The pantry is the perfect place to begin organizing because it holds the necessities to keep you nourished and energized. Plus, knowing what to stock up on will make meal planning easier and keep you feeling prepared should an emergency occur. A good place to start is by removing all items from your pantry and throwing away anything that has passed the expiration date. Then, begin to organize the shelves by grouping similar items together. For example, place all canned items together, all breakfast foods together, and all dessert and baking items together. You’ll want to place the newer items toward the back of the shelves with labels facing out, so you can easily see what you have and are sure to use the items with the nearer expiration dates first. You can also invest in some plastic containers to hold cereal, flour and other essentials that you use often, as well as label shelves so you remember where you placed everything. Last, but not least, be sure to stock up on the following six staples on your next grocery trip:
- Shelf-Stable Seafood: Canned and pouched tuna and salmon are great options to stock up on in your pantry. They last a long time, can be used in a wide variety of dishes and can help improve your health when eaten the recommended amount of twice a week. The meal options with seafood are truly endless, but if you don’t have time to slave over the stove, eating tuna right out of the can or cup, or just mixed with a little light mayonnaise, can be an easy solution for a tasty meal on the go.
- Rice: You can never go wrong with rice. That’s because it can be used in so many meals. Try to keep a good supply of brown rice in your pantry that can be added to stir-frys, used as a simple side dish or added to your favorite recipes. Cooking for a small number of people? Look for rice that comes in pre-portioned, ready-to-cook bags.
- Pasta: Pasta is a good option because it is easy to make and can be served with many vegetables, meats and toppings. Opt for the whole grain variety when shopping and try to purchase different types of pasta – from shells to lasagna noodles to linguini – so you’ll never get bored with your options.
- Sauce: What would pasta be without sauce? Be sure to keep a good supply of tomato sauce for those nights when you just want to make something quick, like spaghetti. It is also a good idea to keep other sauces that you enjoy on a regular basis on hand, like hot sauce, tomato paste and even salsa.
- Beans: Beans are great to stock up on because they can be used in recipes or eaten alone, while providing healthful and filling benefits. Try to include a wide variety of beans in your pantry so you have choices when you start cooking. Some good varieties to purchase are black, kidney and white beans.
- Olive Oil: Everyone’s pantry should include a bottle or two of olive oil. Not only is olive oil healthier to cook with than other oils, but it is also believed to provide health benefits like lowering the risk of heart disease and helping to reduce the cholesterol levels in the blood. You can also use it in a number of recipes, including salad dressing and with foods that are baked or grilled.
Don’t forget to also keep plenty of water on hand, as well as any of your other favorite food choices. With these staples, your pantry will be full of options (and hopefully de-cluttered) in no time!