Happiness is a Full Pantry
In winter, there’s nothing quite like a well-stocked pantry to give a cook the warm fuzzies
This story is found in the Winter 2019 edition of Park City Home.
While preparing for a blizzard may not entail the kind of rush-to-the-store survival tactics as before the days of high-power snow plows and DoorDash, there’s still something comforting about knowing the makings for a wonderful dinner is within arm’s reach. All you need is a well-stocked pantry.
Prep the pantry
Clearing out your shelves is time-intensive but thoroughly satisfying, and the only way to know if that tin of really good Italian tuna in olive oil is still where you hid it.
Take everything out of the pantry, including racks and storage bins, which should be emptied and cleaned. Wipe down each shelf using a sponge and soapy water. (Feels better already, right?
Next, assess your items. Toss anything that’s old, stale, or expired. Take a damp paper towel to every container, eliminating the dribbles on your soy sauce and the sticky circle on the bottom of the honey bottle.
Organize your goods
Before putting anything back on the shelves, divide your provisions into groups, and re-shelve them accordingly. Your goal is to be able to see everything and find items easily.
Like things go with like things: Group grains with grains, oils with oils. You can also organize by zone, creating an area dedicated to breakfast items (cereals, granola, pancake mix) and to baking (flour, sugar, chocolate chips).
Anything in a bag (dried fruit, granola, marshmallows) should find a home in a basket with similar items. For example, a basket with bags of lentils, rice, and dried beans.
Cans should be stacked on stepped risers; again, organize by type of food, such as soups and vegetables. Put spices in alphabetical order on a lazy Susan, risers, or door rack and you’ll never hunt for the curry powder again.
Packaging takes up a lot of space — take individually wrapped items such as granola bars and instant oatmeal out of the box they came in and put in labeled bins to save lots of room.
Items that you use frequently, such as oils, vinegars, and hot sauces should be on eye-level shelves. Save the top shelf for infrequently used pieces (cake stands) and bulky paper goods such as paper towels. Use your floor space for heavy groceries such as juice and soda bottles.
Use the rule of rotation and try to get your household to practice it as well (good luck). Opened packages go in front, unopened in back. As you replace things, move old items to the front and put new items in back.
Storing dried ingredients such as pasta and beans in glass jars looks nice and allows you to see when you’re running low. But it’s not for everyone. You need to be diligent about transferring goods from packages to jars after shopping; clipping unfamiliar cooking instructions from packages and placing them inside jars; and keeping the containers clean. If you’re up for it, by all means decant away. Here’s an easy way to keep bugs away: Drop a dried chili pepper or bay leaf into each jar.
Stay on top of what’s being emptied by keeping a notepad or a dry erase board on the inside of the door for grocery lists.
Pantry temps should be below 70 degrees Fahrenheit and 45% humidity. You can plug in a small humidifier or use a product like Arm & Hammer Moisture Absorber.
Keep it fresh(ish)
Go through your pantry twice a year and toss anything that’s past its expiration date. (There is some leeway here; you can almost always keep non-perishable pantry items for weeks, if not months, past the expiration date, as it indicates freshness, not safety.)
Good for over 5 years
Canned goods (tuna, meat, beans, soup, most vegetables), vanilla extract, maple syrup, powdered milk, white rice, cornstarch, sugar, salt, all vinegars, hot sauce, honey
Good for up to 4 years
Salt-based sauces (soy sauce, Worcester sauce, jarred bouillon), pickle relish
Good for up to 2 years
Spices, ketchup, mustard, tomato sauce, vegetable and olive oils, Teriyaki sauce, chocolate chips, dried pasta, dried beans, acidic canned items such as tomatoes and fruit, baking soda
Good for up to 1 year (maybe more)
Flour, brown rice, oats, quinoa, popping corn, oil spray, baking powder, mustard, barbecue sauce, Sriracha, salsa, jams, pickles, and pancake, biscuit, and cake mixes
Good between 6 + 8 months
Cereal (unopened), juice boxes, croutons, crackers
Good for up to 3 months
Peanut butter, mayonnaise, breadcrumbs, cookies, marshmallows
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