Friday, June 10, 2011

Cooking Basics: Stocking Your Pantry

Hello again!

This is the second part in my online series called Kitchen Basics, originally presented at CrazyDomestic during March of 2011.  

The first step to happiness in the kitchen, in my humble opinion, is meal planning
You can read about that here

In this post, I'll discuss pantry stocking.

A prepared pantry will help soothe your ruffled feathers after a long day.  You can open the door and have confidence that even if you haven't given your evening meal much forethought, you will be able to create something for your darling (and ravenous) family to eat.  

You know, it would be nice to have a pantry like this, all color-coordinated and organized:
Image: from here
But my first thought was, unless you're baking 25 apple pies, who on earth will eat that many Granny Smiths before they rot?  (But I'd still love to step into a pantry that neat!)

I think it's safe to say that many of our pantries look more this bottom shelf.
Image credit:  Ada Be Photostream

Not that there is anything wrong with this, but it doesn't really lend itself to smooth and peaceful meal preparation.

Have you ever noticed (ha, ha) that grocery shopping can get REALLY expensive?  You might be in a position where you can barely afford to buy your groceries for the week, let alone purchase "extra" things in the name of having full pantry shelves.

Again:  don't pressure yourself to sock away enough food and "pantry basics" for a year's worth of meal preparation. 

As you can, buy the most basic items and gradually add the others. 

And before you know it, you'll have a well-stocked pantry, allowing you to easily prepare spontaneous, healthy meals. 

I've researched a lot of pantry stocking articles online.  And I'll tell you the truth:  I nearly broke out in hives reading all of them.  The list of things to buy was exhaustive (and expensive), and the discussion of some items, like spices, where one author suggested that you make a list of the expiration dates of your spices and tape them to the cabinet so you won't forget to throw them out or better yet just buy 40 acres in the country and start a giant organic garden and harvest, dry and grind your own spices and sell the extras at the farmers' market (GOOD GRIEF!), made me want to run out the front door screaming with my hands waving wildly in the air.

My goal in this post, lovey, is to hold your hand and lead you peacefully next to the quiet waters of kitchen basics and pantry stocking. 

Deep breath in...
And out....

Now isn't that a beautiful pantry?  

It's highly unrealistic (for me, anyway).  But exceedingly gorgeous.  The author attached to the photograph does give some good ideas for cleaning out your pantry and really getting it "organised" and functional.

Or, here's an even more realistic pantry transformation.  Amy over at Just Pleased As Punch walks us through her pantry redo.  AWESOME TRANSFORMATION! I am a big Ballard Designs fan, but my hair starts to catch on fire when I see their rather exorbinant prices.  Amy did a great knock-off job on some of the tins and canisters she has in her pantry (she only spent about $5 total on canisters and Goodwill and then painted them)!  So inspiring!

NOW...based on a list of very basic pantry staples, here are a few meal suggestions.  I've also included a rough estimation of the cost of each recipe.

(about 20 minutes); $4.50  

(serve as appetizer with pita chips; about 5 minutes); $2.50

(add avocado to pantry list; about 20 minutes to prepare)
$11 (makes 4 entree servings)

   (about 1 hour); $10

(chill overnight; about 10 minutes to prepare and 1 hour to bake); $6

(about 20 minutes); $16.50

(about 15 minutes to prepare, and 1 hour to bake); $4

(about 10 minutes to prepare, not including boiling eggs); $5.50

What do you think?  Is it doable?

My friends, here's what I hope you will walk away from this post with:  by keeping a relatively short list of staples on hand, you can prepare a wide variety of meals for your family.
P.S.  If you are desiring a more comprehensive list of pantry items, I've got one. Click here. But only if you promise it won't make you fall on the floor in a fit of overstimulated rage.

Related Posts: 
Meal Planning