Pantry Work

[Please forgive the wonky photo quality in this post. I used our old point & shoot hiking camera. The flash won’t turn off, I had to stand in the garage to capture the full door, and the lens had a smudge. Next time I’ll just wait the extra hour while the good camera charges ;-)]

We painted our kitchen cabinets white this fall, but one dark wood holdout remained: the pantry door.


And after:

The old doors look bright thanks to the misbehaving camera flash, but actually sported a very dark dull brown. The track and hardware were rusted and battered, and I just couldn’t face fighting the drips on all those individual slats while applying three coats of stain sealer and paint to each side. Replacement hardware and doors went up easily one night while Carl worked late at the hospital. The curlicue shelf over the door will be next to come down.

Naturally, you can’t leave the doors off the pantry for long without noticing the chaos and reorganizing.

We don’t buy many pre-made or canned foods, but the pantry always holds a stock of our must-haves:

  • Plain cereals (we add dried fruit and sweeteners at home, if desired)
  • Canned tomatoes and beans (black, pinto, black-eyed peas, etc.)
  • Chicken and beef stock
  • Pasta, rice, dried beans, tortilla flour, and pre-mixed pizza dough flour
  • Coffee (always stocked to prevent shortages and a comatose husband)
  • Condiments, usually bought on sale for future use (they’re out of sight behind the door in this photo – things like mustard, steak sauce, or grated parmesan)
  • Baking supplies (split between here and the baking and spice cupboard)
  • Potatoes
  • Household goods like candles, trash bags, containers, empty water bottles for hiking, and the like
  • Gifts of wine/chocolate/beer, etc. We’re not big drinkers and save treats for Sundays, but keep this stash of received gifts in the pantry for special occasions or cooking

The freezer always holds:

  • Meat, stocked whenever we spot a good sale (rather than buying meat at full price when we decide to make a recipe)
  • Bacon or sausage
  • Shredded cheese
  • Spinach and peas
  • Butter
  • Fruit – berries we picked and froze, things we can’t pick like raspberries, plus any overripe bananas saved for smoothies and banana bread
  • Depending on recent cooking: extra meals I’ve cooked and frozen, potstickers, ravioli, extra meat cooked and shredded or chopped, homemade stock, or bones waiting to be made into stock.

Whatever fresh dairy, vegetables, or fruit we may run out of during unusually long crazy stretches, the fridge almost always holds onions, garlic, carrots, and celery, which last well.

This stock helps prevent the expensive/unhealthy “there’s nothing planned for dinner” dashes for pre-made food or restaurant meals. Those frequently cropped up in our first year of marriage when I worked 14 hour days and Carl worked a month of call at a time. These days we always have something on hand for an emergency 10 minute dish: beans and salsa, pasta carbonara, variations on potatoes, proteiny salads, fried rice, quesadillas, BLTs, an easy tomato sauce, homemade pizza, omelettes, or the like. If we’re clean out of fresh veggies or fruit, cut up carrots or spinach from the freezer do the trick as a side.

There are some things we only buy for visiting guests: sugary drinks like juice or soda, sweet cereals, desserts, or most other pre-made meals or sugary foods. Saving our sweets for Sundays really helps us enjoy them as special treats treats rather than automatic snack options. Plenty of homemade meals take no more time than heating a frozen dinner from the store, and they cost a lot less. Of course, this is just what works for us as two working adults. I’m sure the pantry (and certainly the amount of food in it!) will shift many times over the years as our household and life situations change.

Make any household updates lately? What are your pantry must-haves? Do you have a go-to meal when you’re short on fresh groceries or in a hurry?


6 thoughts on “Pantry Work

  1. Nice. I struggle with stocking up because I have a (small) week-by-week grocery budget, I think I need to rethink that and go for a monthly grocery budget so I can buy say a ton of loss-leader chicken breasts one week and not have to buy meat the rest of the month. 🙂

    • Stocking meat on sale has had a big impact on our grocery budget because meat prices fluctuate so wildly. When I get meat on our weekly trips I end up trapped into either the current price for the meat I want, or planning at the last minute around whatever meat is on sale, even if it’s not a greate sale. I buy most of our groceries at Aldi, but around here their meat quality isn’t great. However, the expensive grocery store right by us has very good meat sales they advertize in their weekly ads. About once a month there’s an unusually great sale. I stock up in bulk, cut it up into dish-sized portions, and freeze them in ziplocs. Over a three month period they usually rotate through a nice range of meat – London Broil and Chuck Roasts for $1.99/Lb instead of $4.50, 15 Lb hunks of beef for $1.50 a pound that I cut up into stew meat, steaks, and roasts, Pork Loins for $1.89 that we cut into chops, roasts, and meat for shredding, bulk bags of chicken at a quarter the normal price, etc. It did take a little while to get used to what the price ranges are so I could spot great deals. I tracked prices when I went to the store for about two months in a row to get familiar with the ranges. Overall, I love that it leaves me with whatever beef, pork, or chicken we need right in the kitchen when meal-planning. We had good sales in the fall, so I’ve barely bought any meat in the last four months or so… It’s sort of fun playing the how-little-can-we-spend-for-great-food game 🙂

  2. I love your pantry doors they look fantastic painted white. I did have a lot more to say on this but Ginger has gotten up from her nap after only 20 minutes (she has a cold) so I shall have to be brief.

    I buy meat too when it is marked down. Our supermarkets often reduce meat beyond advertised specials when it is near its useby date. As I freeze it, the close useby is not an issue. I think it must have been the 4 day long weekend, but this week I picked up some really great markdowns. Heartsmart mince at 1/2 its normal price and free range chicken at 1/3 of its original price. Usually, markdowns are still only in the range of 50c-$1 off the original price. I spent an extra $50 on meat this week but as those are both meats we use regularly in meals will save longer term.

    Anyway, my baby girl has a temperature so I’m off to get her some panadol. Enjoy your newly organised pantry!

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