It’s true: I’ve dragged my feet over writing a guide to what I keep in my “pantry” (I don’t have a pantry) and fridge for 14 years now. I have my reasons, primarily that I’m not sure I know what your kitchen needs. I mean, shouldn’t you stock the stuff you need for what you’ll want to cook and not some arbitrary list from a lady who loves Triscuits? Maybe you don’t love Triscuits! (Sorry you’re so wrong.) The idea of buying a kitchen full of someone else’s groceries is very much against the way I think anyone should shop. I know your kitchen will grow organically, and accurately reflect what you need if you buy things for what you want to cook as you want to cook them. Second, due to the nature of my work here I have an absolutely unusual amount of stuff in my kitchen cabinets and fridge. It’s totally justified for me, while making little sense for others. On the flip side, I live in NYC and have grocery stores and Greenmarkets quite close, but also as a small kitchen with very few cabinets, meaning that not only can I not stock very much at a time, I don’t need to — I can always dash out for vinegar or dried pasta. This is not the way most people shop.
So why now? Shopping and stocking up has taken on a whole new meaning during the pandemic, for us too. I can’t safely go to the store as often as I used to and there isn’t as much on the shelves when I do. I have to be strategic; I need a system. And of course I’ve amassed a lot of opinions on groceries after 14 years of a cooking career. Thus, please, think of this less as The Last Pantry Shopping Guide You’ll Ever Need, but a tour of the things I keep around more often than not — and would make a point to restock when I’m out of them (vs. say, the 00 flour I’ve bought for a few recipes over the years but don’t consistently keep around). Perhaps you’ll find something useful in planning your own next grocery order or pantry meal; I hope you do.
Pantry | Fridge | Freezer | Produce | Notes | Feeding Others
Things I Keep In The Pantry
Flours: All-purpose and whole-wheat flour get me through 99% of my baking. I never buy cake flour, preferring to make my own. I also keep whole-wheat flour around; it goes rancid (it will smell musty) much faster than white flour; if you only use it sporadically, keep it in the freezer. I rarely buy bread flour unless I’m on a bread-making kick, but if you make enough pizza or other breads, it can be worth it. (Note: You can also make your own bread flour.) If you like to make pasta, you should buy fine semolina. For specific cooking projects, I sometimes keep rye flour, barley flour, spelt, oat, almond meal, and/or gluten-free flour blends around, but I don’t consider them staples that must be replenished as soon as they’re depleted. // New York Deli Rye Bread, Whole Wheat Apple Muffins
Pasta and noodles: I keep a mix of pasta shapes around, some long, some short plus some tiny ones, like orzo, ditalini, and fregola/large couscous. When I find it, Setaro is one of my favorite brands of dried pasta. I like to stock dried rice noodles and ramen-style noodles, too. // Quick, Essential Stovetop Mac-and-Cheese, Crispy Tofu Pad Thai
Rice and grains: My personal favorites are a really long-grain white and a short-grain brown rice; it’s a bit random. I also keep a short-grain white rice like arborio or carnaroli for risotto and rice pudding, plus small couscous and farro (or barley, wheatbeeries, or freekeh). I tend to only buy quinoa, millet, or buckwheat when working on specific recipes that use them. Worth knowing: Cooked grains freeze fantastically for future dishes. // One-Pan Farro with Tomatoes, Crispy Rice and Egg Bowl with Ginger-Scallion Vinaigrette, Arborio Rice Pudding
Dried beans, lentils, and split peas: I like to keep dried black, small red, and chickpeas around but would caution you not to buy much more than you think you’ll use, as they will ultimately get stale and there’s no crime in being a canned bean person. A few random favorites of mine: dried chana dal (also sold as split chickpeas or bengal grams) makes for the smoothest hummus, no peeling required. Lentils de puy are dark green and don’t fall apart in soups and salads. Yellow split peas make a fantastic everyday dal, and black lentils make a stunning special one. // Ethereally Smooth Hummus, A Really Great Pot of Chickpeas, Burrata with Lentils and Basil Vinaigrette, Everyday Yellow Dal, Punjabi-Style Black Lentils
Sugar: Granulated sugar, raw or turbinado sugar, light brown, dark brown, and powdered sugar are always around in my pantry but I, of course, bake quite a bit. I mean, I also have pearl sugar, but I’m still on the bag I bought we-will-not-talk-about-it years ago. Brown sugars should be kept as airtight as possible. Nothing here goes bad. // Unfussy Sugar Cookies
More dry goods: Rolled oats and Irish oats, panko-style breadcrumbs, cornstarch and tapioca starch/flour (which is my favorite pie thickener these days), dried unsweetened coconut, cornmeal, nuts (we like whole and sliced almonds, peanuts, and I like walnuts; keep nuts in the freezer for longer storage as they will get rancid at room temperature) a mix of dried fruit, and always, non-negotiably, ground espresso for our Moka pot. (Lavazza Crema e Gusto is our current favorite). // Thick, Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, Chicken Milanese, Even More Perfect Apple Pie, Green Beans with Almond Pesto, Stovetop Americanos
Spices: I have a rack off the side of my kitchen with my spices. Listen, I can tell you to buy Aleppo flakes, allspice, anise, bay leaves, cayenne, and celery seed — and that’s just the first row — but it will make a lot more sense for you to buy spices as you long for them in your food. I firmly disagree with anyone who tells you spices that are 6 months or a year old have to go — trust your nose and your food. When it doesn’t smell like much anymore or you’re not finding flavor in the dishes that contain it, it’s time for a refresh.
Beans: Black beans, kidney beans, small red beans, cannellini beans, small white beans, and chickpeas are my standards but you probably know that I really love beans. I often buy a canned black bean soup, pouring off some of the extra liquid at the top instead of mixing it in, for shortcut saucy black beans. For everyday beans, I mostly buy Goya. For special cooking, or simpler bean dishes that really glow up with better ingredients, I use Rancho Gordo. // Crisp Black Bean Tacos, Red Kidney Bean Curry, Cannellini Aglio e Olio, Crisped Chickpeas with Herbs and Garlic Yogurt
Tomatoes: 28-ounce cans (one whole and one crushed) prove the most versatile to me, as well as tomato paste (although I also like to keep a tube in the fridge for when I need less than a can). Should you only have tomato paste cans, you can freeze the extra paste in tablespoon-sized dollops for future recipes and be glad you did. // Quick Pasta and Chickpeas, Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter
Coconut milk: I always regret it when I don’t have a can. In my unscientific studies, I’ve found Trader Joe’s coconut milk to be the richest/creamiest. // Braised Ginger Meatballs in Coconut Broth
Vinegars: Vinegar keeps for eons and we love acidic stuff, so I keep many around, including plain white vinegar, white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, sherry vinegar, rice vinegar, and black vinegar. Do you need all of these? Of course not. But I don’t think I could pick two desert island favorites. // Use in: Easiest Fridge Dill Pickles, Pickled Vegetable Sandwich Slaw, Giardinera, and Pickled Cabbage Salad.
Olive oils: I like to keep a “good” olive oil around (something delicate for finishing a dish or salad dressing) and an everyday one around (for roasting, sautéing, frying, and baking). Repeat after me: There is no reason to fry an egg at high heat in your best olive oil. California Olive Ranch makes a great everyday olive oil; 3-liter cans, decanted as needed, brings the price down. If not, the bottles are generous. // Crisp Rosemary Flatbreads and Chocolate Olive Oil Cake
Other oils: Toasted sesame, safflower/sunflower (my go-to vegetable oil for high-heat cooking and roasting, and cakes that need a neutral oil), coconut oil, and I don’t deep-fry often, but peanut oil is my favorite for when I do. Toasted sesame oil has the shortest shelf life; keep yours in the fridge if you use it infrequently. Do you love the taste of butter but dislike that it burns easily at high temperatures? I am the last person on earth to discover ghee — which is like clarified butter but tastes a bit toastier, due to the way it is made — I’ve been making up for lost time. Known better for its application to Indian cuisine, I also love it for frying eggs (even The Crispy Egg) and rather luxuriously roasting potatoes. It keeps a very long time at room temperature // Black Pepper Tofu and Eggplant, Double Chocolate Layer Cake, Easiest French Fries, Ginger Fried Rice
Liquid sweeteners: I keep molasses, honey, and golden syrup (which I prefer to corn syrup for flavor) around, mostly for baking. (I keep maple syrup in the fridge.) // Flapjacks, Majestic and Moist Honey Cake, Pecan Pie, and Nutmeg Maple Cream Pie
Vanilla extract and vanilla bean paste: I make my own vanilla extract. I recently picked up vanilla bean paste for a wedding cake project; I don’t use it as a replacement for vanilla extract (to me, they have different flavors) but in recipes where I’d otherwise add all or part of a vanilla bean. Heilala vanilla bean paste is highly concentrated and wonderful. // Make Your Own Vanilla Extract, New Classic Wedding Cake + How To
Everything else: Nutella; Triscuits; Ryvita or Wasa crisps; cheddar bunnies or rockets, sadly not homemade; at times, granola, chocolate, and cocoa for baking. I actually keep a box of baking chocolate in a cooler part of our apartment because our kitchen runs warm and I don’t want to melt and bloom it. My favorite baking chocolate is Guittard, but it’s not widely-enough available near me that I buy it exclusively. The pound-plus bars from Trader Joe’s are excellent for bittersweet baking. My favorite cocoa powder (Valrhona) is one of the most expensive and I can only encourage you not to try it because I’ve found it impossible to use others since. Should you buy it, I highly encourage you to buy a 3kg package (in 3 1-kg bags) to bring the price down and split it with friends who like to bake.
