Before you can truly cook at home, you should make a very important investment: stocking your pantry. You should start with the basics and then add items you use and remove those that you don't really need. The fundamental building blocks to any well stocked pantry are simple. Here are a few things we’ve learned along the way:
Make it your own. When it comes to what you want or need in your pantry, first consider recipes you use regularly and stock items that are needed for that. Beyond that, thinking through the aisles at the grocery store can be a good way to stock other necessities that can come in handy for a variety of sweet or savory concoctions. A variety of grains, rice and pasta are a good staple to have alongside sauces and bread crumbs. Baking essentials include flour and sugar, but also baking powder, baking soda, extracts and spices. Good canned goods to have on hand include an array of canned tomatoes and other vegetables, as well as beef, chicken and vegetable broth. It’s also handy to have ready-made options, like spaghetti noodles and sauce, for those emergency nights when the last thing you want to do is go grocery shopping or cook something from scratch.
It can take time. Good things come to those who wait when it comes to pantry stocking. Experience has taught me that my pantry, and what’s inside it, is an evolving door of change mixed with a few foundational elements like those above. The nice thing is most pantry staples have long shelf lives, so you are able to keep them on hand even if you opt against making that lasagna this week, for example. It may not be a bad idea to spread out stocking over numerous trips to the store rather than considering a comprehensive list from the start. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you do put your pantry together:
- Stay organized. One’s definition of a pantry may vary based on the size and scope of available space, but the purpose is the same. Regardless of its size, a pantry should provide easy access to a variety of ingredients at a moment’s notice. With that said, figuring out an organizational system that works for you is incredibly helpful. If you have a number of shelves, consider organizing by shelf certain ingredients, keeping like items in close proximity to each other.
- Shop around. What may seem like a deal at one store may actually not be at another. Watch the weekly ads for the stores you frequent. It doesn’t hurt to get to know the prices of items you use frequently at a variety of local stores, so you’re able to stock up on that particular ingredient when and where it’s less expensive.
- Consider coupons. Most people have coupons available that come free in the mail. Others use coupon and other rebate apps (like Ibotta) to save on groceries on a weekly basis. If you shop sales, double up those sales with coupons and stock up on those items you use most regularly.