I try my hardest to follow my own advice and spend a little while at the beginning of each week deciding what I am going to cook for my family each night that week. But things do not always work out as planned, and I sometimes find myself staring into the refrigerator at dinner time willing a meal to materialize on the shelf. Sadly this never happens.
So I recently turned to my friend Jason Garvin, a Cordon Bleu-trained chef, and asked him what items I should keep in my pantry, freezer, and spice cabinet, to help me on those nights when I have no dinner plan, no time, and two hungry children screaming for food. This was his advice for how to stock your pantry, freezer, refrigerator, and spice cabinet to allow you to create fast, easy, last-minute meals. It will also ensure that you have plenty of food in case of an earthquake (for those of us in earthquake territory) or weather-related emergency.
In addition, Jason had some excellent tips to bear in mind when stocking your pantry:
- Stock foods that you eat most often. Foods you never eat, or do not know how to cook, take up space and waste money.
- Canned goods such as tomatoes, corn, and pineapple allow consumers to stock seasonal fruits and vegetables limiting the purchase of out of season goods.
- Purchase items on sale and in bulk to save money (space permitted).
- Organize your pantry so items are grouped together and clearly visible.
- Frozen items can be just as useful. Frozen vegetables are often harvested and frozen at the peak of ripeness, which guarantees optimal nutritional value.
- Purchasing a vacuum sealer can extend the life of many freezer items.
- Meats can be bought in bulk and defrosted quickly when portioned in single serving bags.
- Stocking vinegars and olive oil will allow you to create quick dressings with no additives and preservatives.
- Flours are an excellent way to create quick pan sauces for meats and pastas.
- Spices allow you to create a variety of different flavors and are an excellent way to cut down on sodium.
These fantastic lists and tips will help ensure you do not have to turn to fast food on those nights when you have had no time to think about dinner in advance.