Things I Keep In The Fridge
Butter: Like olive oil, I keep two levels of butter around, one that is more everyday and unsalted for baking, usually a store brand or whatever was on sale, and a fancier or European-style (higher butterfat) salted around for toast and other finishes, where the flavor difference is more apparent. Butter absolutely goes rancid — and unsalted butter turns faster than salted butter (salt is a preservative) — so if you’re not going to use it within 3 to 4 weeks, I’d definitely keep it in the freezer.
Dairy: Milk, cream, half-and-half, sour cream, yogurt, buttermilk. Yes, we keep an unusual amount of dairy around. I don’t believe in buttermilk expiration dates. There, I said it. // Buttermilk Roast Chicken, Dreamy Cream Scones
Dijon and spicy mustards: I’m not going to tell you how many types of mustard we have in the fridge because you’ll unfollow me forever. But if I had to only choose one, it would be a smooth Dijon — this is a great everyday Dijon mustard. This is a delightfully crunchy whole-grain Dijon, and this our current favorite spicy mustard, // Mustard-Roasted Potatoes, Dijon and Cognac Beef Stew
Bouillon: I am a great fan of Better than Bouillon concentrates, which have much better flavor than most boxed stocks, keep for ages, and are wonderfully space-efficient. I actually keep one of each (beef, chicken, vegetable, mushroom, turkey) but if you were just choosing one, don’t sleep on that No-Chicken Base one because it has a cozy soup flavor but is also vegetarian. The turkey is great when you need extra stock for Thanksgiving cooking.
Cheese: We also love cheese and keep sharp white cheddar, aged parmesan and pecorino, halloumi, cotija, cream cheese, and sometimes feta around. Halloumi and cotija keep a very long time. Always save your parmesan rinds for flavoring soups. Nobody asked, but this is my favorite grocery store cheddar and my favorite feta is Bulgarian. // Parmesan Broth with Kale and White Beans, Foolproof Cacio e Pepe
Eggs: Most baking recipes call for large eggs. // 44 Egg-Centric Recipes
Yeast: I keep both active dry and instant yeast around, but I mostly use the latter these days and so can you. (Here’s an excellent primer on why.) Instant yeast keeps longer than active dry, but both keep longer in the fridge, and longest in the freezer. SAF Instant yeast is considered one of the best // No-Knead Bread
Miso: This also keeps for ages in the fridge and adds an unmistakable boost to food. // Miso Sweet Potato and Broccoli Bowl, Avocado Salad with Carrot-Ginger Dressing
Jams: Our go-tos are raspberry and apricot, but we also have fig, cherry, and more. We use a lot of jam because my kids (cough “kids”) like peanut butter and jelly a whole lot, and because I think a freshly baked biscuit with salted butter and apricot jam is a very fine thing. // Austrian Raspberry Shortbread, Easy Jam Tart, My Favorite Buttermilk Biscuits
Nut and seed butters: Peanut butter, tahini, almond, or sunflower seed butter. Sunflower seed is my favorite nut-free peanut butter swap. // Salted Peanut Butter Cookies
Extras that make us happy: Fish sauce (Megachef and Red Boat are my go-tos), mayo, preserved lemon paste, (a great alternative to chopping all or part of a preserved lemon for recipes), a favorite harissa (or a homemade one), capers, olives, I get these anchovies when I can, salami, chile-garlic sauce, this hot fudge sauce, maple syrup, and we always have this chili crisp.
Things I Keep In The Freezer
Bread: We don’t go through bread fast enough to keep it at room temperature, but the freezer keeps it perfectly.
Fruit: Mango, berries, strawberries, sometimes old bananas, and other fruits we might use to make smoothies. Frozen fresh pineapple and/or watermelon chunks make for some fine cocktails. // Frozen Watermelon Mojitos, Piña Colada
Vegetables: I like to keep edamame, peas, corn, and artichoke hearts around.
Pasta and dumplings: Potstickers, wontons, pelmeni and vareniki (we have a ton of these right now because my MIL got us Russian groceries last weekend), and tortellini are very helpful to keep around for kids lunches and easy dinners. // Spring Vegetable Potstickers, Chicken Wonton Soup, Potato Vareniki
Burritos, Tarts, and Casserole-ish things: I don’t plan well enough ahead to do this often, but when I do, I’m thrilled to have burritos, galettes or quiches, an extra lasagna, ziti, or pizza beans in the freezer for future meals. // Breakfast Burritos, Perfect Vegetable Lasagna, My Old-School Ziti, Pizza Beans
Meat: Bacon, sometimes pancetta, sausage, and recently I’ve been buying some vacuum-sealed steaks and pork chops, although I’ve yet to get in the habit of remembering that they’re there and need to be defrosted at least half day before we want them. // Bacon Corn Hash, Steak Sandwiches
Stock: I love to make extra chicken stock and freeze it in quart bags. I don’t think every soup needs homemade stock, but for simpler ones, the extra depth of real bone broth makes a difference. If I don’t have time to make stock, I keep a “stock bag” in the freezer with the backs, wings, and/or other unused parts of chicken plus any onions, carrots, or celery that I don’t think I’ll get to. // Perfect, Uncluttered Chicken Stock
Ice cream and sorbet: I’m married to someone who (understandably) requires a bowl of Haagen Dazs chocolate each evening, so that’s a given, but I also should confess that I splurged on a no-bowl-to-chill ice cream maker last summer and it’s definitely led to an ongoing supply of homemade delights like lemon sorbet, passionfruit sorbet, and real mint ice cream; I get 95% of my ice cream recipes from David Lebovitz’s Perfect Scoop.
Fruit: Lemons and limes keep and are two of my favorite ingredients; don’t underestimate the importance of acidity in making simple ingredients taste magical. Until better local fruit is available, we look out for decent apples, oranges, mango (our family favorite), cantaloupe, and pineapple to keep around, as they have a longer shelf life than raspberries (which we also buy, but eat quickly or regret not doing so). // Whole Lemon Tart, Even More Perfect Apple Pie
Fridge vegetables: Carrots, celery, cabbage (green, red, and savoy), cauliflower, broccoli, leeks, scallions, and greens (curly kale, broccoli rabe, spinach) are my go-tos. If you’re buying greens to cook, try to wilt them down when you get home from the store, as they’ll keep better in softened bundles (and can be frozen) than they will in boxes and bags, and take up less space too. I find that leafy herbs like mint, cilantro, and parsley keep 1 to 2 weeks longer if I first wrap them in a barely damp paper towel and put them in a zip-lock bag. // Roasted Cabbage with Walnuts and Parmesan, Carrot Salad with Tahini and Crisped Chickpeas, Broccoli Slaw
Room temperature vegetables: Shallots, onion (red, yellow, white), garlic, ginger, potatoes, and winter squash keep and keep // Caramelized Shallots, Slow-Roasted Sweet Potatoes, 44-Clove Garlic Soup
- I lean brand-ambivalent. Sure, I like Goya beans and Better than Boullon but I try not to get too stuck on a brand of flour (I use King Arthur or Gold Medal but also Heckers sometimes) because I think it does SK readers a disservice if my recipes work best with xyz brand that maybe isn’t easy to get. Before you buy any fancy brand of olive oil, why not taste the reasonably priced ones and see if you like it? Are you sure you can’t make great cookies with 365 brand butter? (Spoiler: You can.) Where I’ve linked to product here, however, I really just buy that one specific brand so it’s worth noting.
- Most dry goods that you hope to keep for a longer period of time or don’t go through quickly benefit from being stored in the freezer, from yeast to whole wheat flour to nuts and seeds and coffee. Everything I just listed here doesn’t need to be defrosted either; you can use them very cold as you would at room temperature.
