All serious cooks sing the praises of their pantry. They know a well-stocked pantry is a game changer. Growing up, the house we lived in had an oil heater and my dad worked construction. In those days, our winters were a mix of feast and famine. Yet, my mom put three meals on the table everyday. In addition to her skills as a cook, my father’s pantry made it possible. The annual Shop-Rite Can Can sale was epic in our house. My dad waited with bated breath for it every year. He’d put up a long shelf in the alcove off our kitchen to store the bounty from his trips. Under the white sheet, cans of condensed milk, pork and beans, vegetables (me and my siblings had to choke down), along with other sundry items waited patiently to be used in mom’s gastric delights. There are many things you carry with you from childhood; mine is a pantry. I used the utility closet in my first apartment to create a pantry. Years later, when I became a single mom, I developed refrigerator and freezer pantries. Those pantries kept us going as we lived paycheck-to-paycheck, and during several long bouts of unemployment. Today, my pantries continue to be a lifesaver.
Throughout the year, I’ll be sharing recipes on the Zesty page using a combination of ingredients from my dry, refrigerator and freezer pantries. The following are some of the items I keep in each pantry.
Among the items in my dry pantry are spices, condiments, rice, pasta, flour, cornmeal, oatmeal and other shelf-stable items. Canned goods are an important part of my dry pantry; especially canned tomatoes and beans.
In my opinion, the refrigerator pantry is the lifeblood of the kitchen. I once had a girlfriend tell me that she always keeps eggs and milk in the house because if she needs a fast, easy meal she can always scramble eggs. When my daughter was young, breakfast for dinner was a treat for her and a way for me to bridge the gap between paydays. In addition to eggs, milk and butter, my refrigerator pantry houses salad dressing, condiments, canned biscuits (for when I’m too lazy to make them from scratch) and white wine. Oh, and don’t forget leftovers. Recycling leftovers have led to some of our favorite meals.
Meat makes up half of my freezer pantry. I also have packages of frozen vegetables, shredded cheese, nuts, chocolate chips, fruit, bread and pre-chopped vegetables – onions, green/red pepper, yellow/green zucchini squash and celery. Having pre-chopped vegetables makes it easy to pull together a weeknight meal in a jiffy, it also helps me avoid wasting fresh vegetables by not using them quickly enough. I also have containers of homemade sauce. I use this sauce for a quick spaghetti dinner, lasagna and my quick and easy version of Chicken Parmigiana.
The only rule in creating your dry, refrigerator and freezer pantries is this – only buy what your family likes and will eat. This is the only way your pantries will save you money and help you put nutritious, home-made meals on the table. Challenge yourself to put together a meal using only ingredients from your pantry. Don’t be afraid to be creative and have fun.
*The recipes for Brigitte’s Salad Dressing Chicken and Quick and Easy Chicken Parmigiana can be found on the Zesty page.
Want to share a recipe from your pantry? Email me at email@example.com.