The Perfect Pantry
What to stock and how to organize it.

A carefully constructed pantry allows for at-your-fingertips epicurism with the ease of a paint-by-numbers set. The pantry is the supply house that keeps the family satisfied and the hostess prepared. With a little guidance, your pantry can be ready for an array of functions, from a panache breakfast to an impromptu cocktail party.

 
Staples  
Stock a supply of various flours, sugars, baking soda, salt, and pepper, and keep on hand items that offer base flavors such as canned stocks and broths, garlic, onions, potatoes, root vegetables, and the like. Add these base flavors to dried pasta, canned or jarred produce, beans, rice varieties, and packaged tuna and seafood for a quick flavor transformation. These pantry rudiments can be combined, arranged, and reworked to
create limitless options.

Flavored oils, vinegars, and mustards provide a pop of strong flavor to everyday dishes. To push your flavor profile to a new plane, stock up on prepared chutneys, jams, specialty sauces, and marinades, all of which can be found at most grocery stores.

Storage 
Organize your pantry to keep preparation time short. The only thing worse than not having an ingredient on hand is not being able to find it. Group similar foods together in one place and designate shelves for specific foods or food groups, such as liquids, starches, and sweets. Your pantry, while perhaps seeming trivial, is the foundation of your success in the kitchen. Faithfully stocking a variety of staples and flavor agents will prepare you for an at-will gourmet meal, and better yet, one that can be made with miraculous ease. All containers are not created equal. Storing foods properly will extend shelf life and flavor. Clear, airtight plastic bins with lids are best for staples such as flours, sugars, powders, and rice. Use airtight metal or plastic containers with lids for spices and dried herbs. Do not use see-through containers when storing spices on the counter - sunlight depletes flavor and breaks down spices faster. Vented containers (plastic or wire baskets) without lids are best for aromatics (such as ginger and garlic) and root vegetables. Medium-sized baskets or bins hold loose, prepackaged snacks, seasoning packets, or dressing mixes.

Pantry Environment
Temperature
Maintain a constant temperature between 40 and 60 degrees.
Frequent temperature changes shorten the shelf life of food.

Moisture
Adequate ventilation prevents condensation on pantry surfaces and product packaging, keeping bacterial growth and spoiling to a minimum. Avoid storing large appliances, such as a second refrigerator or freezer, in your pantry.

Lighting
Keep the pantry as dark as possible; light’s energy degrades the nutrients and appearance of stored food and turns fats found in nearly all foods rancid. A nice, bright light that allows you to admire your wares is fine, but turn it off when it’s not in use - and no windows.

 
5 Must-Haves
Keep these essentials on hand for myriad meal options.

Canned tomatoes and sauce for pasta sauce, soups, salsa, chili, casseroles. Canned or dried beans for soups, stews, dips, side dishes, burritos, salads. Rice for side dishes, casseroles, soups, stuffings, stir-fries, puddings. Canned artichoke hearts for salads, dips, appetizers, fillings, gratins (a bread-crumb topping). Crackers for toppings, binders, appetizers, snacks, stuffings.

Exotic Flair 
Keep these worldly staples on hand to introduce new flavor into everyday meals: curry powder, garam masala, mustard seed, soy and fish sauces, hot mustard, sweet or hot chili paste, chutneys, hoisin sauce, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, and dried ancho and red chiles.

 

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The Container Store Pantry ESSENTIALS
1. Turntable  (Pictured right) Rust-proof brushed stainless steel turntable makes it easy to reach items in the back. 
2. Stainless Steel Expanding Shelf Three-tier shelf that expands to fit your cabinet and raises items so you can spot them easily. 
3. ELFA Door & Wall Rack System An innovative rack and basket system that allows you to create a flexible, customized storage center.  4 Click Clack Containers Stackable canisters that won’t absorb odors and are virtually impossible to break.

 

 

 

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SHELF-LIFE
Foods don’t last forever; remember to discard those that are past their prime.

 

 

 

Item

Unopened

 

Open on Shelf

 

Baking powder

6 months

3 months

Baking soda

18 months

6 months

Beans, dried

12 months

12 months

Biscuit/pancake mix

12 months

use-by date

Canned foods - high acid (juices, fruits, pickles, sauerkraut,

tomato products)

12-18 months

refrigerate

Canned foods - low acid (meats, soups, beans, carrots, corn,

peas, potatoes, spinach)

2-5 years

refrigerate

Catsup & cocktail sauce

12 months

1 month

Chutney

12 months

refrigerate

Cocoa mix       

indefinitely

indefinitely

Cornmeal        

indefinitely

indefinitely

Crackers         

8 months

1 month

Dried mushrooms

6 months

3 months

Extracts (vanilla, lemon, almond)

3 years

12 months

Wheat flour     

1-2 months

refrigerate

White flour  6-8 months  6-8 months
Fruits, dried
6 months
1-3 months
Sugar, granulated and brown
indefinitely
indefinitely 
Herbs, dried
12 months
6-12 months 
Honey
12 months
12 months 
Jams, jellies, preserves
12 months
refrigerate 
Mustard
12 months
1-2 months 
Nuts
12 months
2-4 weeks 
Olive and vegetable oils
6 months
4-6 months 
Nut oils (macadamia, walnut)
6 months
refrigerate 
Olives
12-18 months
refrigerate 
Pasta, dried
2 years
1-2 months 
Peanut butter
6-9 months
2-3 months 
Pickles
12 months
refrigerate 
White and wild rice
2 years
1 year 
Brown rice
6 months
6 months 
Whole spices
1-2 years
6-12 months 

Ground spices

1-2 years

6-12 months