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With the holidays upon us, and winter just around the corner, the last thing you want is to contend with crowds or the elements during an emergency grocery run. With a little advance preparation, you can set yourself up well this season. Here are ten tips for stocking your pantry — and never going hungry!
1. Plain Jane
These are your staples. Nothing fancy. Just the basics. Salt (table or sea salt), pepper (ground or peppercorn), olive oil, unsalted butter. The last one is a freebie, since, technically, it is a refrigerated item.
Here’s your standby when you feel the need to go on autopilot. These are the items to keep stocked because you find yourself making these same dishes over and over. Take note, write down the ingredients and stock up!
3. The Baker’s Dozen
Whether for a holiday party, a family get-together or just because, here’s what you want on hand when you get the urge to do some baking: 1) Flour (all-purpose, cake and whole wheat); 2) Sugar (granulated, brown and powdered); 3) Baking Powder; 4) Baking Soda; 5) Active Dry Yeast; 6) Salt; 7) Cocoa Powder; 8) Unsweetened Chocolate; 9) Cornstarch; 10) Vanilla Extract; 11) Vegetable Oil; 12) Vegetable Shortening.
4. Fruity and Nutty
Stock up on assorted nuts, dried fruits and seeds. Walnuts, unsalted peanuts, pecans and almonds. Sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seed. Dried apricots, cranberries, cherries, figs, dates and raisins. They’re great tossed in salads, added to breads and pastries or popped in your mouth for a healthy snack.
5. Can, Can, Can
On the spot for pulling something together quickly? Need a shortcut? You can because you have “cans.” Cans of beef stock and low-sodium chicken broth. Cans of tomatoes — tomato paste and tomato sauce; diced tomatoes and whole peeled tomatoes. Cans of peaches, pineapple and fruit cocktail. Even cans of beets, beans and mushrooms. No muss, no fuss. No pitting, peeling or cleaning. Canned items are great for making soups, sauces and quickie desserts.
6. Seasoning Style
Dried or fresh, herbs and spices are always fashionable. And with nearly every variety under the sun available in your grocer’s aisle, the sky is pretty much the limit. Most are stocked in alphabetical order. Rosemary, thyme, sage, basil, oregano, parsley. Combinations of these and other dried spices make the perfect seasoning for sauces, soups, roasts or chili. Add oil and vinegar, and you have a nice marinade or salad dressing. Keep your pantry well stocked with a selection of spices and liven up almost any meal.
7. International Flair
You want to expand your repertoire and try something a little different. Perusing the latest cooking magazine, your eyes alight on just the recipe. In fact, you have everything to prepare it — except that one ingredient: Kalamata olives. Tour the international aisle of your grocer and take time to stock up some of those specialty items — sauerkraut, capers, curry paste, hoisin, jalapeno peppers. Be ready to add flavor and zest to your menu this winter.
8. Grit(s) and a Whole Lotta Grains
Cereals, oats, bread, pasta, rice. Stock up on these carbs to tide you over all winter long. Make a bear jealous.
9. Saucy, Sassy, Sweet and Tangy
Soy sauce, ketchup, spicy mustard, Worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar, molasses. Make sure your cupboard is stocked with these items because they are often key ingredients in many winter favorites: meat loaf, stir-fry, gravy and gingerbread cookies.
10. Under Wraps and In the Bag
Your freezer makes for a terrific second pantry. Almost anything goes too. Frozen pizza for a night in; frozen vegetables for soups and stir-fry; frozen fruit for dessert toppings; fruit juice concentrate for holiday beverages; meat, seafood and poultry for a variety of menus. And don’t forget freezer bags, plastic wrap and sealable containers for all those leftovers!
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