Pantry Meals

April 30,2009
Sweet Pea Chef
Jessica Efird( )

Jessica, aka the Sweet Pea Chef, is a former U.S. Senate staffer/weekend gourmet turned full-time mom/family gourmet. She lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband and two sons.

I was having lunch with some mom friends and their kids at a friends’ home last Friday when the topic turned to grocery shopping, menu planning and pantry staples. A friend of mine commented, “I think I need to go grocery shopping with you.” When I asked her why, she shared that she wanted to know what was in my pantry to help get meals to the table fast. I don’t have a large pantry. In fact, my “pantry” is more of a glorified broom closet that has been fitted with door shelves and other items to maximize the space. I actually covet the pantry that Ellie Krieger has on the show “Healthy Appetite.” In fact, I would venture to guess her pantry is larger than some kitchens out there, but I digress. To help get meals to the table fast and to help with menu planning, I do have a cadre of items that I stockpile as best I can. These are items like canned beans, canned diced tomatoes, dried pastas and sauces that can help whip up a meal fast in a pinch. But my “pantry” also extends into long-life items that I keep in our refrigerator (think barbeque sauce, marinades and such) and also fresh items that I always keep on hand because we use them quickly enough to warrant their ever-presence. Another “pantry” area we use to help store foods is our chest freezer in our basement. Graciously donated to me by a friend, I love, love my chest freezer. It isn’t overly large, but just large enough to hold frozen meats and shredded cheese that I buy in bulk when they are on sale as well as things like large batch leftovers. So without further adieu, here are my staple items I almost always have on hand (I keep them on hand and then restock my supply when the items go on sale): Pantry/cabinet items: Dried spaghetti/penne Dried tortellini Lasagna noodles Brown rice Whole wheat couscous Quick cooking grits Dried beans (usually black, lentil, great northern) Vermicelli Noodles Jarred spaghetti/pasta sauce/marinara Canned diced tomatoes Canned tomato sauce Canned beans (chickpeas, black, kidney, great northen) Canned corn, peas and green beans Broth Olive oil Vegetable oil Balsamic vinegar Apple cider vinegar Honey Spice mixes (jerk seasoning, steak seasoning, etc) Peanut butter Refrigerator items: Barbeque sauce Jarred pre-minced ginger (doesn’t get a weird flavor like pre-minced garlic) Soy sauce Sesame oil Jam(s) Worcestershire sauce Jarred olives Ketchup/mustard Mayonnaise Applesauce (good for eating and baking) Eggs (we go through them crazy fast) Boxed, pre-washed spinach Pre-shredded carrots Cheeses Whole Wheat tortillas Whole Wheat pita Bread Freezer items: Meat and poultry—whatever has been on sale Shredded cheese Butter So for what it is worth, I hope you enjoyed my pantry list. I find myself at least once a week doing a “freezer or pantry dive” to find something to make quick. With these items on hand, it makes the whole weeknight dinner routine a lot less stressful. SPC