Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Well-Stocked Kitchen

Or Making It Easy to Get a Meal to the Table (Part 1)

Frantically I pulled all the bottles and jars out of the cupboard to the left of my stove. Canola oil, olive oil, cooking spray, apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and worcestershire sauce.  I ran downstairs to the pantry in the garage and scanned the shelves, moving some salad dressings, diced tomato cans, and even flour out of the way. Nope, I didn't have any soy sauce.

Now I had to decide what to do. We needed to eat in an hour and the recipe I had all the ingredients for, well almost all the ingredients for, required soy sauce. Could I substitute something I did have? Was there time to run to grocery store? Would my husband be able to stop at the store?

I hate to admit how often this kind of thing has happened to me. My husband is a gem about running to the grocery store for me. I sometimes feel like a failure at planning. I can spend an hour making a menu and grocery list and be defeated by the simplest ingredient. 

That is understandable when making a special meal, but on a day to day basis, it can make it too stressful to have family meals at home because coming up with something you for which you have all the ingredients isn't easily possible. I try to have my kitchen stocked with basic ingredients, then I can to make dinner tonight for whoever is eating at home and we'll all enjoy it more if the cook isn't stressed--especially the cook!

Here's how I keep a basically stocked kitchen and my plan to maintain it. I can't make a fail proof list for  your cooking style, but I can give you a list to start with and you can take it from there along with my ideas on how to keep a supply of those things on hand.

The Basic List (printable)

I did a fair amount of research as to what others consider required as basic kitchen staples and I went through my own cupboards and pantry as well. I realize the list will change for different households, tastes, and needs. (For example you may prefer only whole grain rice, flour, and pasta, or may need gluten-free items.) This is not even exactly the list I consider essential, but we like lots of spicy ethnic food and I have to eat sugar-free.

Here's how I suggest you keep what you need on hand:

  1. Print out this list of long shelf-life staples.
  2. Read through it and cross off anything that you have never used and/or never remember being called for in a recipe you've made.
  3. Go through your favorite 12-20 recipes and add anything to the list that is a staple, but is not on this list.
  4. Now go through your pantry, cupboards, fridge, and freezer and check off the things you DO have on hand.
  5. Start a grocery list of items you have run out of that you know you will need and buy as many of them as you can the next time you go grocery shopping. 
  6. Any you don't pick up this time, keep transferring to a new grocery list. You might do this with certain items that you know go on sale from time to time or you know you won't need until a certain recipe.
  7. If it is practical, keep two of each item on hand. When you open the second item, write the first on your weekly grocery list. If not, add it to your shopping list when it gets to below half full. 
  8. To avoid buying things you may never use again, see if you can make a reasonable substitution by consulting a site like this, or Google the ingredient along with the word "substitute".
  9. Keep track of "use by" dates. While foods are often safe well after the date, they may lose some of their nutritional and taste value. Spices that are years old, for example, may need to be doubled to give the desired flavor.
  10. Keep a mental track of what staples you do use frequently and stock up on several when they are on sale.
About every other year we go on a six to seven week ministry trip and in between we we often take trips that last three weeks. In the time leading up to these trips and when we first arrive home, I depend on what I have in stock to feed us as I don't want to be buying food that will have to be thrown out or arrive back to a house with nothing to eat.

If I can basically organize to do this, I know you can, too. And don't kick yourself if you run out of something. No one ever died for lack of soy sauce.

To see other posts in the "Making It Easy" series, click here.
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  1. I have this problem too... My husband also stops at the store more often than I'd like. Thanks for the tips!

  2. Great resource! Thanks so much for the tips! I popped over from It's Overflowing--thanks for sharing!

    ~Abby =)

  3. I love to stack my pantry with lots of stuff so I don't need to run to the store when I want to make something out of the clear blue! I'm also good with lists. Just recently I said to myself that I have to much in the meats department, so I'm going to cook it all and not purchase til there's non, to see what happens!! My hubs also loves the supermarket and has no place to put all his purchases anymore, lol..Thank you for the tip, I love and enjoyed your post! Big hugs,

  4. Great list. My husband always teases me about substitutes, as though I swapped in cinnamon for pepper. But, careful swapping gets you through.

  5. Well bless you for doing the work for us! This is something I struggle with. I waffle between an overstocked pantry to understocked.

  6. Great ideas. I now try and buy at least two of any staple when I buy something. Has really helped to keep pantry stocked.

  7. I am visiting you from Abiding Woman/Tending Home Tuesday. I recently had my house fumigated and had to remove all my food. There were some things I had that were several years old. There were also duplicate spices because I couldn't find it and bought it again. I am trying to be more organized now. Thank you for your lists and links.

  8. Great tips! I have most of those items in my pantry!

  9. What great tips and ideas! :D

  10. That is a list of good ideas. I keep a list that I have disciplined myself to write down anything that is close to being out.....and that list gets taken to the grocery store. I really hate to find myself out of a needed ingredient. See you tomorrow :)

  11. These are great ideas. I printed this because I need to redo my grocery master list and go shopping, like SOON!!

    Thanks for sharing this over at WholeHearted Home.

  12. I think that soy sauce is missing off your list :) That might be why it is missing from your pantry. There are just a few things different on my list but pretty much the same. I have made a few last minute calls to my husband to pick things up from the store but for the most part, I have to do 99% of the grocery shopping and he gets milk when we are out. Knowing what spices you need is super important because you can stock up when they are cheap because some are really expensive!! Great post.



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