4 Simple Principles to Refresh Your Pantry
BY JACQUELYN DUGGAN
Like any changing season, I find myself itching to start fresh.
Not just because it’s a new year, but because I feel a shift in my regular rhythms: a need to review what’s working, and what’s not working.
So, like any normal person, what’s the first thing I do?
I clean out the kitchen cabinets 🙂
There’s something about working with my hands when I’m feeling anxious that immediately puts my mind at ease.
Sometimes it’s doing something more thoughtful, like writing a note to a friend, watering our houseplants or baking a loaf of bread.
Instead, this past week I found myself elbow-deep in our crumb-filled kitchen cabinets, AKA: our “pantry.” (Am I the only one who wonders how in the world all those crumbs end up there?)
I immediately discovered that:
- 5 out of 10 spices I keep on hand are either empty, or no longer have any scent *yikes*
- I have 3 bottles of white vinegar: white wine, white balsamic and Modena white (why? I have no idea), but I’m out of GF pasta, GF 1:1 flour, whole peeled tomatoes + arborio rice: all staples of which I cook with regularly!
- We have collected 9 containers of various meat rubs for smoking and have 3 different kinds of salt on hand (kosher, flaky sea salt, and Peg’s) but our pepper grinder is completely empty.
Our “pantry” is a bit of a mess, but I’m encouraged that clearly, many good things have been created in our kitchen since my last pantry overhaul.
And, if I’ve learned anything since becoming a regular home cook, it’s this: you absolutely need a well-stocked pantry to create the meals you’ll come to love and re-create over and over again.
However, I’ve learned the hard way that this can be overwhelming and exhausting – not to mention, expensive.
The bottom line?
You only need four basic categories to start your pantry off on the right foot again.
Inspired by one of my very favorite food writers and chefs, Samin Nosrat, the key to beautifully crafted meals is salt, fat, acid and heat. (I highly suggest you read more about this in her book, or check out her show on Netflix to learn more.)
So, what does this mean for your pantry?
Well, it’s simple. You at least need one of each of these components on hand at any time:
- Salt – literally, salt
- Fat – this could be olive oil, canola oil, coconut oil, grapeseed oil … anything that gives body and provides a solid foundation to your cooking
- Acid – this could be balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice … anything bright and acidic that gives a pucker taste
- Heat – this could be red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, chile in adobo sauce … anything warming that gives a kick to your cooking
So, for example: if you prefer to cook more simply on a regular basis you might choose to refresh your pantry staples with:
- kosher salt
- extra virgin olive oil
- white wine vinegar
- red pepper flakes
Add a little lemon juice, fresh cracked pepper + Dijon mustard and you’ve got the makings of a lovely vinaigrette to add to your lunch salad. Or, use your salt + red pepper flakes along with some balsamic vinegar to simply kick up some fresh avocado on your sandwich.
See how easy that is?
Instead of aimlessly walking around Wegman’s trying to buy all the things (or maybe that’s just me!), you’ll have a solid starting point that can be added to overtime.
I share this mostly to encourage you: you don’t need a massive budget or grocery list. Chances are, you probably only need to refresh just a few items in your pantry to take your next meal up a notch.
This weekend, I’ve got my list ready for the store and I’m excited to refresh what I know I’ll use, and let go of the rest.
Because at the end of the day, purchasing quality ingredients – over quantity – that work well with your budget, your dishes, your style: matters.
So, what will you choose to refresh in your pantry? I’d love to know.
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