Monday, February 12, 2007

The Pantry

When you're new to the frugal lifestyle and you're not used to preparing your own meals, the kitchen can be a daunting place. You should start to slowly and naturally build up a pantry for yourself. What you put in your pantry will depend on your family's tastes, your budget, your skills in the kitchen and the sorts of things you tend to cook. You should think of your pantry as a sort of dry goods store and as a foundation for all your meals. This doesn't mean that you must stock enormous quantities of your pantry items, nor that you need to have absolutely everything on hand at all times. The purpose of a pantry is to provide a steady supply of staples that you use to prepare a large variety of dishes. These items are often cheap, frequently on sale and also have a long shelf-life. With a well stocked pantry, you won't have to run out and buy every ingredient in the recipe when you want to prepare a meal.

All of your pantry items should be listed in your price comparison book. Because you know that you will be using them steadily, it's always a good idea to check for sales on these foods when you shop, even if you don't have immediate plans to cook with them. When these items go on sale, stock up!

Here's a list of things I commonly keep on hand in my kitchen. You do not need to replicate this list, but if you're totally new to cooking, it might be a good springboard for ideas. Take what's useful to you and ignore the rest. Add more items that make sense for your family.

canned baby corn
canned bamboo shoots
canned chickpeas
chicken broth
beef broth
vegan bouillon cubes
canola oil
extra virgin olive oil
canned tuna
canned salmon
Thai curry pastes, red & green
tomato paste
canned tomatoes
sweetened condensed milk
canned sliced pineapple
tomato sauce
balsamic vinegar
white vinegar
distilled vinegar
baking powder
baking soda
all purpose flour
bread flour
pasta flour (tipo 00)
whole wheat flour
dried chickpeas
yellow split peas
instant oatmeal
steel cut oats
dried onions
powdered non-fat milk
dried banana chips
dried baby lima beans
whole spelt
dried cranberries
dried chestnuts
sundried tomatoes
kosher salt
corn meal
dried unsweetened coconut flake
homemade granola
several different kinds of dried pasta
brown sugar
turbinado sugar
white sugar
confectioner's sugar
cocoa powder
chocolate bars
flax seed
corn starch
bread crumbs
soy sauce
Worcestershire sauce
Tabasco sauce
rice wine vinegar
mirin (Asian cooking wine)
shelf-stable tofu
crystalized ginger
dried figs
dried dates
roasted peanuts
vanilla extract
almond extract
hazelnut extract

The pantry extends into the refrigerator, where I keep toasted sesame oil, prepared mustard, hoisin sauce, prepared horseradish, chutney, pickled ginger, salad dressings, and a tube of pesto. In the freezer I keep all my spices, raw nuts and seeds such as flax, pumpkin and sesame, which I also consider part of my pantry.

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