Make your pantry a place of pride with these organizational tips from Katrina Teeple, founder of Operation Organization, which offers services in Dallas, Los Angeles, and Santa Barbara. Once you’ve got an Instagram-worthy display, Teeple says the key to keeping your cupboard looking top-notch is regular maintenance. “I tidy my pantry once a week when I grocery shop by building in an extra 15 minutes to tidy misplaced items, wipe up spills, and decant,” she says. “If I don’t have time to properly unpack the groceries after shopping, I leave shelf-stable food in the bags and get to it the next day.” Rushing, she says, “leads to stuffing and shoving things away, which ultimately weakens the systems I set up.”
Teeple suggests corralling packaged foods that tend to look messy—bags of chips, crackers, and other snacks—in matching bins or baskets. Not only does the uniformity look less cluttered, she says, “It also establishes a simple system the whole family can keep up with, so that items are put back in the right spot time after time.” If you decant oils or dry goods, she suggests noting cooking instructions and sell-by dates on the bottom of the containers using a removable marker. “This way you can keep tabs on how long items have been on shelves so that you don’t reach for something expired.”
If your pantry is cluttered with specialty items you rarely use, toss those space wasters and start fresh with staples that make spontaneous meal-prepping a cinch. We asked Dallas-based food blogger Lindsay Cola of Tipps in the Kitch—who specializes, in part, in easy-to-make recipes using five ingredients or less—to share the goods she keeps stocked in her pantry at all times.
A Good-Quality Olive Oil
Cola says this culinary MVP adds depth and flavor to sautéed or roasted vegetables, pan-seared or grilled meats, and salad dressings, marinades, and sauces. “I also always keep an olive oil spray on hand for greasing skillets or casserole dishes but also directly spraying veggies before popping into the oven,” she says.
Red Wine Vinegar
Cola loves this all-purpose vinegar for sauces and salad dressings. “We make our own simple vinaigrette almost every night,” she says. “Two parts olive oil, one part red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard to taste, and salt and pepper. Whisk it up, toss with your go-to greens, and enjoy!”
Great solo or in casseroles, bowls, and salads, these starches are a must—though the number of options can be overwhelming. “I think keeping one or two varieties of rice and grains on hand is plenty,” says Cola, whose go-to’s are jasmine rice and tri-colored quinoa.
Organic Rolled Oats
“We eat a lot of oatmeal in our house, so I always make sure to have organic rolled oats on hand,” says Cola, who prefers Bob’s Red Mill brand. “They’re also great to throw in smoothies, energy bites, homemade granola, cookies, and muffins.”
While Cola loves using fresh tomatoes in recipes, she admits, “Having canned tomatoes—whole peeled, diced, and pureed—on hand makes life so much easier! They are great for soups, stews, pasta sauce, pizza sauce, and so many other things.”
Cola always has a few cartons on hand, saying, “You can use it for quite possibly everything.” Indeed, Cola uses broth for not only soups and stews but also simmering vegetables, making a pan sauce, or cooking rice, grains, and pasta directly in the skillet.
Cola often serves tuna salad for a fast and healthy lunch. “Our favorite way to fix it is to toss in a bowl with hearts of palm, artichokes, green beans, tomatoes, rice, and Dijon vinaigrette,” she says. “It’s healthy, filling, and so delicious.”
Cola says this French variety is surprisingly versatile. “It’s great for making pan sauces and marinades, putting on sandwiches, or adding to roasted veggies or potatoes,” says Cola, whose favorite brand is Amora. “Its flavor pairs well with pretty much anything—chicken, steak, potatoes, etc.”