What is in a well stocked pantry?

meyersdvmMay 1, 2013

Like so many of the rest of of you TKOs, I am living out of boxes while we are redoing the kitchen. I have been reading and re-reading threads about pantry and spice organization, etc.
I am a recovering stockpiler. I used to keep no less than 6 boxes of cereal in the house at any time. BOGO, make that buy 3 get 3 for my household. We are trying to eat cleaner and have less waste now, so when I put things back in my new kitchen, I want to make sure it is worth the storage space. I am sure this will vary due to how often and what one likes to cook, but what are your pantry essentials, how much do you keep, and how do you store it?

For example, I plan to keep dried beans and rice, and other whole grains in glass containers in my pantry with chalkboard labels.

Please share what are your pantry essentials.

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I used to keep no less than 6 boxes of cereal in the house at any time. BOGO, make that buy 3 get 3 for my household.

That's not a problem as long as you know you have them and eat them before the expiration date. If you have all 6 of them open and partially eaten ... that's a problem.

For non-perishable high-use staples, I try to have at least one open and one on the shelf, and when the one on the shelf is opened, that item goes on the shopping list.

Low-use non-perishable staples (dried milk, kosher salt, etc.) have one package and I buy a new one when we are about a month to a week away from being "out". I have them in glass or plastic so I can see how much is left.

For certain items, from stores a substantial distance away, I stock up when I go there with 6-12 months worth of whatever it is that's worth driving that far for.

I have a pantry "map" that shows where things live, so anyone can quickly check and see if we are out or if there is a replacement in there.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 1:06PM
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I tend to stockpile when things are on sale, so I have a fairly large amount of canned goods. When I stock up, I do try to take advantage of the newest dates, and I do use a first-in-first-out rotating can system (I have Cansolidators from Shelf Reliance, but other systems exist -- some of them homemade).

Canned goods I tend to keep on hand:
- Beans
- Canned fruits
- Soups
- Enchilada sauce and chilis
- Tomatoes of all descriptions
- Manwich
- Canned sodas

Grains, mixes, other dried items:
- Flours of several types
- Cornmeal
- Pancake mix, TendaBake only
- Bisquick or other biscuit mix
- Steel ground oats
- Rice
- Various pastas

I keep these things mostly in inexpensive screw-top glass jars. I'm in the South, so bugs are a problem occasionally. I heard a saying once that stuck with me: Completing the purchase. This means putting the items away so that they're ready to use /stored to last. So, for example, when I come home with sodas, I remove them from their 12-pack cans and set them all in their spot, all facing forward. When I bring home a bag of rice or pasta, I open it up and pour it into its glass jar. If it's something that we don't use constantly (such as lasagna noodles), on the back of the jar's tag I write the expiration date.

I have two large Lazy Susans (could use more) that house pickles, spaghetti sauce, and other canned items. This isn't particularly efficient because I have so much empty space above them, but I still love the Lazy Susans. When we build, I will have a shorter shelf space for these.

I keep my home-canned goods in a separate spot. When we build our new house, I plan to expand my home canning, and I will place these jars, which are much prettier than store-bought things, in a prominant location. They make me happy.

Other items:
- Individually wrapped snacks that're destined for lunch boxes are stored in a pull-out plastic drawer. I'd like something prettier, but this works.
- Jello and puddings have a pull-out drawer of their own.
- Dried sauce mixes have a pull-out drawer.

Also, when we build our new house, we will have space for my husband's home brew hobby in the pantry.

And we'll have space in the pantry for paper goods (toilet paper, paper towels, etc.) which are now stored in the linen closet in my girls' bathroom.

Fresh produce that shouldn't be refrigerated (i.e., tomatoes), I keep on the counter in the kitchen. I want to use it up as quickly as possible, so this works for me.

Spices and oils I keep in a kitchen cabinet as well.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 1:23PM
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And grits. I forgot grits.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 1:24PM
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ok I have to confess that we sometimes have 8 open boxes of cereal at one time. Now to explain, 3 cereal eaters in our house and we all like different kinds with a little overlap. DH and I like to mix cereals. I usual mix 3 kinds together each morning. So for us 8 open boxes is fine.

So the moral of this story is... it depends. Each family is different. Think about each item and how long it would take you to use it.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 2:02PM
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Lots of Seasoning Packets (taco, chili, ect)
Boxes of fruit cups
Granola Bars
Canned Goods

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 3:02PM
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Well, this sure isn't what you have in mind, but: No less than a two-week supply of food and water. Put that hoarding propensity to sensible use.

