Dinner Diva: Perpetual Pantry

Dinner Diva
Perpetual Pantry

Feeding your family is a bit of a part time job, especially if you want to make sure they are getting healthy, nutritious food. One of the most important principles in feeding that family is having a well-stocked pantry, or what I call a perpetual pantry. Building a perpetual pantry helps you to always have something on hand so you're able to make dinner or whatever else you want to make, at the drop of a hat.
When you're stocking your own Perpetual Pantry, you are going to want to stock what you use. Keep on hand the things that make up the ingredients for the foods you cook, snack on and need for packing lunches.
Want to see what I have in my Perpetual Pantry? Here is a list-but just remember, these items are all foods that I use for cooking. Just copying my list won't work unless this is how you too cook. Check out my website for sample menus that will go with this pantry, at savingdinner.com
Canned Items: all manner of tomato products, diced tomatoes, whole tomatoes, spaghetti sauces, tomato paste. I keep a variety of sizes available too. Canned beans: black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, whatever bean you can find that you'll eat. It's less expensive to use dried beans, but these are still cheap and will work in a pinch. Canned fish: tuna and salmon. Canned fruit and vegetables: stock the ones you like and will use. Canned soups and broths: stock the ones you use. I use a lot of chicken broth (low-sodium has more flavor). Canned milk: sweetened condensed, evaporated-both work great in baking, if you need them.
Condiments: ketchup, mustards (yellow, Dijon, whole grain), pickles (dill and sweet), relish, mayonnaise, A-1, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, salsa, stir-fry sauces, soy sauce (low-sodium, if you can find). Once opened, store in fridge (except soy sauce).
Oils and Vinegars: Vegetable oil of choice (I like a cold pressed safflower oil by Hollywood), olive oil, sesame oil for stir-fry. All oil will go rancid staying out. After it is opened it has to go in the fridge. Olive oil will solidify, so put it in a wide-mouth jar and spoon it out to use. White and red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar and balsamic vinegars.
Peanut Butter and Jelly: Peanut butter (crunchy or creamy), jelly, jam and fruit spread or conserve, honey. My peanut butter needs to be refrigerated after opening. Check your label to be sure.
Herbs and Spices: To keep the price down on these spices, go to a dollar store or Wal-Mart to stock up as much as possible. Basil, thyme, marjoram, rosemary, dill, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, chili powder, paprika, oregano, ginger, dried mustard cinnamon, peppercorns for the peppermill, nutmeg and curry powder are in my spice cabinet because I USE all of them. Only buy what you use.
Baking Center: sugar (white, brown, powdered), flour (white, whole wheat, other), pancake mix (I hope you made mine!), baking powder (should be kept in fridge after opening), baking soda, salt, baking chocolate, cocoa, vanilla, chocolate chips, nuts, baking mixes (cake, brownie, etc.)
Pasta and Rice and Grains: an assortment of pastas that you will use. Lasagna noodles, spaghetti noodles, ziti, rotini, fusilli, fettuccine, and linguine...only what you use. Rice-I much prefer brown, but get what you'll use. Oats, split peas, dried beans (white beans, navy beans, black beans, pinto beans), lentils, barley.
Breads and Cereals: whatever you use. Bread should go in the freezer if it doesn't get used up right away. Tortillas should be stored in the fridge.
Potatoes and Onions: Russets, Red Rose potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash (or other whole squash in season, except summer squashes which need refrigeration) brown onions, red onions. Keep potatoes away from the light or they turn green (and those green parts are poisonous and must be cut off before eating). Also, don't store potatoes next to apples. Apples give off ethylene gas that causes potatoes to sprout.
I hope this list helps you get started with your own Perpetual Pantry. It's only a start and you need to customize it to fit your family's needs, but having your pantry well-stocked means a meal is just minutes away.

For more dinner solutions, visit savingdinner.com Copyright 2006 Leanne Ely. Published with permission for this publication.