- I keep all dried goods — everything — in jars. I honestly think there are people who don’t keep things in airtight containers and there are people who have had… crawly things. I had them one time four kitchens ago and I will not let that happen again. When everything is self-contained, even if you bring home something compromised, it would keep to itself. I have jars from all over (Weck, Le Parfait, Bormioli Rocco) but when I need more, usually buy 6- or 12-packs of Ball Wide-Mouth Jars in 16-ounce and 24-ounce because (praise hands) they stack! I have various sizes of these small clamp-top jars for easy access to salts, baking powder, and baking soda I buy in larger quantities. I keep my flours and sugar in Borgonovo 145-ounce jars I can never find anymore but I’m working on a new solution — for you and me.
- As always on Smitten Kitchen, nothing here is sponsored. I do all my own shopping and most of the schlepping.
Finally, it’s always a little incongruous to write about shopping and cooking in a casual way (“Ugh, my quinoa went rancid again!” — me, too often, not proud of this) at a time when so many people are don’t have enough to eat. If you’re looking for a place or places to help, I can tell you what I do: I have automatic monthly donations (my favorite no-planning-required way to support what I feel strongly about) set up for No Kid Hungry (which focuses on ending child hunger) and Feeding America (a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks).
308 comments on how i stock the smitten kitchen
YAY! I have a weird affinity for seeing people’s pantries. I just organized my spices with the same jars and it pleased me to no end. I also love that you have a normal sized fridge – we have the same size, which in a suburb is an anomaly, but it keeps us honest – we see everything and we use everything.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. I so appreciate the clear writing, honest comments, and considered recommendations. I won’t follow all of these recommendations, and that’s ok – my pantry will never be that well-organized either – also ok!
Quinoa goes rancid? How can you tell?
I didn’t mean to post the quinoa question to this thread and I can’t seem to delete. My apologies!
I deal with rancid stuff all the time here in my hot Florida kitchen. I was so happy Deb provided the heads-up on all that goes rancid! You can tell with quinoa because it smells much stronger, more metallic to me. Same smell that old olive oil gets. Coconut products all go rancid easily, too, but they smell and taste like dish soap.
Hope this helps!
It’s like looking at other people’s cart in grocery store.😄
Love this. I too have struggled with what to recommend on a pantry. So much of it is on tastes and frankly what random concoctions that are unique to our household. I have many of the same staples plus some cans of tuna required by my husband. I also keep spices much much longer than ‘recommended’ and freeze everything possible. Thanks for always having a fun way to articulate all things kitchen!
Thanks! An interesting read! The link to your favorite grocery store cheddar is missing for me. I’m curious!
Me too! Hanging on the edge of my seat… I love a good grocery store cheddar.
Whoops — it’s this stuff and you can see it peeking out of the “cheese” drawer in the fridge.
We did a Cabot factory tour in Vermont a few years ago when we were up that way. It was by far the most fun and delicious factory tour we’ve ever taken. (Our other favorites include the Jelly Belly factory in California, Ben and Jerry’s, also in Vermont, Ghirardelli in San Francisco and Mardi Gras World in New Orleans, where they make all the parade floats, and weirdly, the Chick Fil A cows for the billboards.)
My sister and I also did the Cabot tour, as well as Ben & Jerry, and Lake Champlain Chocolates when we were in Vermont!
Try the Herr’s factory in southern Pennsylvania. Don’t go on a Friday, though, because the line is shut down on Fridays—you can have a tour, but nothing is being produced. It’s a free tour, and you didn’t need a reservation pre-pandemic.
Mine went to Amazon which said it was currently not available, it was Cabot White Cheddar!!
I think I’m singlehandedly keeping the Cabot dairy company in business during this pandemic. I’ve been comfort-buying their cheese, and lately I’ve added their cream cheese, butter, and yogurt to my list.
Wait, I just realized I’ve “switched” or the packaging has — I now get this regularly too and I’m not sure I ever noticed the difference.
There used to be four varieties of the Cabot Legacy Collection cheddars – I believe they were Alpine, Farmhouse Reserve, New York State, and White Oak? I used to get some of each when they went on sale. I usually only see two now – right now I have the Alpine and the Farmhouse Reserve. I don’t know if it is just where I live or perhaps the varieties were experimental and/or they phased some out. It may be that you switched without even knowing it, due to availability and similarity of package.
Oooo, I love those four Cabots! Rarely available here, so I have to mail order the absolutely addictive Alpine Cheddar! I like Orne Meadows quite a lot too. Went on the Cabot tour years ago. Think they had a Parmesan-Cheddar back then that was really good. Haven’t seen it since.
Beth, do you still see all four varieties, in the store or online?
I’ve only found them online, unfortunately. Legacy Collection has White Oak, NY Vintage, Farmhouse, and Alpine. The Founders Collection has Orne Meadows, Lamberton, Adirondack, and Private Stock.
Great to support Cabot! They are a co-op of dairy farms in New England and NY. https://www.cabotcheese.coop/our-farm-families
This was a great read! I do something similar with herbs too! I found washing and letting them air dry, then wrapping them in a tea towel (which i keep a little moist) keeps them looking ‘just picked’ for weeks. Also I’m a bit enviro-obsessed and recently switched to a bunch of different things to reduce my plastic consumption, like beeswax wrap, silicone bags and stretchable silicone plate covers which I can’t recommend highly enough for keeping food fresh longer. Anyway, thanks for sharing!
Long time reader, first (okay, THIRD) time commenter :)
my #1 recommendation to you is to pop over to your local hardware store, or wherever plexiglass is sold, and get 2 sheets of acrylic to place over your wire shelves in your fridge! It was a game changer for my mother in law – EASY to clean, keeps smaller containers level and gives you more flexibility in stacking space. You can get them custom cut to your exact shelf space.
I read that as ‘wine’ shelves and immediately tried to consider a way to bulk order from Kermit Lynch.
Excellent post – helpful! Love your recipes and Instagram live cooking segments! Thank you:)
Totally agree with covering wire fridge shelves. I use the Elfa shelf covers from the container store. They are flexible, easy to wash in sink and can be cut with a standard scissors.
What a fun way to share your “pantry”/kitchen contents. It look like quite a lot of work to organize for a blog post, with all the links to items and recipes. Just wondering about tomatoes in the fridge, the last place I’d put mine? 🤔😉
Do you habe this in a downloadable spreadsheet?
Wow! That was an amazing article about the pros and cons of refrigerating tomatoes, with all the data. I won’t judge anyone who puts tomatoes in the refrigerator! Thank-you!
Luckily we love slow-roasted tomatoes, which is where so many of ours end up and we find that grape tomatoes improve in flavour as they slowly dessicate and become wrinkly on our counter. Also any tomato that we slice but have some left over automatically ends up refrigerated.
Avocados, on the other hand go straight into my fridge once they become edible after some counter-time and last there for a couple weeks, a great tip I’ve shared with my married kids 😉
I have recently discovered that ripe, ready-to-eat avocados live happily in the frig and extend their life!!
I noticed that, too!
In depth on storing tomatoes in the fridge.
I love Dancing Goats beans with my Moka Pot very smooth, and non burnt finish 😉 thanks for sharing!!!
Wow, this was great, super informative; thanks for sharing and linking. Obviously we all adapt to our own personal preferences, but interesting to hear how you organize/think.
What an awesome compilation. Super satisfying for us yentas who like to see how other people do things. It’s like a peek behind the curtain, haha. I literally laughed out loud at the picture of your fridge. It could be mine, down to the brands of mustard, cottage cheese, half and half etc, and especially the random unwrapped red cabbage floating around in there.
Hey! What about Snickers bars and peanut butter cups? Millet? Hmpf!
Our current “junk” roster is these cookies on the counter, these ready to bake in the freezer, and a can of these wonderful things. Also, there is homemade passionfruit sorbet and homemade chocolate ice cream in the freezer.
This was a delightful read, thank you for sharing!
I loved seeing your pantry! Pantries, as you noted, are like fingerprints; totally unique to each household.
I wept tears of joy when, after a lifetime of teeny kitchens, with maybe 1 or 2 cupboards designated “pantry”, at the age of 50, I got a kitchen with a walk-in pantry. It’s my happy place, where everything lives it proper jar, drawer or basket.
Including the multiple mustards and Chile sauces that my husband keeps buying. I’m curious when I see other people keep mustard refrigerated. Do they know something I don’t? Or is it a convenient place for most people. I have too much time to think about trivia atm! Cheers from lockdown in NZ, Karen
According to this, mustard doesn’t need to be refrigerated but it also says that it will then only have a shelf life of two months, which is madness to me. (As is ketchup with a shelf life of one.) I suspect they’d be fine longer, but I want to keep them basically indefinitely if I can.