From the NY Times last November: "Terrorists could black out LARGE SEGMENTS OF THE UNITED STATES for weeks or months by attacking the power grid and damaging hard-to-replace components that are crucial to making it work, the National Academy of Sciences report....

This danger is real. No power, no electricity, no heating for many, no cooling for any. In short order no cell phone, no TV, no radio, no land line, no internet. No gasoline, no retail. In the entire affected region. Many areas do not have backup generators to power their water pumping systems and water pressure could fail within hours.

From security--to need and discomfort--to desperation in less than a week. Especially those of us with children.

BECAUSE, most people do NOT have have supplies and equipment that would allow them to shelter/remain in their own homes for even a few days. Amazing! Every couple of years simple ice storms in our area require many to evacuate their nice subdivision homes with pantry and granite.

Depending on the area and definition of adequacy, the average food on hand for a household is about a week's, or significantly less. Water situation much, much worse. Adequate police protection to handle day 6 when there are no FEMA handouts to line up for? Doesn't exist.

We're not talking end times here, that's a very different forum. For The Kitchen Forum--just responsible housekeeping. We need to change just enough that the typical household routinely keeps--bare minimum--two weeks of food and water on hand, preferably more like ability to survive for three months, but never less than two weeks. And whatever else is needed to stay safe at home with the supplies for at least that long.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 3:08PM
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................a butler .

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 4:01PM
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Beer. One of the things I specified to my cabinet maker was a shelf in the pantry cab that is tall enough for beer bottles.

And what everyone else said, plus:
peanut butter

It's not unusual for us to have 5 boxes of cereal open at a time, but 4 of us eat cereal for breakfast every day, and my sons often eat cereal as a snack. Of course we all like different things. We stock up on cereal when it goes on sale, since we go through so much. My new kitchen will have pull-outs above the fridge for cereal storage.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 4:20PM
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We DO have a lot of cereal, but we are a family that eats a lot of cereal. We also stockpile when the sales are good.

Our pantry has a lot of canned soups, canned veggies, canned fruits, pasta (at least a dozen varieties since my husband loves cooking italian), pasta sauce, flours, sugars, applesauce, cereal, potato chips, salad dressings, bbq sauces, seltzer, packaged desserts, crackers, multiple gallons of water, paper products, peanut butter, and snack packs for the kids' lunches.

We keep all our spices right by the stove as opposed to the pantry, which is a few steps away.

Our next door neighbors came over last month to visit - they hadn't seen the newly renovated kitchen - and when the husband saw the well-stocked pantry he said, "Well, now we know where to go when we run out of food in an emergency!" I told him if he'd supply the generator (he has one, we don't), we'd supply the food.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 5:23PM
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Reading these have made me think about what I'm doing. I'm not organized, impulsive and whimsical in both purchase and cooking, but a sort of system has evolved.

We're kind of in the country, so I can't just run out and get good dried shiitake mushrooms, seaweed, radish seed, say, so I pick up extras of all my favorite items and brands when I can. No impulse here, this is stuff I know I'll use.

Of course, I lay in backup supplies of all the basics I use a lot, or can be counted on to use at some point, bought in bulk and on sale. Like good quality canned tomatoes. Various canned veggies for when fresh aren't available. A few kinds of canned beans and everything needed to turn them into whatever. I always have a couple types of olives, plus artichoke hearts, gerkins, capers, etc., etc. Condensed milk, honey, molasses, etc. Pastas.

Backups for all my favorite condiments, vinegars, oils. and special items (rhe currently used ones are stored at the prep area), again especially those that aren't available in the local store. Even when they are, it's 15 minutes away at 55 miles an hour. Canned clams, tuna, kipper snacks, etc., that can always be turned into a quick meal or used to add interest. Garlic, shallots, ginger, potatoes, onions, all of them always.

Definitely ingredients for a few valuable recipes that can be thrown together entirely out of the cupboard. Some canned and dried soups, even though I make and freeze my own; my old tuna casserole recipe is strictly Campbell's soup genre.

Lots of fun things from the international market come in little cans, jars, and packets, so they're on their own little shelf by culture so they don't get lost.

For emergency, cases of the standard always-used stuff stored in the basement and brought up as needed. These stay bound together, newest on top, and brought up together to rotate old to new; my version of organization.

Some canned "meals" that could be just opened, such as chili, stew, ham and beans, chowder, canned chicken, boxed mac and cheese. The smallest available canned ham. Not actually that big a supply as they're not first or fourth choice when there are alternatives and we do have to eat them over time so they don't get old. Two very large bags of rice tossed in big plastic bins and forgotten have held up extremely well over time.

