How to Stock a Pantry – Focus on Your Needs
So what do you do when you’ve begun to connect with your food and ground yourself in your kitchen? You make it more efficient and easier to whip up new meals without having to run to the grocery store. Here, I’ll help you learn how to stock a pantry the right way, tailored specifically for you.
A Brief History of the Pantry
Having a pantry in the house isn’t a new phenomenon. In the Middle Ages, kitchens in great houses were typically housed separate from the main building to prevent fires from spreading. In smaller estates, the kitchen had separate and dedicated areas to house foodstuffs. Meats and fish were kept in the larder, a cool room where the meats and fish were covered in fat which acted as a preservative. Ale and wine were kept in the buttery. Bread and dry goods were kept in the pantry along with silver tableware and serveware, under the watchful eye of a guard.
Bigger and modern North American homes have small rooms off the side of the kitchen that function as pantries. If your home doesn’t have one, you may have already purchased an additional piece of furniture that functions as your pantry. In my small apartment kitchen, I use two cabinets and the bottom of a microwave stand as my “pantry.”
When reading about how to stock a pantry, you may be tempted to follow the first list you find on Google, but I would advise against that. You want and need your pantry to work for you which means making it unique. Housing ingredients not normally in your style of cooking, just because someone else on the web recommended them, won’t be helpful and it wastes your time and money to purchase them.
How to Stock a Pantry that Works for You
- Make a list of your favorite and most used ingredients
Feel free to make sections for dry goods (dried beans, pasta, flour, sugars, etc), canned goods (tomatoes, coconut or condensed milk, vegetables, fish, etc), spices, oils, vinegars, and condiments. As you think about what you typically use in most meals, it will become clearer how much you need to have and what you should keep stocked. I tend to make sure I have dried pinto beans, black beans, and white beans, along with canned tomatoes, and bouillon cubes, as these ingredients can be made into a chili, spreads, or thrown into soup.
- Clean out those cabinets
Once you have more clarity of what is actually useful in your kitchen, get rid of the things that aren’t useful and are merely taking up space. By cleaning out your pantry, you make room for ingredients more suited to you and can find ingredients more easily. Kitchen organization is no joke. For example, if you’re experimenting with Asian food, choose smaller quantities of sesame oil, rice vinegar, and spices. You will end up paying more for a small bag but saving on space and wasted ingredients if you don’t like it. Paying more per gram is worth it at first.
- Reorganize if needed
I’m not talking about neatly lined and color coded immaculate shelves. Mine surely don’t look like that and probably never will. If you find yourself baking more, move your baking ingredients closer to the oven or if you have a standalone pantry, keep it in the middle shelf where it is easily accessible. Anything that doesn’t get used nearly as often can go closer to the top or the back. Though my kitchen is small, I still run it efficiently by keeping my spices in the cabinet next to the stove, the oils and grease can above it, and baking ingredients are on a top shelf above the sink.
- Buy what is missing
After making a list of the most used ingredients and figuring out what types of food you are drawn to making, make a list of items you are missing to round out and finish stocking your pantry.
As you move through the steps to stock a pantry, remember that your pantry is constantly evolving, just as you are in the meals you make, in your skill level as a cook, and in the different foods you try. A few years ago, my pantry had basic seasonings, canola oil, and canned beans. I’ve since added tomatoes, dried beans, fish oil, rice vinegar, cooking wine, canned fish, anchovies, and clam juice. My interest in cooking Asian and Indian food at home has grown and my pantry has evolved to reflect that.
Cleaning out your pantry and re-evaluating your kitchen is a process that should happen every season. Use this post as a guide to help you on your journey. Refer back to it as often as you need.
I’ll leave you with a challenge today. After following these steps, try making your first pantry-only meal and tag me @finnyfromscratch on Instagram or comment on this post with a photo of your meal. I’d love to see what you’ve created.