As someone who carefully reserves suitcase space for bottles of Amora and their dijonnaise when visiting family in France (and also has a mother-in-law who graciously does the same when she visits!), I cannot tell you how happy this makes me. I keep open mustard in the fridge until it’s gone — up to eight months past the expiration date but not longer only because we eat it too fast. The vinegar and salt keeps things well-preserved and we’ve suffered no ill-effects. May I also humbly suggest adding a little Amora to your next batch of tuna salad, or making a super-simple salad dressing with it (referred to as The Dressing in our house).
It’s not that old mustard will have ill effects, it’s that the longer it sits, the less potent it is. If you’ve ever made fresh mustard from ground seeds or even mustard powder, you can tell a big difference from jarred.
I agree with you about the buttermilk. But, I actually have a perpetual jar of buttermilk. I keep it in a mason jar, when it is almost empty (maybe an inch left in the bottom) I fill it with milk, shake, and leave it out overnight. In the morning I have a full jar of buttermilk again.
YOU JUST BLEW MY MIND. Wait, duh me, isn’t this also the same “seeding” method as for yogurt and creme fraiche??
Wait WHAT?!?!?! someone please explain the magic of buttermilk to me. I have a canister from about a month ago I was assuming I should throw out. Do I not need to?!?! How do I know when it is actually bad?
I am very excited to learn more about buttermilk!
I’m also in the “wait – WHAT?” camp on this buttermilk question. What do you mean “it never goes bad” and “a perpetual jar?“ Please elaborate!
Kathy D and Michellel – it’s magic! Here’s more info on perpetuating buttermilk, yogurt, etc.: https://brodandtaylor.com/how-to-maintain-a-yogurt-culture/
Absolutely thrilled to report this works like a charm, I have been using the recipe Deb linked in the next newsletter and have had 2 refills now. Wonderful since my local grocery doesn’t carry buttermilk reliably!
THanks for the tour of your kitchen – so fun! I have many of the same obsessions, and even though I have four big kids and live in the DC suburbs, my pantry looks pretty similar!
A question about the vanilla bean paste. How much of it do you use when a recipe calls for a whole vanilla bean? 1/2 tsp? Where you do buy the paste? I’ve not seen it in stores.
ps THanks for continuing to update this blog. I’m not on INstagram or FB so I only get my Smitten Fixes here!
Most will suggest how much you need on the jar, I think this one is 1/2 or 1 teaspoon per bean.
Near me, Williams-Sonoma always has it, but I have a small bottle from Trader Joe’s in my pantry at the moment. I bought it right before Christmas, though, and haven’t looked for it there since, so not sure if it’s one of their seasonal products or not. Worth a look, though, as it was significantly cheaper than other places I’ve seen it.
Better Than Bouillon is the best! Recognizing that you’re” brand ambivalent”, it’s still worth mentioning to readers who might have sodium concerns that the organic, low sodium Better than Bouillon is available only at Costco. This variety has significantly less sodium than the BtB labeled as low sodium at the grocery store, including Whole Foods. If it’s available anywhere other than Costco, let me know. And not surprisingly, the beef and chicken were sold out when I went to Costco a couple of days ago.
I just bought it on Amazon. Organic low-sodium beef, mushroom, & roasted chicken. But in 8 & 16 oz jars only. The 4oz were sold out.
I’m going to piggyback here: I love BTB as well, but at the start of the stay-at-home orders, I thought to stock up on a few things at a restaurant supply store – and ran into large containers of the same type of broth concentrate. Given the price difference, I’m not sure I need to return to BTB.
I love Better Than Bouillon! I also buy the big jar of low sodium at Costco. Cook’s Illustrated did a taste test of broths a few years back and revealed that most liquified broths you can buy at the grocery are just reconcentrated bouillon so really you’re paying more for water. That and cans/paks take up more space and don’t last as long! I believe Btb also won the taste test. I haven’t gone back since. Happily.
Thank you for the peek into your pantry! I snip off the nutrition facts and cooking instructions for dried goods and put them in the jar with the dried grain/bean/rice/whatever! Also helpful when I don’t bother to stick a label on the jar. :)
Liz, I do that too and it has come in handy in cases where I purchased bulk grains that didn’t come with a cooking/measurement chart. I often cut the label off the package and use clear packing tape to label the jar. I also use narrow masking tape to label containers in the frig with the contents and a date…with two people too many leftovers to keep up with and this helps my husband find something to reheat on nights I work late (pre-quarantine).
Loved this post so much! The links to recipes were also so appreciated- it reminded me of so many SK recipes that I want to make! Now I have four tabs open to make them!
This was so interesting to me. However, I feel there should be no shame in how many types of mustard may be in your fridge….I’m currently counting 6 in mine.
This is great! Deb, can you tell us what kind of jars you use for all the pantry stuff? The ones with the airtight lids in the photos?
I have clamp jars from all over (Weck, Le Parfait, Bormioli Rocco, Borgonovo, Anchor Hocking) and I don’t buy them as much anymore but when I do, I think the Le Parfait are a great quality but these squared off ones (smaller, medium, and bigger) really fit more nicely in my cabinet. More often, I buy 6- or 12-packs of Ball Wide-Mouth Jars in 16-ounce and 24-ounce because they stack. I have various sizes of these small clamp-top jars for easy access to salts, baking powder, and baking soda I buy in larger quantities. I keep my flours and sugar in Borgonovo 145-ounce jars I can never find anymore but I’m working on a new solution — for you and me.
I use 1 gallon (that measurement seems…weird) Anchor Hocking jars for flour/sugar. They have a screw-top lid hold 5 lb perfectly!
yes! Please do share if you find proper air tight glass flour canisters with a functional mouth like the ones you have. I have been searching for almost two full years.
Thinking about flour: I grew up with tin or plastic flour & sugar canisters on the counter, but after working in restaurant kitchens, I converted to Cambro brand storage in the cupboard and never looked back. I cannot recommend these hardy, plastic containers enough for flour and sugar storage. They come in many sizes and shapes – there’s a reason they’re found in many (if not most) pro kitchens – for every purpose imaginable.
Cool. Thanks for the tour. I’m impressed that you find room for everything you’ve got. I keep more junk food than you (big kids, not little, and Pringles are my Prozac) and huge bags of flour & rice rather than varieties, but my pantry leaks into the kitchen workspace all the time. I also can’t for the life of me figure out how to store spices. I keep a 2×1’-ish space for them in a bookcase in the kitchen, the net result of which is, even though I FIFO and put most-used stuff back in front, the stuff I want (chives) is always 4 ranks behind the stuff I use twice a year (celery seed.)
Here’s a very old post about my spice rack. The TL;DR is I have these jars and I keep them on these risers. I still like the jars (they’re so cute!) but would probably buy jars like this today, as they bring the price down. I didn’t see anything like them in small bulk 10 years ago.
Deb, that post is around the time when I started reading your blog(obsessively) even though I didn’t know the first thing about cooking! Those jars were one of our first purchases as newly weds and I still have them 10 years later :)
@Deb – since you’re already a fan of the 16 and 24 oz Ball Mason jars, consider their 4 and 8oz jars for spices. They also stack and freeze. The 4oz size increases your ramekin inventory, and are delightful for stashing small desserts in the freezer…
I use this space stack thing and I’m obsessed: https://www.target.com/p/youcopia-spicestack-adjustable-spice-organizer-white/-/A-78916206?ref=tgt_adv_XS000000&AFID=google_pla_df&fndsrc=tgtao&CPNG=PLA_Kitchen%2BShopping&adgroup=SC_Kitchen&LID=700000001170770pgs&network=g&device=c&location=9051931&ds_rl=1246978&ds_rl=1247068&ds_rl=1248099&gclid=CjwKCAjw1v_0BRAkEiwALFkj5osvjyYrX29TO7yi2rqVhRRV-yDcu9zkPlpEzZUnWRPtDjJFYXLpHBoCU9MQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds. I mostly buy Penzey’s spices, the small jars so I can stack 2 per slot, but I’ve rarely had a spice that doesn’t fit in it. Nothing gets lost and I organize it alphabetically so everything is easy to find. It fits perfectly in my cabinets.
I keep my silverware in jars and use my silverware drawer for spices. I buy the small jars from Penzey’s and write the names on top with paint marker so I can see everything when I open the drawer. It works really well!
I leave spices in their store bought glass containers e.g. McCormick and arrange them alphabetically on turntables on a shelf. I find 2 turntables hold all I need.