Storage? We're in the South. Bugs will always be trying to find a way in. Jars are cute but aren't the most reliable here. I buy the best quality snap-on-type plastic containers I can find in various sizes. I have a shelf-size container that'll hold all small bags of specialty flours, say, various chile peppers or dried mushrooms, specialty rices and grains. Large stocks of flour, rice, sugar, noodles, etc., get their own large containers, of course. I've never had bugs get in unless I put them there via a bad purchase. That time they also couldn't get out, so that worked too.

The only things that haven't worked well in my pantry are those things that I end up not using. The back of a shelf can be death for something I decide I don't like but "should" use, just not today or tomorrow. I've learned to get rid of anything I decide I don't like, a learning process DH forced on me (and him!) by coming home with inferior brands he bought on sale.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 6:10PM
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I tend to stockpile too when things I use regularly year round are on sale, but I store a lot in the cool basement (I don't yet have room in the kitchen!)
Pasta made with veggie flour doesn't go on a great sale that often and it will keep -- I have a tight sealing plastic box to keep the 1 pound boxes in, also I keep about 1 pound in a jar in the kitchen
Soups--my big ready-to- eat indulgence, I take a can to work for lunch most days
Couscous--kept in the kitchen in a big glass jar
Olives, marinated artichoke salad, pickles etc
I also keep sugar, salt, oatmeal, cornmeal, flour in jars; the whole wheat flour I keep in the refrig since I don't go through it that quickly
Tuna, salmon, dried fruits, nuts are my other pantry staples
Dried peas and beans
Potato flakes, too, for thickening soups and stews

I've been trying to eat less gluten recently, so I don't have much in the way of mixes and will be cutting down on the pasta and couscous.

I just threw out a big pile of seasoning packets -- I just don't use them

Everything into a tight sealing jar or container ever since I had a pantry moth infestation (they even nested in my cookbooks!)

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 6:24PM
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beans (lots of 'em, dried, mostly from Rancho Gordo in big shipments)
dried pasta
dried mushrooms
canned tomatoes and some Rae's pasta sauces
various rices, including wild rice
steelcut oats, and thick-cut rolled oats
almond flour
coarse red bran
graham, all-purpose, cake, and bread flours
GG bran crispbread (for when one is feeling penitent)
rice and almond milk
olive oil
walnut oil
sesame oil
canola and grapeseed oils
coconut oil
various soy sauces
lots of mustards
sriracha! the red rooster one
balsamic and fig vinegars
McCoy pickles!
salsa, both green and red

canned salmon, tuna, and lots of sardines
lots of shelled walnuts and almonds from Trader Joe's
nuts in their shells, too (slows me down when I'm snacking)
See's mixed nuts (for company, with drinks)
unsweetened, unsulphured dried mango
unsweetened, unsulphured apricots
dried Montmorency cherries
some fruit preserves
lemon curd
dark chocolate

chicken stock in case I don't have time to make it
vegetable stock, ditto

cane molasses, sorghum molasses, crystallized ginger,
dark chocolate chips,
dark muscovado sugar (essential!), demerara sugar, granulated and powdered sugar
powdered buttermilk
arrowroot, cornstarch
various sea salts, Kosher salt

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 7:28PM
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And ditto the grits! Stone-ground, sent by my cousin in Florida every Christmas -- we keep those in the freezer though, so does that count?

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 7:39PM
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I too used to have a zillion boxes of cereal and also paper towels.
I re-organized the pantry (over budget on kitchen, so no major reno) and using bins to sort things and expand the space a bit.
Now, I have a place for everything and know when I need to buy more of each item - downstream, I will even label the bins and create a shopping list...
I moved my pasta and some grains to a cabinet near the cooktop and keep more canned beans, flours, and salsas in the pantries.
Sports food lives in my pull out pantry so DH can find them without help.
We still use way too many paper towels, but I did teach DH about the 1/2 towels which has cut back overall use.

One of my favorite Far Sides - they are in the "bomb" shelter stocked full of canned items and the nagging wife complains that DH didn't put a can opener in the shelter - so be prepared!

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 7:52PM
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Lots of great ideas. We always stock up for hurricane season, but probably a good idea to keep up with that year round.

FarmGirl, can I just eat out of your pantry for awhile? It sounds heavenly :-)

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 8:08PM
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FarmgirlinKy we must cook similar meals. That is exactly what is in my pantry plus two kinds of cocoa powder. Living in So. Calif. we have pantry moth issues, so flours, nuts and pasta go straight to the freezer for a week or so before entering the pantry. That kills any of the invisible larvae that we fondly refer to as "Albertson's bugs." That goes back to 1974 when I opened a new quaker oats that was full of moths--ever after blamed on Albertson's market where we bought the oats. We don't buy cereal other than steel cut oats and rolled oats. I make my own granola.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 8:58PM
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I have to figure this stuff out too, now that I will have a place to put things!

