups- Really like Amy’s and Imagine Organic Soups
  • Canned/Jarred Fruits-peaches, cranberries, cherries, pears, pumpkin, figs (My mom stocked me up with ones she canned.)
  • Canned/Jarred Vegetables-Green beans, corn (whole kernel and cream-style), squash, and olives, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, bean spouts, baby corn nuggets and coconut milk (lovely in curries)
  • Cold Cereals-a few varieties that are our stand-bys are Rice Krispies and Quaker Oat Squares
  • Latte Syrups-pumpkin, vanilla, peppermint and hazelnut
  • Snacks-Organic animal crackers, saltines, whole wheat crackers, wasa crackers, graham crackers
  • Pre-made MixesI made these up yesterday, which include pancakes, waffles, muffins, breakfast cookies, biscuits, etc.

For me, having a well-stocked pantry keeps me sane. Sure, I plan our menus. But, as we all know, the best laid plans can be thwarted. Dinner might get burned (Yes, this happens to me. It did last week.). Last-minute guests might arrive. A meal needs to be made to take to a friend. All of these happen to me from time to time. Or, what about merely craving something that is not on the menu plan? The chef can change their mind. Right???  🙂 🙂

What food items do you keep in your pantry?

Do you have a particular way you organize it?

Any tips, or ideas to share?

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