Oh, this was so interesting! I love kitchen tours and seeing how different people do things. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Oh- forgot I had a question: can you sometime detail your method with making your own vanilla extract? I tried for about 2 years and could never get it strong enough for my liking. And I put the spent beans in sugar to make vanilla sugar and they must have been too wet yet because now I have a vanilla rock. Humph. not throwing food away these day. . . I was just chipping some off yesterday to make my son’s birthday Banoffee pie.
Did you see the post? Or did it just not work for you?
You can put your rock in a jar without lid or paper bag in the oven when the oven is cooling down. A few minutes, when the oven is about 140F/60C and your rock turns into sugar again.
Could you please include the link to your favorite grocery store cheddar? Thanks so much for sharing this!
HAHAHAHA!!! I am laughing so hard right now. Thought I’d check in to see what’s new while onmy lunch break here at work. Can you guess what I am eating?? You guessed it!!!! Triscuits!!!!
This was a fun read! I appreciate your “brand ambivalence” and have frequently quoted your cooking philosophy to friends with cooking phobias. I have bought store brand flour for years (from whatever store was closest to wherever I live, so even that is inconsistent), and bake bread, pastries, cookies– anything I want. I get so frustrated with people who insist that your recipe will go wrong unless you use a brand that many people cannot afford.
Also, I read a rather disturbing fact (and suspect that it is true): many (most?) grains will inevitably have some weevil or mite larvae in them, no matter how hygienic the processing. (This is especially true with whole grains.) Which explains how even airtight flour containers can end up with infestations. But freezing your flour for 24 hours or more before storing it in an airtight container will kill any larvae. (I usually forget it’s there and leave it for at least a few days.) Since I started doing this, I stopped having any issues with bugs in my flour, despite living in a bug-prevalent tropical country. Gross, but helpful.
I could never understand how I’d get weevils in sealed flour container and remember my SIL sharing this tidbit years ago about freezing flour for 24 hours, haven’t had issue since. Find myself baking more as a result, Deb’s blueberry muffins are on standard rotation!
we do very similar here. lots of mustards, everything goes in a jar because it keeps better that way (although our jars are mostly re-used mason jars and leftovers from purchased goods), freezer full of dumplings (thank you h-mart!). we have more room in our fridge than our pantry (not saying much – also an east village dweller) so end up keeping tons of things in there that we’d otherwise keep out (soy sauce, ketchup, even extra oil so it doesn’t go rancid in our extremely overheated apartment). if you’re willing to buy a crate of artichokes to fill your fridge and keep your giant boxes of pantry staples in a box in your living room during this crazy time, (like we are doing), baldor is offering home delivery in the nyc area!
Bless you for posting this !!
My adult life, pantry was for breakfast, a few lunch things….soups for when sick….done.
Ha ha ha. Let me unload the dishwasher every day. Cooking is real now. Never eaten dinner at home this much since living with my parents.
Appreciate this greatly.
Garden & Be Well, XOT
What a great post! I love the idea of decanting everything into jars, but 1) I’m lazy and short on free time right now and 2) I always feel guiltier throwing away the plastic packaging without even the dubious justification of using it to store the food on my shelf. Silly, right? And 3) I seem to buy different things every week and would end up with so many odds and ends. But after seeing your post and hearing your brilliant idea about wide-mouth mason jars, I may have to take another look.
I also use mason jars for dry goods storage. The thing I like best about them (besides all being the same size!) is how easy they are to toss in the dishwasher and relabel when I want to fill them with something else
This is me as well, and I love knowing how much of whatever item is left. Its also really easy to decant between different sizes as you use things up (move from quart to pint jars and then have a free quart!). We started into it because of mice, and now everything we own is in them! We also bought funky lids on amazon and now use them as drinking vessels (lids with straws, lids for hot liquids, etc.) when they’re not full. Our one hand’s down life saver is a canning funnel which fits perfectly regardless the size of the mouth or the size of the item going in (including giant beans needed for pizza beans). Should cost like $4, we would replace endlessly but they last forever!
Couldn’t agree more, LOVE my canning funnel! Use it all the time when when making homemade dressings, sauces and storing leftovers in mason jars with no drippy edges. Something so simple makes me so happy 😁
I notice that there are not canned/tinned fish mentioned. Do you/your family not eat them? Do you have any thoughts about tuna, sardines, etc? I did see the anchovies in the fridge…yum! Thanks for the post, I really enjoyed reading it.
My husband buys tuna, I forgot, but not consistently. He says he likes “Chicken of the Sea, solid white, in water” and then he said “wait, are you ordering it? Don’t, we have eight cans.”
My husband and I discovered the most amazing tuna ever this past year! It is “Wild Planet Sustainability Pole & Line Caught Albacore Wild Tuna”. We find it at Costco, but I have seen it elsewhere.
Agree on that brand, it’s pretty good. I have recently started buying the cans packed in olive oil though; I found that I liked the extra ‘moisture’ they preserve. The fish isn’t as dry when you drain the oil as when you drain the water. I used to never dream of buying tuna in oil, but have come around to the deliciousness of it!
I too, have way too many varieties of mustard. But this probably just means it’s time to make pretzels! This was a pretty good list, thanks for sharing!
for a family of four, you have a very small freezer.
Probably due less to the size of the family and more to the size of the fridge. A lot of us are in the same boat.
And she lives in New York. The size of her kitchen is mentioned extensively throughout the blog. I’m amazed how much she gets done. It’s inspiring!
I’m trying out powdered coconut milk in place of the canned and carton ones. So far, I’m a fan. The taste is more along the lines of the canned kind. Plus, it has a longer shelf life and I can rehydrate however much I need.
I was going to suggest powdered coconut milk as well! It seems to keep forever, takes up less space than cans, and can be made in very small or very large amounts without also having to store unused portions.
One of the things I was most excited about when I left NYC was prospective batch cooking & freezing ability (after years of sharing a fridge/freezer with multiple roommates). For anyone trying to think through pantry/freezer organization, I can’t recommend Ball Dissolvable Labels enough- they wash right off! So much better than the regular canning labels that are a pain to remove, and no having to guess the contents of the mystery leftovers in the freezer.
I’d like to recommend painter’s tape. Available in fun colors, and it peels right off, even after years of being on the jar.
Same! I’ve begun embracing the masking tape + sharpie labeling life as I’ve had time now to really look at what I’m cooking and storing/how I’m storing those things.
I’ve been a reader long enough to guess that you put a lot of – so very much – preparation into this post. It feels thorough and vulnerable and insightful, so thank you. I do have a question: do you find value in inventory-ing your stock, and if so, where do you keep that list? I’d also add a tip on sugars: it’s fun to make one’s own by tossing granulated white sugar and some molasses (look up Deb’s post on DIY BS for ratios if needed) into a stand mixer on low and letting it go for a few minutes. For this reason, I don’t buy BS; I do always have molasses and sugar. Hell, when a recipe also calls for BS, I usually just measure the sugar scant-ly and add a bloop of molasses. One more thing: the place of masking tape and fine-tip markers in a kitchen cannot be overstated.
I love this tip, thank you!
I am also team DYI brown sugar, it lets me buy a 10 lb bag of organic sugar at Costco and make my own brown sugar and store in a wide mouth mason jar. It stays soft and I can always keep it on hand.
This makes me so happy! Why? Because your freezer is the same size/style and cram-factor jammed as mine.
YOU RE A GEM!! I’m hungry… Always a fan on FB!! A sharer there! #besafe hubby out there gathering… #stayhome Thanks for tips I did not know all of these…duh! <3
I’m feeling especially emo today but the pics of the inside of your fridge made me cry happy tears. It was full and organized without being precious or remotely Instagram ready. It was a true cook’s fridge. Wine, Kewpie mayonnaise, produce loose in the bins, so much mustard–it all made me happy.
Thanks for the post I didn’t know I needed!
This list made me feel pretty good about my pantry stock – in that we have some similar attitudes about what and how long to keep things. My husband is forever looking at expiration dates on stuff I have on hand and making me feel guilty. Pshaw.
I keep my flours and sugars in jars I get from The Container Store – Bermioli Rocco Fido. The largest (135 oz, I think) just fits a 5lb bag of flour. (I hope this doesn’t violate your no plugging rule)
I’m glad I’m not the only one who has what I call “everyday butter” and fancy butter (usually European or cultured) for myself. My partner thinks I’m crazy but it makes total sense to me!
Thank you so much for this list! Looks like at least 5 mustard in the fridge now :-)
I have a question regarding salt. How do you determine which one to use? Is sea salt more a finishing salt? Kosher seems less salty than table salt but I am always concerned I am using the wrong one when cooking.
