The Well-Stocked Pantry: Organize Your Panty to Get the Most Out of Your Meals

What’s for dinner? Just open the cabinet doors, choose from healthy ingredients, and you’ll have supper on the table in a snap.

| September/October 2003

  • Canned and Jarred Goods
  • Dried Goods

  • The Freezer
  • The Fridge

When Old Mother Hubbard discovered that her cupboard was bare, she didn’t have the option of ordering take-out. In a way she was lucky—she didn’t get caught in a cycle of pizza delivery and microwaved frozen dinners. Fortunately, if your kitchen shelves are well stocked, you can make a home-cooked meal in less time than it takes to call Pizza Hut.

“Stocking your pantry is the best way I know to eat healthier,” says Robin Robertson, author of ten cookbooks including Vegan Planet (Harvard Common Press, 2003). “When there’s nothing in the house, you’re more tempted to eat junk food. But, if you’ve planned and shopped ahead, you’re prepared for those times when you need to throw together a quick, wholesome meal.”

With the right ingredients in your pantry, fridge, and freezer, you’ll save money and time by making fewer trips to the supermarket or deli for pricey prepared foods. Robertson also maximizes her food preparation time. “I have a kitchen marathon—one day of the week when I make three or four things at once,” she says. “This way, instead of chopping onions every day for a different recipe, I get out the food processor and dice three or four onions for different recipes—a stew, a bean soup, or a homemade pot pie. Before I know it, I have a week’s worth of delicious homemade meals that I portion out and freeze for later.”

Most pantry ingredients can be combined in numerous recipes to create different foods in a flash. “Cooking with what you have on hand just takes a little creativity,” Robertson says. “When you don’t have an ingredient, think of a clever substitution, like making Mexican lasagna using tortillas if you don’t have regular lasagna noodles.”

(Check out our image gallery for more information about the best foods to stock up on for your pantry.)

5 impromptu meals from your pantry

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