When it comes to your pantry, you get what you give. Stock the shelves thoughtlessly and you'll have nothing but beans and fruit cocktail to eat on a busy night. Do the job carefully and you'll be able to make a different gourmet meal every night. Maintaining a well-stocked pantry requires organization at first and upkeep later on.
Stock your pantry with ingredients you use frequently for baking. You'll need white and whole-wheat flours, white and brown sugars, powdered sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa powder, chocolate chips and cornstarch. Dry pasta, breadcrumbs, oats and rice are other must-haves. Store extra boxes of cereal in the pantry, too. Pick up at least a few types of dry grains and legumes, including rice, quinoa, barley and lentils and unroasted nuts, including almonds and walnuts. Store any foods that are packaged in bags inside airtight plastic or glass containers to extend their shelf lives.
Canned and Jarred Goods
Fill your pantry with ready-to-eat meals and staple ingredients. Cans of beef, chicken and vegetable broth help you prepare many types of meals. Buy tomato sauce and a few kinds of canned tomatoes -- pureed, diced and whole tomatoes should cover your bases. Pick up several cans of beans including black, kidney and cannellini beans. Jars of peanut butter and jelly or jam and canned soup, fruit, olives, seafood and meat complete this section of your pantry.
Seasonings and Cooking Staples
Buy seasonings and condiments based on your own tastes. The typical pantry should hold basics including salt, pepper, soy sauce, vanilla extract, honey and common seasonings such as cumin, cinnamon, red pepper flakes and garlic powder. You can expand this section depending on the ingredients that usually go into the dishes you like to cook. Pick up mustard, ketchup and mayonnaise as well as pickles and your preferred variety of salad dressing. Your pantry should also contain a few kinds of oil, including olive and vegetable, as well as vinegars such as balsamic, apple cider and rice wine.
Storing and Rotating Pantry Items
Avoid wasting food by checking each item for an expiration date before putting it in your pantry. If you can't find one, make a masking tape label listing the purchase date. Be mindful of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's guidelines for shelf-stable foods. Low-acid canned goods can last for up to five years, while acidic canned goods such as tomatoes and pickles, should be used within 18 months. Keep dry pasta and rice for up to two years. Whenever you restock an ingredient, move the older stores to the front of the shelf and place the newer items in back.
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