Most of my pantry decisions are quite simple. I think about what I use the most and buy at least one extra. Items like flour and sugar (the various types) and salt and pepper and canned tomatoes and pasta and... you get the idea. Those items used a lot in the kitchen.
Then if I want to stock up for more than one extra... to deepen the pantry so to speak... I purchase what I can and when I can until I reach that number I am comfortable with and/or what the budget allows.
Keeping a pantry does at least three things:
- Eliminates last minute drives to the grocery store when you are out of an item.
- Saves a lot of money when you stock up on items when they are on a good sale price.
- Helps you organize your meal planning and home keeping better.
One thing that has helped me keep a simple but useful pantry is to think of ways to have multiple purposes for what I purchase. For instance, it is far better for me to store a box of graham crackers and crush them if needed than to buy a box of crushed graham crackers.
For one thing, I am not paying someone else to do the work for me that is so easy (and rather therapeutic). Not to mention I have them in the cracker form should I want a quick snack with a glass of milk.
I love to learn new ways of using items, too. Like when Stephanie and I took the cooking class at Colonial Williamsburg, we learned that the chef liked to use Keebler Pecan Sandies they have crushed instead of graham crackers for a crust at times.
You just have to press the crushed cookies into the bottom of a baking dish. No added sugar. No added butter. They form a beautiful crust "as is". Talk about simplifying the pantry!
Sometimes I have let items sit in my pantry simply because I don't have what I normally use with them. Last winter my husband asked if I realized there was a flat of peaches that were around six months past their date on the shelf? I knew they were there but I didn't realize it had been that long.
I had to stop and think about why I stopped going through cans of peaches as often as I once did. I had always preferred fresh fruit when possible so that should not make a difference. Then I realized it was because I had not been purchasing cottage cheese and I always ate them together. It was as simple as that.
As it turned out, cottage cheese was one of the items my nutritionist had encouraged me to begin keeping on hand for lunches again. So I no longer let canned fruit of any kid get past the date on their cans!
So... peruse your pantry and look at the items you have not been using. Do they need other ingredients to combine with them? Do they require an object you have not purchased in awhile? I have a recipe I have wanted to try for a few weeks and I bought the ingredients... but forgot I was out of aluminum foil which is essential to the process.
This past week, the store brand of aluminum foil was at a nice sale price so it was purchased. I can now try the new recipe. Which is also why, if you are able to afford them and you have room to store them, items like aluminum foil are good to purchase at restaurant supply places where they offer the larger rolls.
Now, sometimes there are items I keep on hand but only for certain recipes. Like fire roasted canned tomatoes to use with chili... and with it having been summer, there has been very little making of chili. But I know why those cans have been sitting ignored through the summer months. They are just waiting their season to return (soon).
If there are items in your pantry that you now realize you will never use, give them to a food pantry. Or ask a friend if they want them. You pantry should be like your closet, with nothing in it that you never ever use (except in my closet, I do not have to worry about an expiration date on my party dresses or Christmas sweaters).
Next week I'll chat about making the pantry more useful to meal planning!