Not Deb but weighing in in case it’s helpful. 95% of recipes are cooked/created with diamond kosher salt which is the salt that is least salty be volume. I stock that in my kitchen and use it exclusively when cooking, can always add more salt to something but it’s hard and tedious to save an over salted dish, which is what used to happen often when I used different (“saltier”) salt.
Finally I keep Maldon salt for finishing, it’s beautiful in taste and texture. Their smoked version is very good too!
Thank you SRR636, this does help!
I have read where it is best to use table salt in baking.
Where do you buy diamond kosher if you’re hoping to avoid amazon? I haven’t been able to find it anywhere
Penzeys always has Diamond.
I have 7 varieties of mustard in the fridge and refuse to use buttermilk until the expiration date has passed, so I’m thrilled to have the validation.
Question on your fridge stuff:
I don’t keep peanut or nut butters in the fridge (but I do tahini). Do I need to? Ditto for fish sauce.
You really are a delight! I loved seeing a glimpse into what you cook with on a regular basis. And that last paragraph was so great!
I still haven’t gotten around to glass jars for everything, but we once had crawlies in our red spices (it’s a thing!), and now chile flakes, cayenne, chili powder, and paprika are always and only kept in the fridge.
Mustards I currently have: yellow, whole grain, dijon, whole grain dijon, honey mustard, spicy honey mustard, cream style mustard, bourbon molasses, craft beer mustard, blue cheese mustard, pub style. I don’t think you can have too much mustard.
Thank you for the buttermilk comment. When I got married my husband tried to throw away two-week old buttermilk several times. He no longer makes that mistake, but he looks doubting every time I pull it out of the fridge. By the way, I have found that if you refill the bottle with whole milk, shake and leave in a warm (75-85ish) place for 24-48 hours, you will get a lovely buttermilk that’s way thicker than any store version. My mother has been using the same bottle/starter for several years now!
If you buy pasteurized buttermilk, you cannot re-culture it.
I agree with you on buttermilk. It doesn’t go bad!! Also, I keep all my flours in the freezer because I don’t bake as much as I’d like. Growing up we always kept the flour in the vegetable drawer in the fridge, so all of us kids did it when we were adults. We didn’t find out until my grandpa’s funeral that mom did it because they lived in Samoa when she was young and that was the only way to keep the weevils from hatching. Gives me the jibblies just thinking about it.
This was really helpful. Thank you.
For storing herbs, Serious Eats has a great breakdown – https://www.seriouseats.com/2015/04/the-best-way-to-store-fresh-herbs-parsley-cilantro-dill-basil.html
They recommend another method for cilantro, which has been working great for me!
Thank you for all the time and effort to put this together! Definitely in market for flour and sugar canisters with wide enough mouth, flat top for stacking and space saving, and glass (not plastic). Would love to see if you come across anything you recommend.
It was wonderful of you to do this, Deborah! I recently tried to do the same thing, without comments, and it took a very long time. As I am immuno-compromised, I can’t do the grocery shopping now, and it has become a chore for my husband whereas it was a pleasure (mostly) for me. It really helps to compare my list and yours, see what I’m missing and offer photos to help my husband. Thanks so much for the comfort and great recipes you bring in these challenging times.
Speaking of David Lebovitz and ice cream… you should absolutely definitely without delay make his salted butter caramel ice cream. It’s on his blog, not in the book. I made it at the weekend and keep having to make excuses to get something from the freezer so I can sneak bits of it.
The comprehensive generosity with which you have shared this is truly a gift. THANK YOU. Hope y’all are staying safe and sane. Love from the West coast! From here in first-hit, getting-flatter Seattle, I can tell you THIS WILL GET BETTER. Hang in there and thank you for everything.
OMG you finally did it! The pantry blog. Deb, I’m a restaurateur, caterer and event planner (22 years) Based in LIC and Brooklyn and have also thought of writing a blog post for my clients about how to stock a pantry (or NYC tiny kitchen). Your advice is stellar and coincides with my own. Once thing missing: hot sauces. To go Louisiana or Korean or hey, why not both? I love your cookbook and tell everyone who cares even one iota about cooking, to follow you and your blog. Stay safe and sane. I’d love to meet you sometime and collaborate on a project. Leslie Nilsson, Bartleby and Sage
Thanks. I don’t think I could list all of our hot sauces but here’s a few: Franks Red Hot (I buy it for wings but then my husband just puts it on everything), Valentina (family favorite), Mild Sauce for Hot People (because there will never be a better name), Chimay (we first had it in Mexico City and now have it in apparently three colors), Tabasco green (I prefer it to red), Sriracha, Gojuchang…
I always have homemade chicken broth in the freezer, as I make all soups from scratch (WAYYY too much sodium in any canned or store bought soup). I used to freeze in quart size ziplocks, but now I freeze in ice cube trays, pop out when frozen, and then stick the cubes in ziplocks bags. That way, I can use one cube (about a Tbsp) for a recipe, a few cubes for a mug, or more for a bowl(s) of soup. I live alone, so the versatility of the cube size is GREAT! The ice cube tray is great for sauces of any kind that can be frozen. I’ve even used it to freeze chopped up fresh pineapple (I put a couple of cubes in my smoothies). I’ve got a tiny apartment freezer, so anything that saves space helps.
A very interesting read thanks – no wonder your fridge and freezer look packed to the gills…am currently on lockdown in a camper van so even more space challenged!
Thank you, Deb. Much food for thought here (ahem). Could you expand a little on the idea of wilting greens when you bring them home from the store (or, presumably, farmer’s market)? I have never heard of this but I love the space-saving option. How long do they keep in the fridge this way? Are there limits to their uses (other than the obvious salad)? Do you add salt or flavors, or do you just steam and blanch?
I wilt my greens by washing them, doing any prep (bye bye kale stems), them cramming them into a bowl (still wet) and microwaving them for a minute or so – just until they go floppy. Then they get portioned up and frozen. When I want to eat them, they get microwaved until they’re cooked (a couple of minutes, max), or they can go straight in a soup or stew straight from frozen.
It really depends on how you plan to use them but I prefer to keep it neutral. I put a couple tablespoons water in a wide skillet and add the greens, turning them over in sections until they just wilt — I’m not trying to cook them to a pulp. You can wring them out a little or let them drain in a colander. That’s it. You can pre-chop it if you want. You can season them when you use them. If I do a big box of torn spinach or kale and keep it in a container or bag in the fridge (I’d say up to 5 days), I find it 200% easier to add them to scrambled eggs or pasta or anything I want to boost the green vegetable content of.
Thank you for this expanded post, I was also wondering about this technique mentioned in the original post, and this explains it perfectly!
I noticed that spinach was sold pre-wilted in balls wrapped in plastic wrap at the markets in Italy, on prior trips to that lovely country. It makes perfect sense, but have never thought of doing it here at home. Thanks for the suggestion and technique.
Laughing over here, your pantry stock is almost exactly the same as mine. Living on the extreme east coast of Canada, it just cracks me up. I may have a few more cans and jars I like to keep around for the oh hmmmm what to make for dinner but the basics are the same. Including triscuits. The main difference is I make my own jams so tend to black currant, jalapeño jelly, raspberry rhubarb, dandelion, gooseberry cherry. The blueberry lavender was pretty special last year.
I’ve been using Rubbermaid Brilliance Containers in the very large sizes (like the one for cereal) for my flours.
Hi ! Just want to say that this was a really interesting read ! I’m sure it took you some time to compose it ……. but it was well worth it ! =o) Thank you !
I like how you explained what you have in your pantry versus just giving us a list. I did pick up a few ideas to add to my pantry. I was sad to see no Vermont cheeses, but since I live here, my local IGA in my small town carries many of them, as well as local meat. Two things you must know – you can defrost pound of meat in about ten minutes in hot water. When I am camping this is my go to method if I forget to take it out the night before. And, you can freeze fresh buttermilk. I do keep powdered buttermilk on hand for my Sweetheart Tea Room Waffles.
I love that you love Amora mustard. It really is the best. I had to study abroad in a francophone country to discover it (18 years ago now). For years I had to stock up at Senegalese markets when I made trips to New York, so I never had it regularly. It only recently occurred to me I could order it online.
Also the jars are the absolute best. My daughter (4.75) uses one for water.
Thanks! That took a lot of work! Just one question: you keep tomatoes in the refrigerator?
Wow. That must have taken a long time to compile. Lots of work, for sure. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you so much, Deb.
I found lots of helpful tips especially during this pandemic.
“No Kid Hungry” a wonderful program to support.
On a silly note I also love triscuits especially the “mini” ones.
Loved everything about this. Especially seeing your mustard collection! ;-) You are definitely my “spirit-animal-cook”. Thank you!
