Thursday, October 6, 2011

Day 6 | Pantry Basics

Two weekends ago, one of my dear friends told me she wished there was an iPhone app give you recipe suggestions based off of what ingredients you have in your kitchen.

I know that feeling well.  I used to pace back and forth from the pantry to the fridge to the freezer going "Okay, think!  You can make something.  You can make something.  Just think!"  I don't mean I used to do this every once in a while.  I used to do this every. single. night.  I actually used to make a handful each of frozen sweet potato fries and frozen edamame and call that dinner.  Because I just couldn't think of anything better to make.  And I was tired and it was easy.

My main problem was not a lack of creativity.  My problem was a poorly stocked kitchen.

 What should I buy?  Hmmmm.

Have you noticed that you tend to buy the same ingredients week after week after week at the grocery store?  I know I do.  The problem was I was repeatedly buying the wrong types of ingredients.
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. -Albert Einstein
I was buying mostly pre-made, processed foods, chips, cookies, cereals, maybe a couple of cans of veggies, lunch meat, cheese slices, salad in a box, and on and on and on.  I could make mac and cheese, or spaghetti, or beans and cornbread, and that was about it.  And I felt like crap.

A big shift occurred after my husband and I found out we were pregnant.  For the first time I started looking at the whole value of the food I was eating and not just the fat and caloric content.  I realized I needed foods that had vitamins and fiber and lots of protein to give my little one all the nutrients he needed to grow.  And I wasn't going to get that from a box of mac and cheese.

After weeks of consciously choosing fresher foods and whole ingredients at the grocery store I realized something.  I almost always had what I needed on hand to cook almost anything.  It didn't matter if my inspiration came from watching a cooking show, a recipe in a magazine, or from a blog I love, whenever inspiration struck, I usually had everything I needed to cook.

I know you're thinking we must spend a fortune on groceries.

We don't.  We can't.  We don't have a fortune.  We're a one income family.

The other amazing thing is that buying the ingredients and making something for yourself is usually much cheaper than buying it pre-made, it tastes better, and the more you cook the more efficient you become in the kitchen...making cooking at home way more convenient than driving-thru somewhere or doing take-out. 

My basic pantry:
Flour {all-purpose, bread, wheat...King Arthur tastes the best}
Cornmeal {I buy local, stoneground}
Wheat gluten
Wheat germ
Oatmeal {whole, organic}
Sugar {white, organic raw, brown, confectioners}
Real Maple Syrup {mine is from a friend in Michigan!}
Raw Honey
Baking Powder
Baking Soda
Kosher Salt
Active Dry Yeast
Whole Grain Pasta {I keep a variety on hand}
Short Grain Brown Rice
Dry Beans {a bag of every kind}
Canned Tomatoes {whole peeled, diced, crushed, paste...all organic and no salt added}
Canned Diced Green Chiles
Organic Canned Garbanzo Beans {for hummus in 5 seconds}
Beef, Chicken, and Veggie Broth {one quart of each, low sodium and organic}
Frank's Hot Sauce
Peanut Butter
Dark Chocolate Bars
Raisins and other dried fruits
Canned Tuna 
Oils {extra virgin olive, canola, coconut, grapeseed, shortening}
Vinegars {balsamic, red vine, white, apple cider}

And that's about it.  Scarey, I know.  Not a lot pre-made.  But these are my supporting players.  The backbone of my meals.  My basic black pants.  But with all those dried ingredients are endless opportunities

I don't suggest you run out and buy all these ingredients to stock your pantry today.  If you're just starting to cook more often, maybe just skim the list and pick a couple to add to your grocery cart this week.  And next week add a couple more.  Rome wasn't built in a day and neither was my pantry.

As for keeping it stocked, shopping is now easier than ever.  Because I have my pantry streamlined to things I use on a regular basis,  I just keep a running mental list of things to replace.  For instance, I've already used up all 3 kinds of broths this week.  So next trip to the store I'll grab one of each.  I don't stockpile, and if I forget something it's really not the end of the world.  Just another opportunity to get creative.

Check out all the other 31 Dayers here.

1 comment:

  1. Me again... can you tell I'm catching up on my online visits? I love this post! It's funny to me that so many people think that convenience foods or fast-food will save them time, when it only takes a couple extra minutes to cook something whole, real and delicious from a well-stocked pantry. We keep much the same foods in our pantry, for the same reasons, and really enjoy being able to pull together a satisfying meal in no time flat.