I’ve been purchasing extras of our staples on sale, as well as buying in bulk. I occasionally purchase things from a local buying club, Frontier, or by the case at our local whole foods store (they offer a 10% discount on cases). I also try to stock up when I am near a Trader Joe’s because they have many of our must-have items at rock bottom prices. (ketchup for instance is $1.79 for 24 ounces, and is considered a staple because it gets the kids to eat greens)
Despite having a sizable layout our kitchen lacks usable cupboard space. We have no pantry and many of our cupboards are unusable due to the lack of shelving, or shelves that are falling apart. The previous owners did a remodel and while it looks okay on the outside, the insides of the cabinets are atrocious.
We use one cupboard for storing spices, and baking supplies. We use another cupboard for dry goods and canned goods.
Learn more: How To Make Your Own High Protein Snack Mix
My friend, Erica, mentioned the idea of using shelving in her coat closet to store extra pantry items. This was a perfect idea for our house because the hall is right off the kitchen. The closet has floor to ceiling doors, and 2 large, long shelves above the hanging rod.
How to Stock your Pantry:
Before you go shopping this week take some time to go through your cabinets, fridge and freezer so you can catalog everything you have on hand. You may find you can eat of your pantry for a month or more!
If you find some expired items here is a handy guide to tell what is safe to eat. You can download the guide as well by clicking here, use right click to save and print.
What should you do with expired goods?
Use By: If it’s past this date it is not safe to use. If you are getting close to the date, either use it up immediately, or freeze it if possible. “Use By” is usually found on meat, poultry and some packaged fruits and vegetables.
Sell By: If it’s past the due date on an item that says “Sell By” you usually have 7-10 days before it truly goes bad. Again, use it before you lose it, or freeze it if possible. This is seen most often on milk and other dairy products.
Best if Used By: After this date the product will taste different according to the manufacturer. You should also assume loss of vitamins and minerals. I would use it up ASAP if you are past the expiration date.
Most importantly if you’re in doubt, THROW IT OUT!
There are markets that specialize in selling past-date items for low prices. We have one near our home. I find these are a great way to stock up on snacks when we are going on a car trip, or feeding a large crew, but I generally don’t find the trip is worth my time. Even if I’m “only” spending $7 on 20 different snack items, that’s $7 I could instead be using to purchase better quality food bang for my buck.
Next write up your own list of staples. Mark Bittman wrote what I thought was a wonderful piece on essential items in a real food kitchen.
My kitchen staple list includes:
- oils (first press extra virgin olive oil, safflower oil, and coconut oil)
- butter (organic salted, organic unsalted for baking)
- nuts (raw almonds, walnuts, pistachios, peanuts)
- dried foods (banana chips, raisins, dried fruit mix for trail mix)
- spices (sea salt, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, ginger, sage, ground rosemary, mustard, cumin, and more)
- sugars (confectioner’s, white, and light brown)
- sweeteners (raw local honey, agave nectar, organic maple syrup, molasses)
- flour (all purpose unbleached, whole wheat, various gluten free flours)
- baking soda, baking powder
- organic cereal (for trail mix, and the occasional harried breakfast)
- canned beans, and dried beans I like to keep canned ones on hand for when I’m in a pinch)
- canned coconut milk
- chunk tuna in water with salt
- canned organic tomatoes (or can your own)
- organic tomato paste (Trader Joe’s now sells this for super cheap)
- in-season veggies and fruit from our local market, or farmer’s market
- carrots which are a year-round staple
- frozen veggies (whatever extra we get from the garden or farmer’s market, as well as green beans and organic roasted corn from Trader Joe’s)
- frozen fruit (wild blueberries, and pineapple tidbits from Trader Joe’s)
- beef (we buy a beef share so we have a variety of cuts and ground beef)
- salmon (wild caught Alaskan salmon)
- chicken (whole chickens and frozen chicken breasts)
- bacon or sausage are occasional treats
- brown rice
- organic pasta
- organic popcorn (best and cheapest snack EVER)
- organic tortilla chips
Learn more: How To Eat Organic On A Budget
What are your staples? How do you organize your pantry or kitchen? I still have a lot of things I want to do that I haven’t accomplished in organizing our kitchen, so I would love to hear your ideas.