This was such a fun surprise to find today! I’m amazed and envious of the lack-of-leftovers in your fridge – maybe they’re tucked further back for the fridge’s special shoot day. We don’t waste any leftovers, but from an aesthetic (and morale) perspective, I hate opening the fridge to see 10 containers of dribs and drabs of 4-day old mashed potatoes, a couple scoops of chili, and a dollop of pasta and sauce. I think I’ve just rationalized investing in prettier leftover containers! Also surprised by the tomatoes in your fridge, but they appear to be the rugged hothouse variety, which are probably unfazed by refrigeration.
Lol, we have no leftovers because we are eating three meals and snacks at home each day and that decimates most things. That said, right up top is a bowl of beans, another of crumbled cotija, further left is some leftover salsa, and somewhere in a bag is a skirt steak marinating because I’d bought two so we had two nights of grilled steak tacos, lucky us.
Whew!!! That was quite an article! Thanks for writing it. I’m going to save it for referencing.
I keep my dark brown sugar in the freezer and it is my favorite household hint – I don’t use it often so I just take it out 1/2 hour before I need it and it is perfect every time.
Just a question about organic vs. regular milk. As I live in Queens and no longer have access to TJs and WFs and their well-priced organic whole milk I’m wondering whether you think it’s worth paying extra for organic (I have a one-year-old baby for whom I make oatmeal with the milk every morning). I realize you’re not a doctor but was wondering nonetheless whether you had any thoughts.
Thanks, as always!
Personally, I prefer to buy hormone-free milk but I’d chat with your ped and get his/her opinion.
No type of milk is hormone free… it’s milk! Literally full of hormones. Cow, goat, sheep, human… its job is to grow babies. But organic milk is from cows fed without *extra* hormones (theoretically) and that’s why people say what you said, Deb. Food for thought. And I say all this as a person who loves milk! 😊
Surprised to see tomatoes in your fridge. I’d always been told that ruins the texture.
So many responses about the tomatoes. First, my husband has been doing the grocery-unpacking and fridge-management these days, so they were not my jurisdiction. Second, they’re very hard winter grocery store tomatoes he likes for sandwiches that are not in any way improved upon at room temperature. Greenmarket or patio tomatoes in the fridge, unless they were about to go and I wanted them to live another day or two, would be criminal. And here’s an article about putting tomatoes in the fridge, but again, I still won’t with seasonal ones.
When you bring dried goods home, put them in the freezer for a few days. That should kill any eggs, and then you can store them on your shelves without worrying about bugs.
Cook your homemade stock down a bunch, and freeze it in a freezer tray. Pop a cube out and add a cup of hot water, and voila! And it takes up less room that way.
I have a BEAN question for you. To what extent can we swap types of beans and still have your recipes succeed. My thought is that Chickpeas don’t substitute but generally the others do (except for color aesthetics), but I would love to hear your thoughts.
It depends on the recipe. Some are softer, some are more firm, and of course if you’re cooking them from dry, some take much longer than others. If the swap tastes good to you, that’s all that matters.
I LOVE that you put the “No Chicken Base” from Better than Bouillon in your post. That is my number 1 trick to always having stock to make soups, gravy, broths – and you can play up or down the concentration. It also tastes good (tastes exactly like chicken broth to me!).
i also do not believe in buttermilk expiration dates. i got in an argument with someone in a store saying that it wasn’t safe to use cuz it was past it’s date. i use it even if it’s chunky.
This is super helpful. We will be moving into a new home in four weeks (that process started well before COVID-19 appeared!), and I plan to take this post and use it as my guide for stocking the kitchen in a more thoughtful way than I have previously. Thank you so much!
What a wonderfully informative article. I loved it. Thank you for taking the time to write all that down for us. Baking is my favorite thing to do. You’re recipes are awesome.
This was a GREAT article! I’m a cook book author, was in the food biz for a long time and appreciate the fact that you took the time to educate those who might be starting out with the love of cooking.
In case you haven’t tried it, The Napa Valley Olive Oil Company is fantastic! I buy in 1/2 gallons and store in a cool dark area. They ship to you.
Thanks for this! I’m a long time reader, first time commenter. Living in lockdown has made me very aware of the failures of my pantry/stored food systems, and it’s really interesting to learn how others organize and manage, especially those who you believe eat better than you ;^ } Going from occasional meal prep to 2 meals a day, every day, has woken long dormant domestic muscles I haven’t ever really relied on, and for the most part I’ve enjoyed both the challenge, and all of us are pretty happy with the food that comes out of it.
But–I still want to come up with a system of keeping what we keep usable; knowing what we have and using it while it’s still good; and somehow putting it all together so it’s at least a little inspiring, instead of daunting.
Great post. Could someone please recommend a pantry or grocery list app or other handy organization helper?
Although my pantry appears stocked more or less the same as yours.. thanks for the awesome recipes!! :)
My husband and I both use something called Remember The Milk, a very, very simple list app. We sign in as the same person — otherwise each person has to “assign” items to the other — and whenever we are out of eggs or ketchup or anything, we add it and the person who is next at the store is supposed to use it. It’s been working for us for about 5 years.
@DEB – we also use Remember The Milk for many shared lists, including groceries, things to pack, movies to watch etc. We each have our own free account. I am the Owner of most lists.
Using the desktop version, select a list in the left-hand panel. Do you see the little drop-down arrow to the right of the list name? You’ll have options to Rename, SHARE, Add to Favorites, Archive or Remove. Select SHARE.
Once you add Alex, you’ll be able to designate his access privileges (Owner, Editor or Viewer); set it to Editor.
Do you know that you can create tags for each grocery store, or section of the store? Such as TRADER JOEs, or PRODUCE. So that you can select Trader Joes (for eg), and see all the items that you want to get at that specific location?
Interesting. I am currently doing a clean out on the pantry. I am not sure why our fridge gets so full of random condiments that there is no room for actual food.
A few notes from my own kitchen: I only use plain flour (all purpose) for pizza now as I follow Jim Lahey’s no knead pizza dough, as in your potato pizza recipe.
I, too, favour long grain rice (Basmati is my personal favourite). I have made rice pudding a few times over the last few weeks and Basmati makes a delicious rice pudding; it lends a delicate, fragrant flavour.
I want to purchase a popsicle maker, but not sure if I want metal or the silicone.
What are your thoughts on the subject?
I have possibly every single popsicle device on the market. It depends on the age of the popsicle eaters. Zoku small pops are great for toddlers. I have a Zoku Instant Popsicle maker, which I like, but only get this if you have an extra freezer. I like the Fox River metal device for popsicles, not overly happy with the cheapest plastic popsicle devices, as the small tray isn’t stable enough. Go Zoku for larger silicone popsicle device, not the “Instant Freeze”. I also bought some bags for making “Otter Pops”. Those are okay, too.
These are very pricey, but look beautiful: https://www.crateandbarrel.com/montana-acacia-and-glass-jars/f50165
And from the comments, I think they are stackable!
Wanted to share since I just purchased the Youcopia spice organizer based on a commenter below, and am very excited for it. So maybe someone will benefit from these beauties.
I own a few of these jars (which I’ve been using for about… 3 years?), and they are indeed lovely, but they are not stackable. The bases are smooth, slippery glass and they’re a bit too large to nest in the wooden lids.
They’re not really airtight, either. I use them for things that I burn through in large quantities or want to have right at my fingertips on the countertop (right now: granulated sugar, all-purpose flour, lentils, and baking soda, which I use by the handful to scrub out my pots and pans), but I tried to store brown sugar in one once and it ended up being a tragic waste.
Do you ever stock garlic powder? It’s like a staple in my house but from what I’ve seen of your recipes, you seem to use fresh garlic exclusively.
I have it but it doesn’t a lot of use. It’s definitely not “fresh.”
Just bought 2 boxes of Triscuits today on my foray out. Close to dark chocolate, and onions on items I can’t live without in a pandemic 😍
I loved this so much! Thanks so much for giving us a peak into your pantry and fridge! Not because I think I should follow exactly what you buy (for example, Buckwheat is a “buy always, panic when low” thing for me because I use it in my favorite sourdough bread!) Really, I am just super nosy.
I could spend hours learning what random humans keep in their kitchens (as long as they didn’t try to make me feel bad for not keeping spirulina and fresh coconuts on hand).
Deb, you are a treasure. I can only imagine how long this took for you to put together, but do know that I truly delighted in every detail, delivered as usual with your hallmark wit and personality.
You’re so funny yet practical and down-to-earth. You strike just the right note for me, just saying.
