When you want to eat and prepare healthy and nutritionally balanced foods you have to be set up to do it. Much like if you want to build a boat in your shed or a go-kart you need the right equipment to do the job. You need a plan and I am here to help you devise your plan.
The title for this blog came from a hilarious conversation I was having with my mum, and I have dragged this title around with me knowing it would find its home eventually.
Like any workspace it needs to be neat and tidy with your tools of trade placed in an easy to access location. When you are cooking you need to be organised. Even before mis en place your knives on a magnetic strip (I dislike knife blocks because they tend to take up valuable bench space) but most importantly, and the reason for this blog is your pantry. You need to have food basics labelled, in airtight and in some case lightproof containers. Items you use a lot up front and other items at the rear of the cupboard. I own a two door kitchen wardrobe and I am very handy with finding space for all sorts of food items. The same principles apply if you are lucky enough to have a butler or walk in pantry. Things you use daily need to be within reach and in a logical place grouped with other like minded items. See Michael McIntyres’ My Name is Five Spice! as a treat after you have finished the pantry, especially if you actually own Five Spice!
A super organised pantry is the Holy Grail of successful cooking.
Step 1 Take everything out of your pantry or if you are blessed to have a walk in pantry do it in sections. We need to categorise food sections within the pantry.
Step 2 Throw out any thing past its used by date – seems obvious but I have found Keens Mustard going back to the mid 1990’s and it does lose its taste after a while. So throw it out. Get a big garbage bag and throw everything in that is past its useable date, also with this are any biscuits (sweet) and chocolate and sugary drinks (Yes that includes Milo) and soft drink, cordials, cakes and cake mixes.
Step 3 Once you have done all the throwing out, donate it to a charity or empty the contents and recycle. Whatever you do, you don’t eat that stuff anymore so get it out of your kitchen.
Step 4 Wipe all the surfaces down in your pantry with bicarb-soda and vinegar and then sort through everything you have left. Here is where you will need some (preferably glass) containers with air tight lids. I like to use consistent storage containers particularly if you have a small pantry it helps with space and creates a tidy view of your food products. I tend to use glass containers they don’t hold smell and are easy to clean.
Step 5 You can purchase containers, labels some very useful blackboard stickers and chalk to write on your labels. I suggest you purchase these things before you start. If you have a lot of herbs and spices put them in containers that are airtight. I personally love the tins below which have a magnetic bottom to attach straight on to the fridge. Great for smaller units and apartments with limited pantry storage.
I always start with large oil cans at the bottom of the pantry, I buy the 4 litre tins of olive oil and fill a smaller glass bottle for use every day. The oils, cat/dog biscuits (also in big plastic tubs for easy handling and to keep mice out) I purchase in bulk where I can if its a good brand. Larger purchased items take up the floor or lower shelves of the pantry.
Next level is the flours, beans, nuts, pasta and every day items I use.
Dry Goods stay together including rice ( I have a variety including brown, long grain and aborio) Although I tend to eat brown rice more than the others. Next level up is tea, coffee herbs & spices stored in airtight tins. The remainder I keep on the side of my fridge in metal magnetic containers . Again these can be purchased from the shop online.
If you are like most people you end up with open bags of the same food product, so try to minimalise open packets that encourage moths or weevils. Rolled oats is a great one for attracting weevil, so airtight is the way to go.
My baking products all go together, baking powder, icing sugar, caster sugar, vanilla essence and custard powders. I also group my Asian food products in a very large click lock and air tight container. This normally includes: Dried fish, Kelp, chilli (dried) Miso items with a strong pungent smell, so it does not end up tainting other products.
So that is a very quick guide to starting to get your pantry sorted. Once you have your basics sorted and easily at hand, it makes cooking and recipe protocol that much simpler. You will have a productive day and a proud moment when it’s done. You can thank me later.