Pantry = Meal Time Success
There is nothing that takes the pressure off of meal prep more than knowing your pantry has your back. You don’t need an enormous pantry to support your cooking efforts – you just need the one that works for your family and what you like to eat. The pantry is made-up by your cupboards, your freezer and your fridge – anywhere you keep basics. Having the items you need over and over again, organized and at arm’s length is a bit like having an in-house sous chef. But one that you created. Because you’re so amazing.
- You’re going to start, not by filling up your cupboards but by purging them. Choose a rainy Saturday and get this job done.
- Take the time to get everything out of cabinets and place them on your counters, kitchen table or even the floor.
- Give every shelf, rack and drawer a good wipe down with warm, soapy water. Critters love pantries as much as we do, sadly, and regular cleaning is the only way to keep them out.
- Toss things you’re not using regularly, have been hanging around for years or you don’t recognize. Be honest with yourself. Is this really the year you’re going to start using that lavender-scented honey in your tea? If not, au revoir, Honey! All that space you’re making by tossing out dodgy paprika and that bulk cereal that no one ended up liking is going to make room for fresh ingredients that will make your food taste better.
The SPC Pantry
This list is based on SPC recipes. Of course your pantry might look quite different depending on your family’s preferences. But it gives you an idea of the bases you’ll need covered.
Once you’ve purged your old and unused items, it’s important to create a system that supports your time in the kitchen and maximizes success. The most basic step towards this is being able to see your ingredients clearly. For dry pantry goods like flours, sugars, grains and nuts, etc, we recommend investing in an assortment of glass containers in large, medium and small sizes. Glass is best for food safety and won’t absorb odours or colours that way plastics can. You can use traditional mason jars, recycle jam jars, or pick up plain screw top glass jars at Ikea. Just be sure to run everything through the sterilize setting on the dishwasher before using. The difference between a clean, organized cupboard full of labeled glass jars and the rolled-up, clipped shut jumble of bags and boxes full of dry good is staggering. You can see each item, know how much is left, stack them if you need to, have fewer spills to tidy up and just feel that teeny bit more relaxed when you open the cupboard door.
- Use any kind of labels you like (preferably water-proof since a kitchen is a sticky place) so you don’t make a tragic salt for sugar mistake in your next batch of muffins. You maintain this system by emptying dried pantry items into your jars as soon as you’re back from the grocery store.
- Place the items you’ll reach for most often in the most accessible spot in your cupboard. Where possible, do no create multiple rows within cupboards – those containers in the back, particularly on upper shelves, are easy to forget.
- You may love the look of a spice rack on the counter, but it’s not the best way to prolong your spices’ lives. Instead, keep them in a cool, dark spot, like a cupboard or a drawer, in airtight containers to keep them fresh longer. Check to see if your spices are still viable by giving them a sniff. No scent? No good! Buy spices in small quantities as they won’t be effective for longer than a year.
- Keep oils and vinegars away from light and heat as well, but close enough to your workspace so they’re handy. Most oils and vinegars have a two-year shelf life unopened, if you’ve cracked the cap, you generally have 3 to 6 months to use them up.
- Salt and pepper are essential for cooking and bringing out the flavors of your other ingredients. Given how frequently you’ll be reaching for them, keep them in your kitchen’s prime, reach-for-it spot.
- Don’t buy in bulk. That’s right, don’t do it. That bag of almonds that weighs the same as you do might seem like great value when you’re standing in the store, but remember that you’re going to have to find a place to store it and that the contents will likely go off before you can eat them.
- First in, first out. If you do have multiples of some ingredients, be sure to pull the oldest ones to the front of the fridge or cupboard and line up the newest ones at the back.
These are the backbones of your pantry. Shallow cupboards are better than deep so you don't forget what you've got. Take everything out and do a deep clean every six months to keep critters out and your sense of organization intact.
• Neutral oil (grape seed or canola oils)
• Sesame oil
• Coconut oil
• Plain vinegar (good for cleaning, too!)
• White wine vinegar
• Rice wine vinegar
• Balsamic vinegar
• Whole Wheat Flour
• All-Purpose Flour
• Bakers’ chocolate
• Baking powder
• Corn Starch
• Dutch-Process Cocoa Powder
• Almond Butter
• Non-nut Butter
• Brown sugar
• Maple syrup
• Jasmine Rice
• Arborio Rice
• Pearl barley
• Whole rolled oats
• Steel cut oats
• Cous Cous
• Breadcrumbs and/or Panko
• Chia seeds
• Sunflower seeds
• Dried cranberries
• Assortment of pastas
• Chicken stock
• Beef stock
• Tomato paste
• Pumpkin puree
• Chili powder
• Dried Mustard
These ingredients are best kept at room temperature, so either on the counter or in containers to keep things streamlined.
What’s filling your fridge will change week to week with your meal plans but there are some elements you’ll always want handy.
• Greek Yogurt
• Ground flax
• Fresh produce like kale, spinach, broccoli & herbs
• Nuts (they’ll keep much longer if they’re chilled)
• Unsalted butter
• Soy Sauce
• Mayonnaise or Vegenaise
• Ketchup (come on, you know they’re going to ask)
The final frontier of your pantry is for more than just ice cream and ice cubes. The freezer is the ultimate out of sight, out of mind zone, so be sure to label and date everything you put in it. Frozen fruits and veg are okay up to a year but most other items should be consumed within 4 to 6 months.
• Ground turkey
• Ground beef
• Turkey Sausage
• Frozen Berries
• Bananas (just a couple at a time for smoothies)
• Frozen Chopped Kale
• Frozen Corn
• Chicken and/or beef stock