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Inspired by the launch of The Food52 Wedding Registry and all the new products we've stocked in preparation for it, we're sharing some ways to tips for starting your home (or cleaning up your well-loved one).
Today: Make your pantry a much more useful place. Clean it out, then stock it with these five types essential types of non-perishables.
Getting your pantry to look like your “Dream Pantry” Pinterest board (or your Dream Pantry Food52 collection!) can feel like an uphill climb. Good news: We've narrowed the options down to 5 kinds of pantry goods that you should always have on hand—some obvious, some inedible, and all things that will make your cooking better and easier:
Unless you're stocking a starter pantry (in which case, how exciting!!), you'll need to prep with a 3-step clean-out: Remove everything from your pantry, clean the shelves thoroughly, and get rid of anything expired, untouched for over a year, or unknown (there will be some unlabeled stuff you'll swear you've never seen before). Here's a guide to pantry purging. Now, proceed to fill in any gaps using this checklist:
In case you are asking yourself, we are indeed taking the stance that cleaning supplies should be part of your pantry—not only because some of them, like shelf liners, are essential for keeping it tidy (see: aforementioned clean-out). Plus, keeping a stock of cleaning supplies near the kitchen means you'll use them more frequently, you'll always have a backup on hand when the bottle under the sink runs out, and you'll see them all the time so you'll know what's running low. The essentials are the basics: all-purpose cleaner, dish soap, stain remover, glass cleaner, and kitchen soap.
If you can't get past the idea of storing sprays and cleaners near your food, take the all-natural road and use pantry items as cleaning ingredients. In many cases, as with marble, wood, and copper, the first step to cleaning precious materials is to open the pantry (or refrigerator) door.
Your pantry isn't ready to be stocked until you have some supplies for grouping and organizing. To keep dry goods like grains, beans, and pastas in great shape long after you've opened them (and to cut down on stacks of slumping, spilling opened bags) seek out glass containers or stacking jars for storage. Estimate how many you'll need and then get extra—there should always be extra!—which can be used when you have overflow or as vessels to take your lunch to work.
For foods that you want to keep in their bags, or for produce that you don't quite have room for on the counter, consider wire baskets and hanging baskets. If you have deep shelves, install some roll-out baskets so that can of tuna doesn’t get lost out of arm's reach. Maybe your pantry is a tall number, one with more then a couple shelves up high, in which case buy a step stool so nothing is ever out of reach.
Organizing also means stocking up on supplies that will keep opened containers of pantry food, fridge-bound leftovers, and perishables like bread or produce in peak condition for longer. On the obvious end, this means making sure you've got tin foil and parchment. You might also consider stocking your pantry with some smarter solutions like linen bowl covers, cheese paper, Bee’s Wrap, bread bags, compostable plates, and the like.
Now that you've pared down your pantry and stocked up on supplies, it's time to go shopping for the good stuff—food! To make home cooking an efficent and delightful undertaking wherein fewer ingredients do more work for you, buy high-quality basics. Salt, vinegars, olive oil, cooking oil, hot sauce, aged balsamic, ketchup, mustard, real maple syrup, and the like will be more delicious in smaller quantities if you invest in a jar or bottle that's very high-quality. The same goes for dry goods like flours, beans, pastas, and basic spices.
Now to the fun part, which is sussing out some pantry pinch hitters that can transform a drab dinner into something wondrous. This category includes:
- A finishing oil like pistachio or smoked olive
- Crunchy, jagged finishing salt
- Interesting fruit preserves (glazed chicken will never be the same)
- Something fermented like kimchi
- A few pickled things like vegetables or pickled mustard seeds
- This transformative fish sauce that makes almost everything better—just try it in those Genius Momofuku Brussels Sprouts, above
If you've gotten this far and still have a little extra room, give into some of the good stuff. A few extra-special snacks and exotic odds and ends are game changers—and not just because they're the perfect bits to whip out when unexpected guests have descended. You'll get a great amount of joy from indulging in even a teaspoon of the finer things (which don't always have to cost an arm and a leg!), and if you get a few extras, you can also use them for gifts in a pinch—a roll of red ribbon and a pair of shears will make it even easier.
Giving your pantry a makeover? Share your before and after pictures with #f52home on Instagram, and let us know any clean-out tips in the comments.
Photo of shelf liners by Alpha Smoot; photo of clear storage jars by Bobbi Lin; photo of spices and photo of caramels by Mark Weinberg; all others by James Ransom