Organize It! The Pantry and Cupboards

Hello Readers!  Well, my Fall Cleaning is well under way, the weather is turning colder and colder outside, and I’m starting to take a look around to prepare for a long few weeks stuck inside my home.  Right now is the time I start to turn to my pantry and cupboards for some deep cleaning.  Why?  Because it’s time for me to stock up on things like soup stocks for stews and casseroles, beans for chili and stews, canned tomatoes for sauces and dishes, and oatmeal for breakfast.  And to store all of this for the cold Winter weeks, I need to have an organized pantry and cupboards.

This really is a great time to make sure you have the basics on hand for all recipes, especially before the first big storm hits.  I like to make sure that I have enough on hand to make two or three family meals in the case of an emergency during the cold months so that when the storm hits on the day I plan to go grocery shopping, I can bide my time until the roads are clear and play it safe with my back up meals.  So, here’s what I like to keep on hand at all times:

  • Baking basics: All purpose flour, cornmeal, old fashioned oats, salt, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, sugar, and spices/herbs (basil, oregano, chili powder, cayenne pepper, coriander, cumin, cajun seasoning, parsley, onion powder, garlic powder, nutmeg, rosemary, thyme, ginger, etc.)
  • Freezer staples: Butter, ground beef, chicken, pork chops, steaks, fish (typically catfish or salmon), shrimp, a roast, frozen veggies (at least one bag)
  • Pantry staples: canned beans (kidney, navy, black), canned tomatoes (diced, crushed, and stewed), tomato sauce, pasta sauce (marinara based and pesto), pasta noodles (two to five kinds), brown rice, couscous, quinoa, canned chiles, chicken/beef.vegetable stocks, etc.
  • Fridge staples: eggs, butter, biscuits, cheese, condiments, dressings
  • Fruits/veggies: onions, garlic, lemon, potatoes, apples/oranges

And these are the items that I always have on hand in the colder months.  I can easily make a variety of dishes with these ingredients.  I like to make sure that I have at least two protein sources on hand (like fish and pork, shrimp and ground beef, chicken and steaks, etc) at all times, and I rotate them each week when I buy my groceries.  At most, I will have at least nine protein sources available in the freezer, and at the least I will have two.  This is to ensure that I always have protein to use.  I also always keep a simple vegetable bag in the freezer, like broccoli or green beans, that I rotate through.  This week, for example, I may have a bag of peas in the freezer as a back up.  When I go shopping, I may pick up three more bags of other veggies according to recipes and what to have.  I will most likely use the peas first before using the other bags, and my back up bag may be broccoli and cauliflower next week.

As for butter, I almost always have two pounds of butter in my freezer: one salted and one unsalted.  Yes, in the freezer.  The salted is for eating and the unsalted is for baking.  They keep in the freezer for quite a few months, so it’s always nice to have it on hand.  And there are less chemicals and “preservatives” in butter than in margarine.

The baking necessities are no surprise: these are your basic ingredients that can be used for a plethora of recipes.  I can always make a quick biscuit or cornbread or cookies from my basic ingredients and a couple of other staples if push comes to shove.  And the spices, of course, are everyday items used in my kitchen.

My pantry contains the staples needed for a lot of different recipes, like starches and carbs.  And, with the dry storage veggies like onions, garlic, and potatoes, I can easily whip up a hearty and healthy dinner in no time!  This comes in handy when I get snowed in and have to improvise dinner one night, which has happened almost every year at least once.  With my pasta, rice, and other carbs stored away I can also create a great side dish for my meals.  I can also make a simple meal of pasta and sauce if I had no other option or I was stuck for more than three days.

As for the fridge, I always make sure that I have an extra half dozen eggs on hand each week in case I have to make a dough or I decided to cook them up.  Cheese, of course, is a great flavor enhancer and is a very versatile ingredient.  And condiments can be very useful, too.

So, when cleaning out my pantry and cupboards, I always check my staples to ensure that they are still fresh and not expired.  I pull the older items to the front and toss any expired or old ingredients, like my spices and herbs that have gone stale.  I restock as needed, and I store away my summer items like Popsicle molds, ice cream machines, and jello molds.

Tell me, Readers, what staples do you feel are important to keep in your pantry for the colder months?  What’s your strategy for your pantry and cupboards for those months when there may be snowed-in days?  I would love to hear from you!

Until next time,

-BBM

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