Saturday, April 28, 2012
Saturday Pantry Suggestions
I get asked a lot what I feel is most important to put in a pantry. Well, that is SO personal to each person but I'll share what has been (and is now) important to me. It has changed a lot since I have such a low grocery budget.
At one time, I purchased from a food co-op once every few months and continually kept the pantry shelves stocked (items dated, last in went to the back of the bus). These days I purchase just one or two items at a time and the pantry is not very deep but it is still necessary.
Below are just general recommendations, if I were to get too specific... we'd need a pantry post for each day of the week. :)
Using the pantry for two different purposes
A lot of what I have in the pantry has to do with how I use it. For instance, I keep basics I always want to have on hand in my cooking and baking. These are purchased when I see I'm running out soon (or in the past when I was down to a certain number of items in the pantry).
Then there are items I keep on the pantry shelf for quick meals. From foods such as boxes of Annie's Mac and Cheese to canned soups to spaghetti sauce.
My most important general pantry items
Hmmm... what items are the most important? Well, I'd say dried pasta is the little black dress of the pantry world. It's not much on its' own but it goes with just about everything. I try to always have a variety of pasta shapes.
One thing I have learned from all the nutrition classes and reading I've had to do is that pasta is one of those things you get what you pay for. Good quality pastas are not only tastier but they are better for you. When cooked al dente' (at least not overcooked), it does not spike blood sugar as one one think. Cheap pasta disintegrates into pure carbs.
I stock up when the good brands go on sale. I use regular pasta, higher fiber pasta, and whole wheat pasta... although I use whole wheat only for meat based sauces which hold up well to the heavier flavor and texture. My favorite pasta? I keep the usual spaghetti, fettuccine, penne, etc. but my two most used pastas are still elbow macaroni and orzo.
One of my other "must have" items on the shelves are canned tomatoes. I have whole tomatoes, diced tomatoes, and even tomatoes with Italian or chili spices... but my favorite canned tomatoes are still stewed tomatoes.
That is the canned tomato my mother used the most and I guess I became accustomed to its' flavor in cooking. My vegetable beef soup does not taste the same with any other tomato!
As an example... I can prepare a dinner in twenty minutes by dropping pasta in boiling salted water and then mixing a can of tomatoes and a can of spaghetti sauce in the saucepan (I find spaghetti sauce alone too sweet). Sometimes I'll saute garlic and onions in some olive or canola oil before adding the tomatoes and I may sprinkle with parm cheese if it is in the frig (rare these days).
Another basic pantry item that I've come to depend on is salsa. A jar can be opened and served in a bowl along with corn chips and there is a good snack! I use it in cooking and even as a salad dressing for my taco salad. I can make a meal with taco shells, refried beans, salsa, and if possible from the frig... lettuce and cheese.
Some other items I try to always have... cream of soups (or I make my own with ingredients on hand), canned and dried beans, canned refried beans, canned fruit, canned veggies, canned meat and fish, jelly or jam (without high fructose corn syrup), peanut butter, etc. I have actual lists elsewhere.
I do keep meat, fruits, bread, butter, and veggies in the freezer. Sometimes when I have a few extra dollars and I find them sale... one will also find a package of jalapeno poppers... the kind with cream cheese inside... just waiting to be baked in a hot oven. Yum...
The Baker's Pantry
I always try to have flour, white sugar, brown sugar, confectioners sugar, honey, yeast, chocolate chips, vanilla, pumpkin, etc. in the pantry (and butter in the freezer)... just to name the basics.
Since I have a wheat grinder, I also keep a pail of wheat in the kitchen for whole wheat flour, otherwise I'd buy it and keep it in the refrigerator.
I like to be able to have options for baking something at the last minute when necessary. Which reminds me of...
The Hospitality Pantry
I would put coffee and various teas as part of the Hospitality Pantry, even though they are used daily. They are important parts (at least to me) of showing hospitality. Even if you do not use artificial sugar (such as Splenda), do keep packets on hand since many guests today would require them.
I'd also include some source of iced tea, lemonade (mix or frozen concentrate), juice, etc... and wine or sparkling juice if you like that with company meals. I'd love to see people get back to these kind of liquid refreshments and away from pop (soda in other parts of the country). I've talked to too many doctors and nutritionists about the bad affects of high fructose corn syrup!
I have written entire posts about keeping a Hospitality Pantry but there are a few other items I think are nice to have on hand... whether on pantry shelves, the freezer, or refrigerator.
These would include really good packaged cookies (such as Pepperidge Farm or imported English cookies), thinly sliced good quality bread (kept in the freezer) for the making of tea sandwiches along with filling possibilities, various crackers with cheese, cream cheese... just to name a few.
I shared this before but there is a reason I like to keep Pepperidge Farm cookies. Not only are they nice enough to serve (while never as good as my homemade cookies!) but they are pricey enough that I think twice about opening a package when I am having one of those late night carb attacks. :)
Of course, these are just items that can be kept on pantry shelves, the freezer, or the frig for a length of time. Even though I do keep frozen fruits and veggies on hand but it is so good to serve seasonal (and local when possible) fresh foods! Life happens and that is not always possible.
Note: This is obviously not an exhaustive post but an "off the top of my mind" list.
Picture: Cookbook and Apples: allposters.com