Saturday, January 11, 2014

Tour My Kitchen: Pantry Edition

Before I start sharing meal plans and shopping lists and gripes about my failures at picking the correct sippy cup for Princess Pickle Puss Maddie, I thought it would be fitting to take a quick tour of my kitchen. I'll do this in two parts - one so you can see what's in my pantry and another so you can take a peek at the products I can't live without. So just for you, I organized my cabinets and cleaned out my freezer so it would be slightly less embarrassing to put my pantry on display. Just. For. You.

The floors are not usually this shiny.
Pretzel dust, spilled orange juice and my tears usually coat it.

One of the ways I'm able to keep our food costs down from week to week is by making sure our pantry and freezer are fairly well-stocked. I find that it makes my life way easier to have the essentials on hand at all time. That way if we're not in the mood for whatever I planned for that night or I hit the grocery store a day late I still have plenty of moves when it comes to figuring out dinner on the fly.

Here's my fridge. It needs to be cleaned. Not like, throw expired stuff away cleaned. Actually cleaned. But I saw this nifty thing on Pinterest once upon a nesting time about putting a plastic place mat on my shelves so all I have to do is pull them out and wipe them down versus scrubbing down all the glass so when I get around to that... eventually... it'll be easy enough.

This is pretty standard fare for us. We choose organic milk although I can't remember the actually good reason why right now, and our juice selection is usually much more limited but I made a punch to add to my rum over Christmas so there are some leftovers. The tonic in the back corner is not for special occasions. It is for my gin. Mommy might have a drinking problem. I do opt for V8 Fusion on the regular because the ingredient list is actually comprehendible and Maddie isn't the greatest about getting her vegetables. We usually have orange juice on hand as well even though I know darn well I shouldn't even really have juice at all but WHATEVER I HAVE A CRANKY TODDLER.

Probably... because.. of all the sugary juice...

As you can see there's some weird green stuff going on in the next shelf. My husband juices. I don't get it. And I'm not drinking it. The abundance of eggs is actually fairly new. I never used to buy so many at once but we really do eat eggs almost every single day for breakfast. If it can be helped I purchase brown, cage-free eggs. They taste better and I like the way the shells crack. Normally I make my own sandwich bread. The recipe is really simple and I'll have it posted for you guys this week since I need to make some anyway.

Beneath the leftover shelf is the drawer of cheese (I'm not even kidding, there are three bags of shredded cheese, two things of sliced cheese, and two packs of string cheese in there right now. There's lunch meat, too, I promise.), vegetable crisper (always stocked with celery and carrots. This week I needed to restock my scallion stash which is what you see smashed against the front of the drawer) , and butter drawer. Yes. I have a drawer. of. butter. I'm not offering up an explanation because quite frankly I don't have one.

On the door I keep a wedge of Parmesan Reggiano. It's a pricey purchase, but if you store it properly it lasts FOREVER and makes for a really nice addition to meals that the plastic tub of grated parm just can't bring to the party. As for our spreadable butter I like Land 'O Lakes with olive oil. And because I bake bread so often I get the jar of yeast and store it in the fridge.

I always keep lemon and lime juice on hand, and there's an unusually small amount of taco sauce hanging out in there. Both Maddie and my husband could be happy putting taco sauce on anything and I do make a lot of Mexican style dishes so it's generally on hand. I have an amazing recipe for enchilada sauce that I'll be sure to share down the line that I would happily replace the jarred stuff with any day. We try to have waffles or pancakes every Sunday so the syrup is a necessary evil.

I have a container of barbecue sauce along with some chicken stock that I made, and the other normal things like ketchup (usually organic), mayo (always Hellmann's), organic plain Greek yogurt (great substitute if you don't feel like buying the tiny thing of sour cream every time you need a tablespoon or two), unsweetened applesauce (give it a try - I don't miss the added sugar at all.), some leftover ricotta, and cream cheese. My half & half is (yes) organic but this is more because the ingredient list is simply "cream and milk" versus the non-organic version of the same thing. Next time you're at the store take a peek at the labels and see what I mean. I don't normally have soda on hand, that's a holiday leftover, and the jarred pasta sauce was for emergency use. I'll get your my tomato sauce recipe, too. (I promise I'm making a list).

My freezer is a bit of a disaster. I feel like I cram way too much in here and I know my husband would agree. I can't live without bagels, and I keep my herbs in the freezer during the winter when it's harder to just grow them myself. The heartier ones like rosemary keep fairly well. I need to do a better job with the more delicate ones, though. Thawed dill is not your friend.

I have a few casseroles and crock pot meals stashed away for a super lazy day, bones leftover from a roast to make stock, breast milk (not an essential freezer staple for most people but around these parts it is), and some leftover crab meat. I actually prefer back fin - it's cheaper by the pound and tastes just as good as the jumbo lump. If you're making cakes or dips or something where it doesn't need to be as aesthetically pleasing as the big chunks of crab, definitely go back fin.

I keep an emergency bag of ravioli on hand when Maddie isn't having much of anything else for lunch, but even she isn't the biggest fan of these guys. I received a pasta maker for my birthday so I do wonder if she would be more apt to eat it if she helped me make them. Getting kids in the kitchen is so, so important. Gosh, it's important. More on that later.

