Money-Wise Investing Tips for Your Kitchen Pantry–Take 2

How to Know What to Buy to Stock the Pantry


Yesterday’s post talked about what not to buy when stocking the pantry, i.e., a bunch of products that are on sale but likely won’t get used up in the foreseeable future.  That leaves the question of what we should buy to stock the pantry. 


Wandering down the aisles with a dozen options each direction you look, where and how do you even begin deciding which things to add to your cart?  A good approach came to me as Ken and I were filming the Fox31 shopping segment.  I call it “Canvases and Accents.”


Think of pantry “canvases” as the foundations for your meals.  In other words, what’s at the bottom of your plate?  Depending on your tastes and vegetarian leanings, a meal foundation might be chicken, fish, hamburger, beans, tofu, rice, potatoes, pasta, etc.


A good pantry has a good variety of these canvasses in stock, since there’s nothing like boredom to put the kibosh on your meal making efforts.  Interestingly, all of them keep well in the pantry.  Of course any fresh meats must be kept in the freezer pantry, but for the most part that only impacts quality slightly.


In addition to a variety of canvas foundations, you’ll want a good sprinkling of “accents” in your pantry, i.e., ingredients with lots of flavor and color that add tantalizing taste appeal, visual allure and just plain fun to your meals.  On our shopping excursion we got marinated mushrooms and fire-roasted red peppers, which were then used in the recipes we later demonstrated:  Talapia in Foil Packets with Mushrooms and Peas, and Corn with Red Pepper Bits. 


My personal pantry is a hotbed of accents, which probably explains why I’ve got an embarrassingly large sum invested in my pantry, as talked about in yesterday’s post.  But just as a newscaster must have an extensive and presentable wardrobe, a kitchen coach must have an intriguing pantry!  It’s my “duty” to experiment so I can share good ideas with others.  So here are a few of my favorite accents: 

  • Jars of minced garlic and ginger—top of the list, no question, they go in every other dish I make
  • Six or seven bottles of ready made sauces, e.g., San-J Thai Peanut, Szechuan, Sweet and Tangy and Teriyaki—rev up a vegetable dish in a matter of seconds 
  • Thai chili paste and Chinese black bean sauce—add unique flavor when I’m making my own stir fry sauces and soups
  • Parmesan cheese, feta cheese and goat chevre—I eat few diary products but these I keep in the freezer for those occasions when their robust flavor is the only thing that will properly finish a dish. 
  • Kalamata olives—I can’t believe there was a time when I didn’t like them, now I use even the brine.  Excellent in tomato based dishes, also fish and chicken
  • Capers—great pungent-sour-tart addition to liven up mild fish and vegetables
  • Miso paste—wonderful when winter comes and a yearning for comforting soups. 
  • Soy Sauce—get a high quality version, like San-J, and it’s often all you need to flavor a stir-fry or just plain steamed vegetables
  • Vinegars—Brown rice, red wine and balsamic are my current favorites
  • Lemons and Limes— Fresh ones will last in the frig for three or four weeks, so don’t bother with the bottles of lemon and lime juice.  They don’t even compare to freshly squeezed.
  • Olive Oil—Buy a high quality bottle (not the kind on a regular grocery store shelf), to drizzle lightly over potatoes, rice and vegetables.  With a little sea salt and freshly ground pepper, that is all the flavor you need.

 This doesn’t even get into herbs and spices, which is another HUGE area. 


For now, just remember to start stocking a good variety of canvasses as well as some fun accents to add pizzazz and punch to the equation.  There’s no reason to settle for dull baked chicken breasts, yet again, with so many easy options available.     


Care to share your pantry favs? 


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