Easy Ways to Power Up Your Pantry

Easy Ways to Power Up Your Pantry

Having the right staples in your cupboard can make cooking dinner easier — and tastier!


Keeping your cupboard well-stocked means you’ll need to shop for few, if any, additional ingredients when it comes time to whip up your next meal. Use this guide to streamline your inventory and shop for pantry staples.

Pasta and Grains
Couscous and spaghetti are definite family favorites, but there are other worthy grains worth adding to your well-stocked pantry. Farro, an Italian grain similar to barley, works great in soups or sides or even as a main dish tossed with practically any combination of protein, cheese, legumes and vegetables. Quinoa is an ancient grain with a mild nutty flavor and is a perfect introduction to families looking to introduce healthy additions into their weekly menus.

Quick Tip: For a quick summer supper, mix farro with mozzarella, red onion, tomato, pine nuts, canned tuna in olive oil and white beans. Or toss quinoa with sun-dried tomatoes and parsley or leftover chicken, corn (fresh or frozen) and cilantro.

Legumes
Chickpeas, black beans and cannellini beans all pack a protein punch. Canned beans are fine, but if you’ve got time, buy dried beans and soak them overnight before cooking. They’re more economical and flavorful and excellent in salads, soups or chili.

Lentils are another perfect pantry staple — they’re high in iron, cook in a flash and taste wonderful as a side dish with sautéed onions or as the base for a green salad with a mustard vinaigrette.

Quick Tip: Cook up a batch of beans or lentils on Sunday then stash in the fridge to use all week long.

Ethnic Sauces and Vinegars
If you’re family is a bit bored with the same-old-same-old, spice things up with some international flavors. Your supermarket may well have a good selection or head to your local specialty store for Piri Piri, Sriracha, miso paste, fish sauce, oyster sauce, coconut milk and rice vinegar. Experiment to see what your family likes as you provide culinary trips around the globe, and then add those items to your list of pantry staples.

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Quick Tip: Any of the above ingredients adds a whole new dimension to chicken, beef or pork — just add fresh ingredients like ginger, garlic, scallions and cilantro.

Oils
A well-stocked pantry must include a selection of oils but they don’t last forever. An easy way to know if your oil has gone rancid is to take a whiff. If it smells funky, toss it. If you sauté with olive oil several times a week, it makes economic sense to purchase a gallon versus a liter at a time. Stored in a cool dark place far away from the stove, oil should last a good six to 12 months.

Quick tip: Don’t waste money on a shelf full of expensive nut oils unless you are a real gourmand. Do, however, keep at least one high quality finishing oil on hand to drizzle over fish, soups and salads before serving.

Spices
Spices don’t last forever either, so toss anything over a year old. Not sure about the purchase date? Give the spice a sniff — if the aroma is faint, the flavor will be, too. Stock basics like cinnamon, nutmeg and chili powder, but try cardamom (great in coffee, tea or baked goods) and dried chipotle peppers, which add a smoky flavor to soups, sauces, fish and chicken.

Quick Tip: Dried red pepper flakes, cumin and garlic powder are fine, but fresh is always better when it comes to ginger, basil, mint, parley, dill and oregano.

More Extras Worth Having
For an elegant upgrade, use sea salt with a built-in grinder in place of regular table salt when you sit down to dine. And ditch that tin of pepper for a pepper mill — freshly ground peppercorns make a world of difference on omelets, sautéed potatoes or salad greens. More super flavor-boosters: anchovies, sun-dried tomatoes, onion relish, pickled veggies and mustard.

What’s your go-to list when it comes to the family pantry? Let us know!

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Love this idea. I'm going to do it. Since I'm in the middle of moving will be good to do this in my new place.. Thank you for sharing this.

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