That picture in the bottom right is where the magic happens. The top shelf is all frozen veggies - spinach, corn, peas, mixed, squash, Brussels, you name it. I love fresh but frozen veg is AWESOME for most recipes and a big money saver. Beneath that is all. the. meat. The bottom drawer is like 20 lbs of chicken. I'm not even kidding. My grocer just had it on sale buy two get three free so I cleaned them out. But the shelf in the middle is my ground beef, turkey and pork, a small turkey breast, bacon (BECAUSE BACON), and the inevitable chicken nuggets (I like the Tyson all-natural ones the best).

Sometimes I just like to look at my pantry. I wish I had one fit for Pinterest, but I love every single thing I have in stock right now. I always have three types of flour on hand - bread, all-purpose, and wheat. I prefer the King Arthur brand because supposedly it's GMO free but it's wheat so who really knows. In my big pantry I keep all of my baking supplies high up so I'm not too tempted to go swimming in a box of confectioner's sugar. But I also keep my brewer's yeast, chia seeds, flax meal, and all that other crunchy nut stuff up there since I don't use it frequently. Fabulous to have on hand, but not necessary. Our snack shelf is usually pretty bare but I do have an Amazon subscription to Annie's snack mix, and we always have raisins on hand. If Maddie could survive on those two things alone, she would be thrilled. I, however...

Right now my canned goods are a little low, but I generally keep diced tomatoes, plain sauce, tomato paste, beans (black, garbanzo, pinto, whatever was on sale) and some jarred sauce on hand. My soups and tuna are back there, too. Below that are my grains - rice (white, wheat, arborio), cous cous, red lentils en mass (I like sneaking them into recipes), quinoa, cornmeal, grits, polenta, you name it. It's in there. And it gets USED. The breakfast shelf is below that and has cereal, quick oats, granola and all the k-cups. Maddie will hand me a coffee pod in the morning so proudly. And therefore, I beam. And lastly is ALL THE PASTA. Shells, lasagna noodles, hidden veggie pastas, and elbows are the biggies right now. I hope to get into making my own soon but I'll still be frequenting the pasta aisle for jumbo shells on the regular, I'm sure.

On my counter I usually keep a bag of apples (add that to the list of things Maddie could subsist solely on) and bananas. My garlic hangs out there since I grab it so frequently, and right now I have a TON of shallots leftover from the holidays.

In the next cabinet I have more of my "every day" baking needs - baking soda and powder, vanilla, and raw sugar (I can't do this paleo thing where they don't let you have sugar. The most I'm willing to compromise is with the raw stuff). Beneath that are the sauces - soy, wochestershire, peanut & almond butters, honey, sambal (similar to Sriacha but with a different kind of kick to it), hot sauce, and so on. And on the bottom is my lazy Susan spice spindle. I actually cleaned out quite a few of these not that long ago and was still left with an exorbitant amount. But I use them! I hate store bought spice mixes so I generally will make my own (taco seasoning, Italian, poultry, etc). Chili powder, cumin and paprika seem to disappear the fastest right behind the garlic and onion powders.

I always try to have back up chicken stock for the times I don't have any of the homemade stuff on hand, various salts (table, kosher, sea, and natural), pepper, and my cooking oils (olive, vegetable, canola), vinegars (rice wine, red wine, balsamic), cooking spray, and collection of teas that I rarely sit and enjoy. I should work on that.

And lastly I have my handy dandy food hanger upper basket thing which currently is holding a load of onions and potatoes.

I know it seems like a lot (trust me, I know, this is the severely edited version of this post. I have a lot of food.), but these are the things that keep my kitchen running. Because I have them on hand the majority of the time, it makes it way easier when I do my meal plans and work out my grocery budget for the week. Sure there are things that are always going to break the budget like the $20 bag of dog food or when that brick of Parmesan Reggiano runs out, but it's infrequent enough that it all evens out.

What staples do you have on hand in your kitchen at all times? What did you see here that you think would be helpful to have?

OH! Disclaimer: I am not paid or endorsed by any of the brands shown or mentioned in this post (yet... hint... hint). But feel free to buy them all on my recommendation because they're yummy.


  1. I have a smaller pantry since I'm an apartment dweller. My pantry musts:
    Chicken-either breasts or boneless skinless thighs
    Chicken sausage
    Popsicles (boyfriend eats them nightly)
    Frozen fruits
    Frozen veggies

    Greek yogurt
    Lunch meat
    String cheese
    Shredded cheese of various kinds
    Kale or Spinach
    Sweet potatoes
    Leftovers in tupperware for the week
    Diet gingerale

    Brown sugar
    Lemon juice
    Olive oil
    Coconut Oil
    Homemade applesauce
    Fruit snacks (boyfriend)
    Various canned beans and tuna
    Canned tomatoes for sauce
    Green tea
    Panko bread crumbs


    It's just me & my boyfriend so our food needs are smaller. We also buy things same day for freshness like red meat, chopped/ground meat and seafood.

    1. Your list is pretty similar to mine! I forgot that I normally do keep some sort of sausage in the freezer, too. And I'm obsessed with panko! In theory I would love to buy fresh as I go but it's so much easier to make one grocery run a week with two munchkins in tow. Thanks for visiting!!

  2. Oh and I forgot:
    Hot sauces of various kinds
    Various vinegars
    Sea salt