In my previous Foodie Friday post, I discussed our families method of meal planning (click here for the full post) One of the most important things, if not the most important thing, to help meal planning go smoothly is a well-stocked pantry. It’s such an awesome feeling to put something together from your basic pantry ingredients.
This ability helped me a lot when I was at my sister’s house helping out after her twins were born. Of course my two girls were with me so I needed to make meals with what was in the house. One night she remarked, “How do you keep making all this? We have, like, no food.” Basically I am the best. Just kidding. Sorta. Anyway, it just goes to show that with a knowledge of cooking and the use of pantry essentials, you can get dinner on the table any night of the week.
First off, when shopping for our home I want every food purchase I make to be a multitasker as opposed to a unitasker, an idea I borrowed from Alton Brown. What I mean by that is I want all the food in my pantry and fridge to have multiple uses. Greek yogurt is a good example. You can eat it plain with some granola, with quesadillas, on a baked potato, and you can also bake with it. Of course, not everything you buy will have the diversity of greek yogurt, but you get the idea. There is nothing worse than buying an ingredient you use in one recipe and never use it again. If you keep this philosophy in the back of your head, shopping will go much easier.
Now what? Most people plan their meals around a protein. Therefore, you want to make sure you have essential oils and vinegars to make basic marinades to add flavor to the meat. A marinade is a fat (olive oil), an acid (vinegar), and seasonings. Seasonings can include your basic herbs, spices, aromatics, citrus zest, or sweet elements like sugar or honey to balance out the acid. The possibilities are endless, and if you like to cook it’s a lot of fun to come up with great combinations in the kitchen. Again, all these basics can be used to make salad dressings, roast vegetables, and make sauces for other dishes.
Side dishes are an often forgotten part of the meal, at least in our house. We usually go with roasted vegetables but with rice, quinoa, beans (dry and canned) and pasta (a variety of cuts and shapes) in the pantry the possibilities are endless. Of course all these items can also go in another meal staple: soup!!
One thing in life I do not understand, well one of many things, is canned soup! Soup is so easy to make, impossible to screw up, it feeds a ton, and is extremely budget friendly. Combine your protein and veg with some pantry items and chicken stock, spice it up and you have a meal. So easy.
Another super easy meal, and always family friendly, is pasta. We keep a variety of cuts and shapes in our pantry to make spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, carbonara, cream sauce. Pasta is a blank slate so it is really easy to incorporate it into a meal. The easiest way is with tomato sauce of course so we always have a variety of tomato products ready to go: sauce, fire roasted, diced, whole, stewed, crushed, and paste.
Then we come to the best part of the meal,
booze, I mean dessert. I love to bake so we keep a well stocked array of items for baking: bread flour, all-purpose flour, baking soda, shortening, and on and on. I use a lot of the baking materials to make snacks like granola and energy bites for the family.
The only prepackaged snacks we buy are yogurt and cheese. The go-to snack is fresh fruit. Along with popcorn. We also keep nuts and dried fruit in the pantry also for a quick snack or to make up some trail mix. Again, multitasking 🙂
A quick rundown on some of the other items to keep in the pantry. Roasted peppers for paninis or purreed in a soup. Chipotle in adobe also great in soups and marinades. Cereal and steel cut oats for breakfast. Bagels and tortillas for lunches. Peanut butter for snacks or baking. Breadcrumbs to use as a binder or toping. Almond milk to mix with frozen or fresh fruit for smoothies. To go along side the frozen fruit in the freezer, I like to keep our bagels (our brand comes frozen), frozen veggies, frozen protein, yeast, and vodka. The last one is optional 🙂
Our fridge is home to your basic condiments: ketchup, mustard, BBQ sauce, soy sauce, which you can use in toppings, marinades, and sauces. We keep a variety of cheeses, eggs, bacon, fresh produce, along with the weekly basics like milk and butter.
Wheew. I think that covers it! Or at least I hope so. I have a created a handy little cheat sheet for all of you lovely people to download so you can get your pantry in order. I also left some blank space so you can add your own pantry supplies. Enjoy and have a great weekend!!