In Our Pantry
My Pantry Makeover: How I Transform My Kitchen for the New Year
I love a fresh start. As a certified dreamer, the new year is the perfect moment to envision my hopes and dreams for me, my family, and this little business in the year ahead. In the days BC (before children), I would get together with girlfriends and do a good old-fashioned vision boarding session. (yes, with scissors, magazines, and glue!) Now with my husband, we take a very practical approach - listing our shared + individual goals and then getting things on our family calendar. Regardless of how it happens, my heart is incredibly full and hopeful afterward.
And what always comes next is the urge to declutter my mind and my home. The closets and kids' toys are the obvious places to start, but this year I’m tackling a project that I’ve long put off - my pantry! I'm sure I avoid it because I’ll do anything to not throw away food. Also, I don’t want to face the sprinkles that have found their way into the deepest corners of my pantry.
I have no idea if a clean pantry will change my life, but I know that something about the process feels essential. Even if things stay organized for only a month, I will savor every moment of taking out my newly decanted spices when I cook this month.
I'm usually in denial that all ground spices generally lose their flavor within six months. Let's be real, most of my spices have been in my pantry since we first stocked it after getting married. So everything is getting dumped this year, and I'm starting over.
- The Most Essential: Regardless of what you're cooking, you'll want to have kosher salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, paprika, cumin, chili powder, oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, ginger, cinnamon, curry powder, and coriander on hand.
- Blends: Our new favorites are the blends from Spicewalla. They are all SO good. And given all the tacos we cook, it makes sense to buy a tin vs. having all those little packets.
When I'm feeling really together, I like to decant all of my grains. It's easy to see what's available and pick an easy side for our dinner. And a reminder I'm giving myself this year - remember to write cooking instructions on the jar with my favorite chalkboard pens.
- We always have a variety of rice in our pantry, along with some basic pasta, polenta, and oats. I'm adding some farro and couscous to the list for variety.
Oil & Vinegar:
I focus on high-quality ingredients here since I use these daily. I'm not a big foodie, but I can definitely tell the difference.
- Oils: We are obsessed with Graza olive oil, and cooking with it makes everything feel so special. We also always have coconut oil and sesame oil on hand.
- Vinegar: We keep it classic here with balsamic vinegar, red and white wine vinegar, and apple cider vinegar.
Having these on hand always makes my life easier.
- Tomatoes: Diced tomatoes are essential here, but we also keep whole tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, fire-roasted tomatoes, and the very famous Biano DeNapoli Pizza Sauce.
- Beans: We do a lot of pinto and black beans in our home, but having some of Amy's refried beans on hand makes my life so much easier. We also love to have a few kidney and white beans available for the chili we love in these cold months.
- Other: We always have Hatch enchilada sauces, coconut milk, and coconut cream on hand too.
Nuts & Seeds:
This category feels so essential, but nuts and seeds are usually bad within three months (they can last for six months if kept in the fridge). Since I don't use fridge space for these, I keep this list simple.
- Basics: This really comes down to preference, but almonds, pecans, and sunflower seeds are so versatile for salads, quick granola, or just on their own.
- Nut Butters: We always have almond butter and sunbutter on hand. For a treat, I keep one jar of PDX hidden just for myself.
Now that the holidays are over, I don't keep a stocked baking pantry. Still, I keep the essentials on hand for the occasional chocolate chip cookie or banana bread.
- Essentials: Flour (all-purpose and whole wheat), baking soda, baking powder, some high-quality vanilla extract, and Guittard chocolate chips.
Here are a few other things that I make sure to have on hand:
- Broth (Chicken, Beef, and Vegetable), Rao's pasta sauce, peppers in adobo sauce, green chilies in a can, popcorn kernels, corn meal, salsa, tahini, dried cherries, and dates.
See a few of our favorite pantry meals below…