-We always have several rice varieties, DH is obsessed with rice ever since we got a rice cooker.
-Veggie stock, we buy by the case on Amazon as we use a lot and don't make it ourselves. It's also much more palatable on it's own vs beef or chicken stock if you're sick enough to be restricted to liquids only.
-assorted canned tomatoes
- assorted canned beans
-one open and one back up for our commonly used spices, oils, and vinegar

I'd love to go for 2 weeks on hand. Will be hard though as I am not fond of caned meat and many processed foods are off limits due to my peanut/tree nut allergies. I do have 3 gallons of emergency water too, though that's not much for 2 people. Guess we'd have to switch to wine :-)

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 9:58PM
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Rosie's post inspired me to look up the FEMA recommendations for emergency stores. Storing 2 weeks worth of non-perishable food isn't too difficult, but I cannot imagine where I would store the recommended 56 gallons of water for our family of 4 (1 gallon x 4 people x 14 days). We don't have a basement (they are very rare here) and there is very little available space in our garage. I'm not sure where we could store even 10 gallons of water.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2013 at 4:46PM
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dretutz, i find bugs in my grains sometimes too. your freezing first method sounds brilliant, but does freezing flour change the flour in any way? i am worried that if it should get wet it can cause mold.. any tips on how to do this? thank you!!

kaysd, finding space for storing that much water is really hard for us too. i have been trying to be prepared for the big earthquake predicted to happen any time now, but haven't found a good place for the water storage. i was thinking maybe keeping some under the bed. i also thought about putting a few bottles in our car, but these end up getting consumed. lol!

    Bookmark   May 3, 2013 at 6:28PM
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"Please share what are your pantry essentials."


    Bookmark   May 3, 2013 at 7:05PM
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Earthquakers, I used to live in California. A badly disruptive earthquake, forget "the big one," could hit next August while you're on a freeway 30 miles from home, your husband's just left work 15 miles out in another direction, your two youngest children should have arrived home from school and the older one has left school and is somewhere in your town.

Apply the actual facts to your situation.

Next time you go shopping maybe buy a large pack of bottled water for each vehicle, leaving one in the trunk. If some are used now and then, fine.

Big bottles take less store room at home, of course, and are completely less likely to be grabbed on the go. Note that they could be stored outside in a side yard or garbage can--they're sealed, and a lot of cases are enclosed in shrink wrap. And push come to shove, people don't have to use water for washing and toileting. The actual amount per day can be less as long as it's realized early enough.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2013 at 7:49PM
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Whoops! Unless one's in a desert/Mediterranean any hot, rainless month. Better to store to the max and remember that any municipal reservoir would end up guarded by armed troops. Water's kind of heavy to carry long distances anyway.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2013 at 7:56PM
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Rosie, I think my husband is in love with you. You should have seen his face when I read your last post out loud to him. This is exactly how he thinks, and it's a struggle for me to step up and actually buy the canned goods/water. But I'm hearing you loud and clear, and I'm off to Costco in the morning. No lie. Thanks!!

    Bookmark   May 3, 2013 at 8:05PM
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Dretutz, saw your post only months later! I'll have to try your method of deep freezing some of the larder stapes that draw pantry moths, since I certainly have that problem: today I had to throw out a never-before-opened bag of coarse red wheat bran (at least not opened by me) because it was infested.

I have a friend who periodically throws her best sweaters in the freezer to kill moths....

    Bookmark   June 30, 2013 at 9:37PM
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Rereading this thread is very timely, as we just recently had tornado warnings, and touchdowns, in my immediate area. I was a good girl and made a little nest in the furnace room in the basement. Brough some snacks, some iced tea, and went to grab my three gallons of emergency water. But my store-bought plastic jugs were now empty! Not sure what happened, but I'm glad I didn't need them. Looks like I need another storage method :-/

I'm hoping to get myself organized by the end of the fall, in time for nor'easter season. I finally added a wired in generator hook up during the panel box upgrade for the kitchen, so....heat, check!

    Bookmark   June 30, 2013 at 10:22PM
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Shoot, my answer was going to be Brad Pitt.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2013 at 11:07PM
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Easy way to de-moth sweaters - and wool yarn - put it in a plastic bag in the trunk of a car that sits in the summer sun all day. That leaves the freezer space free for ice cream. Don't know if the car method would work on foodstuffs without changing flavors.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 12:00AM
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