This is part of an installment series on how to get your kitchen organized. If you keep the basics around, you will never have to resort to take-out again, I promise! First things first, get yourself some good glass jars. I know this feels a little “Pinteresty” but it works wonders for the organization of your shelves. No one wants to shuffle around half opened, pantry moth filled bags of who knows what looking for something to cook. Your pantry essentials will be organized, keep fresh, and look appealing. I strongly believe that if your kitchen is aesthetically pleasing you will want to be in it more. My favorite brand of jars are Fido jars, which are made in Italy and have a clamped rubber seal for airtight closure, and are also very affordable. I also have a large assortment of Ball mason jars, and just recently switched to their BPA-free plastic screw on lids, tossing all of my rusted out metal rings. I thought it would take something away from the novelty of the jars but honestly they are easy to open and close, a cinch to wash, and seem to be more airtight than the two piece canning lid that come with the jars. I believe those are actually supposed to be used for canning – who knew?
Here are a few tips regarding glass jars:
- Labeling your glass jars – I do not label my jars because, honestly, does the average person really not know the difference between “black beans” and “chickpeas”? If labeling makes you feel better, label away, but never have I once pulled a jar down off the shelf and thought to myself “I wonder what this is?”. Real food is generally decipherable, so save yourself the time!
- Have a floater jar. This is the fun part. I always have brown rice and quinoa in my pantry, but I also keep a “floater” jar for when I want to try a new ingredient. It is also good to get some variety in your diet! Currently in my grain floater jar I have a wild rice blend. In my bean floater jar I have navy beans.
- Make sure you actually eat the food in these jars! Don’t be the person who fills their glass jars with dried beans and grains, and then runs out to Trader Joe’s and buys boxes of frozen rice and cans of beans to cook for dinner. I have a few “in case of emergency” items stored in my pantry, but honestly, I hardly use them. I am trying to get away from the “need emergency food” mentality since I almost always have a meal plan for the week, and on nights that I know will be busier than others, I plan for leftovers or make something ahead of time.
Here is a look at my cabinet of jars.
Starting from the top I have four different kinds of pasta jars, I always keep whole wheat spaghetti and whole wheat elbow macaroni noodles on hand (kids favorite), and the other two I rotate. Pictured I have brown rice quinoa fusilli pasta and brown rice penne pasta. I often rotate in brown rice millet ramen noodles as well. Next I have my back-up jar of oats – yes, my back-up. This is a five liter size and I have two of these always for regular rolled oats. We eat oatmeal for breakfast at least every other day and I use oats in a ton of recipes besides that, often grinding them into oat flour. Obviously, we fit in just fine when we lived in Scotland with our love of oatmeal. I used to get thirty pound bags of oatmeal delivered to my door in Scotland, and once the postman asked me if I had a horse somewhere nearby. I thought he was joking, only…he wasn’t. Apparently my kids are miniature horses. Next I have dried black beans and dried navy beans (floater jar).
The second shelf is dried chickpeas, raw almonds, raw cashews, roasted cashews, popcorn kernels, split red lentils, raw pumpkin seeds, raw sunflower seeds, du Puy lentils, green lentils, and raw sesame seeds.
The third shelf is my other jar of oats, homemade granola, millet, nutritional yeast, buckwheat groats, wild rice blend (floater jar), short grain brown rice, tri-color quinoa, and barley.
Note: I keep cashews and almonds in my pantry because I go through them so quickly! If you do not think you will use up a jar of nuts in a relatively short period of time (2-3 weeks) then store them in your refrigerator or freezer. I keep pecans, hazelnuts, and walnuts in my freezer because I always need them but don’t use them up quite quick enough for pantry storage.
I also have a pantry closet where I keep the following:
- Canned/jarred tomato products: diced, sauce, paste
- Canned full-fat and light coconut milk
- Unsweetened applesauce in individual containers (they are about a 1/2 cup each)
- Olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil
- Apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, rice vinegar, balsamic vinegar,and tamari or soy sauce
- Jars of peanut butter and tahini
- Honey, brown rice syrup, maple syrup and molasses
You don’t have to acquire all of this at once, start with maybe one new jar and one new ingredient per week. Soon enough you will have a wonderfully well rounded pantry. Check out the rest of my installment series to stock the rest of your kitchen!