It’s 6:30 p.m. and you’re met at the door by growling stomachs and the sinking realization that you forgot – again – to thaw chicken for dinner.
If the pantry’s stocked, there’s no need to dial for takeout pizza.
Stocking dinner-friendly foods means no problem if you forgot to plan. A few key ingredients – canned tuna, curry paste, pasta, rice and garbanzo beans – make it a cinch to get dinner on the table.
A well-stocked kitchen also saves money. Grabbing last-minute takeout meals can add up, while pantry meals for a family of four cost $10 to $15.
Experts recommend an inventory of your pantry before buying new foods. Throw out anything past its expiration date, and donate food that’s good but that you no longer want.
Avoid a frustrating search for ingredients by grouping like foods together – pastas and rice, soups and grains. Store at eye level the ingredients you use the most, and store small items such as potatoes, onions and garlic in baskets.
After filling the pantry, stocking the freezer with foods that thaw easily or can be cooked frozen – chicken tenders, shrimp, scallops and frozen vegetables – makes it even easier to create a last-minute meal.
BASICS TO KEEP ON HAND
Lentils or split peas
Tomatoes (paste, puree, diced, sauce)
Corn and other vegetables
Stocks (vegetable, chicken, beef)
Soups (canned, boxed, dehydrated)
Roasted red peppers
Red or green curry paste
Loaf of bread
Dry white wine, dry sherry or white grape juice
Extra virgin olive oil
Ways to keep your pantry safe and efficient:
• Store staples in a cool, dry and dark place. Storage temperatures should be as close to 70 degrees as possible.
• Be mindful of expiration dates. Canned meats, soups, pastas and canned vegetables last up to two years. High-acid canned foods such as tomato sauces, canned fruits and vinegars last about one year. Rice and flour last for six to 12 months. Vegetable oils last six months opened and 12 months if unopened.
• Once a can is opened, the food is perishable. Transfer any not used to a covered glass or plastic container and refrigerate.