Amanda Thomas (aka, the Domestic CEO), joins the Clever Cookstr to share her tips for stocking your pantry and throwing together no-fuss weeknight dinners.
Quick Tip for Storing Canned Goods: I keep cans on wire shelves in my pantry so I can create 2 layers. I typically keep beans on the bottom layer, in rows so I can see how many of each can I have left, and vegetables and other canned goods on top of the shelf.
Oils – I buy olive oil in bulk from Costco, then refill a jar that is kept next to my stove. I also keep bottle of vegetable or canola oil in my pantry at all times to use for baking. Then I keep some specialty oils like sesame and peanut for making Asian dishes. But if a family doesn’t cook Asian recipes, they probably just need olive and canola.
Vinegars – It’s a good thing vinegars last a long time because they don’t get used often. But when they're needed, they're usually a key ingredient. I keep on hand at all times white, balsamic, and rice vinegars. That typically gives me the ability to cover most recipes.
Quick Tip for Storing Oils and Vinegars: Keep bottles of your favorite oils and vinegars on Lazy Susan in your pantry. That way, you can spin the Susan around to find just the right one when you need it.
Broths and boullion – I always try to keep at least one box of broth on hand to make a last minute soup. If I see that I have a bunch of veggies that need to be used up asap, they can almost always be tossed together for a soup with some broth. Even if we don’t eat the soup for dinner that night, it can sit in the fridge and offer healthy lunches for a few days. I like to also keep bouillon cubes or granules on hand for recipes that call for just a little broth. That way I don’t have to open a whole box for 1 cup of broth.
Spices – While I realize that not everyone needs to keep things like garam masala in stock, there are a few spices that will get you through 90% of recipes:
- Bay leaves (for soups and stews)
- Cinnamon and nutmeg
- Garlic (minced garlic can be used when recipes call for fresh garlic - just reconstitute with water)
- Italian seasoning (can also be used when recipes call for basil)
- Onion (again, can be reconstituted and used in place of fresh in a pinch)
- Parsley (can be used for recipes that call for cilantro, if you don’t like the taste of cilantro)
- Red or cayenne pepper
Frozen vegetables – When fresh vegetables are in season, I try to stock up. My favorite vegetable to stock up on is colorful peppers because they have such a significant drop in price when they are in season and they freeze well.
See also: How to Freeze 60 Pounds of Vegetables
For example, red peppers in my local grocery store are currently almost $2 each. When they're in season, I usually buy them at 3 for $1. I then use sandwich-size plastic baggies to hold either 1 chopped red pepper or 1 sliced red pepper each. As long as most of the air is removed from the baggie, these peppers can be kept frozen for months and then used in any recipe that calls for them.
They won’t be crisp anymore, so don't put them in salads, but most recipes call for them to be cooked. Other frozen vegetables I buy and always keep on hand are spinach, peas, and Brussels sprouts. These can be used in a variety of casseroles and side dishes, or heated up and eaten with a little salt and butter. They offer the most versatility of frozen veggies that I’ve found.
What are you cooking today? What are some of your pantry staples? Share your tips with us in Comments below!