How To Refresh and Restock Your Pantry

Last week we did a pantry restock. Joshua went to the store and got a variety of beans, pastas, and grains, tins of anchovies and sardines, jars of olives, a few different oils and vinegars, and bags of flour and sugar. In a season of waiting — for the soup on the stove to come to a boil, for warmer weather, and for those early spring vegetables to pop up at the farmers market — the pantry can be a surprising, but fulfilling place to look for some much-needed inspiration.

The holidays are over and the glimmer of the new year has worn off, yet it’s still cold outside and we’ve been eating the same produce (hey, butternut squash) since October. February is the perfect month to finally, perhaps cautiously, take a peek at those dark, neglected corners of your kitchen cabinets, and refresh your pantry.

Continue reading for a few tips for cleaning out and restocking your pantry, and carve out some time this week or weekend to freshen up your kitchen as we eagerly await the return of asparagus and those 60-degree afternoons.

Check the expiration dates on those spices and herbs. Spices don’t “go bad” in the way that milk spoils, but they do lose their potency over time, so toss any spices that are past their expiration date. Replace spices and herbs you’ll actually use, and buy in the smallest quantity that makes sense for you. If you use cinnamon in your oatmeal every morning, buy a larger jar; but if you only get around to using cardamom when fall baking season rolls around, wait until you need it and buy a small container that you’ll be more likely to finish. Whole spices will stay fresh longer, and are more fragrant and flavorful when ground just before using. Think about getting a small mortar and pestle (I have this one and love it) for some of your favorites; we always keep whole cumin seeds, all spice berries, coriander, and peppercorns.

Go for whole tomatoes. In most cases, whole tomatoes are going to be better than something that’s been sliced, diced, or crushed, which have added ingredients to help the tomatoes keep their shape and stay fresh. Whole tomatoes can be used in almost any recipe that calls for diced or crushed tomatoes by either draining and dicing ahead of time, crushing with a fork in a bowl, or (my preferred method) piercing and pressing them with the back of a wooden spoon right in the pot or pan.

Use storage containers that make it easy to see, at a glance, what you have on hand. The easiest way to forget about that tin of anchovies or jar of pickles is to lose it in the chaos of an unorganized pantry. I’ve found that glass jars make for the best pantry vessels (I love Weck jars for their size and shape options, and it doesn’t hurt that they also look nice, you know, for Instagram). Glass jars stack well and make it easy to see what they’re containing. There are also several pantry storage sets, like Oxo POP containers, that are designed to stack and keep your pantry easy to navigate. Pour any bagged ingredients like dried beans, rice, or nuts into containers. Label them with the date, and downsize containers as you use up the ingredients to make more space.

Maintain your pantry with bi-weekly or monthly check-ins. Depending on how much space you have and how often you’re using up your ingredients, keep up with your pantry by checking in once or twice a month to see what you need to restock. We like to do larger pantry grocery trips or orders once a month, that way our weekly grocery trip is just for produce, dairy, and other perishables specific to what we’ll use that week.

Whether your cabinets are stocked with vegetables you picked from your garden and canned last summer, or, like me, with cans and jars from the store, having a well-stocked pantry makes it much easier to figure out what to make for lunch or dinner, and allows you to be more spontaneous in the kitchen.

Originally published at https://breadbutter.blog on February 7, 2022.

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