So pleased to see many of my favorites that are in your kitchen, too. I would quibble with the “I make my own vanilla extract,” though–the great Stella Parks had an article on Serious Eats not too long ago in which she discussed why made-at-home vanilla extract will never have the depth of flavor that professionally-made extract does: https://www.seriouseats.com/2019/12/diy-vanilla-extract.html. Also, if you want to make your own bread flour, just add extra gluten to all-purpose. A small bag of gluten (Bob’s Red Mill makes it) will be enough to juice up many cups of AP–maybe 2 tsp. per cup.
I love that making own bread flour tip — I had it way back on the site but forgot to mention it here. Will update.
Re, the Stella Parks article — no fewer than a dozen people sent it to me when it came out. I’m sure she’s correct but I’m absolutely delighted with the quality of vanilla extract I’ve been able to make at home, and the way it flavors food. For me, this is all that matters.
Really enjoyed your pantry stocking article.. Only exception I have is, the photo
off your refrigerator , you have tomatoes in the drawer. They keep really really well on the countertop for days, no refrigeration required, also it’s recommended.
PS Made the latest banana recipe twice, YUMMMMM!!!!!!
I have gotten more comments on the tomatoes than anything else. Here’s my response from an earlier comment: First, my husband has been doing the grocery-unpacking and fridge-management these days, so they were not my jurisdiction. Second, they’re very hard winter grocery store tomatoes he likes for sandwiches that are not in any way improved upon at room temperature. Greenmarket or patio tomatoes in the fridge, unless they were about to go and I wanted them to live another day or two, would be criminal. And here’s an article about putting tomatoes in the fridge, but again, I still won’t with seasonal ones.
Thanks for all this pantry info..and for thinking to add those places for food donations. My old freezer just died today so I’ve spent most of the day sorting through freezer burned, unidentifiable meats and other things that were lost in the recesses. All veg’s and stocks and ice cream creations..gone. Flour I still have to figure out where to put it, butter found a new home (thank goodness for it’s perfectly stackable packaging.) Meats and nuts found a home after some sorting through the freezer of my refrigerator. I done with stocking up when sales are good. Two weeks worth of stuff is it from now on. (who am I kidding! Old habits die hard, if at all.
Really enjoyed reading this. I lived in Germany for years and had a lot of jars in my German kitchen, but you are right about having jars for things. I had some unwanted things one time. I had get rid of a lot of stuff. Now that I’ve moved back to the states it’s been great going to my local markets. They have excellent bulk bins, though now with all of the COVID-19 things, they aren’t around now. Before everything I really was big on buying small amounts of stuff. It makes life so much better.
I bought a roll of masking tape and a sharpie to label my jars after seeing yours. I love the way it looks! Thanks!
This is great! I love a peek in another person’s pantry. Thank you for sharing!
And I feel so seen – our fridge and freezer are about the same size. Fellow small kitchen in tiny appartement person over here :-)
All the best for you in this challenging and uncertain times! Be safe and sound!
Deb, love love love this post. Something I have always wondered about. So fun to see what others keep in their kitchen. BTW I also loved the Cup of Jo Beauty Uniform. I bought the mascara you use (ordered a sample first) and think it is perfect, except for when I remove it–it leaves tiny bits of black all over my face and on my cotton ball. Any good suggestion as to how you remove this mascara? Other than that, I love it (and my eyes water too!). Thank you.
I find that with most waterproof mascaras. Glad you’re enjoying it. It’s a bit clumpy and I wasn’t sure if people would hate it if they bought it.
im impressive how much amount of information on this article
It’s fascinating what is a staple in some homes is not ever around in another! LOL I love how you keep lemons and limes around. I wish I did…seems like they always fall to the back and get forgotten, so I stop buying them for a while. Cilantro is a staple in my house…I will have to use your damp towel trick! Thanks!
I keep limes and lemons in the freezer. Always available…..
I loved this post so much. I love your honesty and flexibility. Just my favorite food blog.
Deb, I notice that you have a few of the larger jars from the same line as your spice jars. ::hug:: I had those jars first, then (as I somewhat breathlessly told you at your first DC book signing at Politics and Prose about a decade ago) bought the spice jars to match based on your recommendation. Well, only the smallest of the larger jars has survived, so I’ve moved on, but the spice jars are still going strong (and I have a spice drawer in my kitchen now, swoon). The remaining big jar is reserved for my herbes de Provence, because Provence is where I first learned to appreciate food, and if I had to pick just one spice blend, that’s the one I would choose.
Wowzers! Cabot white oak cheddar?! I’m a fan of Cabot cheese…. what happened in the cheese updates universe? I’m on Twitter for cheese & symphonic updates and to think I missed out on cheddar magic. Thanks for your city pantry update. As a child of depression era parents, I learned the value of a back up of basic items. My folks were immigrants and pantry was heavy on bulgar, which was foreign to many families in the 60-70’s. I find it comforting and have learned some new things to cook aside from family classics.
One good one is Trahana (bulgar soaked in yogurt, then dried). I think The NY Times wrote something about it a few years ago. I add it to soups and such. It is simple and lovely.
Cabot white oak will be on my wish list.
Thank you for all of your recipes.
What do you keep your spices in? Both as jars and what the jars go into. I’ve been looking for a better solution than what I have (a mishmash of shakers in a too-small plastic bin). Suggestions appreciated!
I see you answered this above – disregard!
I loved this post. I also wanted to let you know that if you are craving Guittard chocolate (which I also happen to love), you can actually order it directly from Guittard and ship it to your apartment. I know this because my husband ordered a 10 pound bag of chocolate at the beginning of shelter-in-place (yes, that was a wonderful yet terrible idea). Enjoy.
Such an excellent and comprehensive post. Thank you!!
Thanks for this post!! I have a question–when you “wilt your greens” to store them better, what does that mean? You steam them/sautee them immediately, or throw them in a microwave?? I buy a ton of greens and this was exciting to me. Thanks!
Hi Deb, I hope you and your family stays healthy. It is almost like my stock, I life in Germany and love to read your blog. Thank you.
Spice Rack first row: Oregano! Cumin! Maybe White Pepper, maybe sumac.
Deb, thank you so much for this post. It was very informative and I appreciate you! (Also can I take this minute to say that the videos of you cooking with your kids are one of the highlights of my week during These Uncertain Times. So wonderful :) )
Do you have a good way to store Basil? We have just recently discovered how to store Cilantro and Parsley well in the fridge but I don’t know how to store basil for a long period of time … outside of having a basil plant at my disposal, which is hard to do, most months of the year for me.
I will defend to the death your right to collect as many kinds of mustard as your heart desires. I currently only have five, which of necessity includes Senap (Swedish mustard). And farro has become an essential pantry item ever since I first tried your one-pan farro with tomatoes.
I have shared so many of your recipes (both as finished dish and as “hey, make this!”), that at several of my pals are inclined to ask “is this from your friend Deb?”
Loved this post. I have always wondered how you keep your arsenal so well stocked. Also, I know feel quite fluffed: the Red Boat & chili crisp you mentioned are our go-to’s also…I never leave the Asian market without at least 2 bottles of each. Chao Koh coconut milk is the best I’ve found (no TJ’s near us, yet).
Stay well, Deb & family!
Thanks for this! Question: you mention not to buy more dried beans than you think you’ll use. But over what time frame? We use black beans pretty frequently, but how long can I keep them in the pantry before they get “stale”?
I love this post! And, I love Triscuits as well. :-)
I love your blog and your cookbooks. I have post its and doge eared, splattered pages!
Wondering if you meant we can store lemons and limes? A little not clear.
One thing I learned after having little hatched eggs and bugs in my dried beans, rice and pasta…put them in your freezer overnight after buying and before you store them in a cabinet–although I’m with you and everything goes into glass containers. It kills everything.
Thanks so much for the tips!
Deb, with all those canning jars being used for storage, have you considered the plastic lids? They are made in both the regular and wide-mouth sizes. It’s so much easier than dealing with the lids & bands.
If you haven’t tried the chocolate ice cream in the Liebowitz book, you should. The recipe instantly reminded me of your chocolate pudding in its use of both chocolate and cocoa. I make a fair amount of ice cream recipes but this is the one that seems the most special and gets asked for for birthdays *in lieu* of cake. It might even replace your husband’s haagen daz ritual.
I loved poking around in your pantry and patted myself on the back that mine is not too different. Luckily, my current kitchen has space and I have a basement to store extras. One thing I don’t do is refrigerate my Lea and Perrins or soy sauce and haven’t ever had a problem. My refrigerator is valuable real estate! Thank you for a great blog.
Perfect timing, this post, because I am doing some pantry reorganizing right now. Was looking around for glass jars and found the Borgonovos at Home Depot – https://www.homedepot.com/p/Amici-Home-Borgonovo-145-oz-2-Piece-Glass-Hermetic-Canning-Jar-Set-with-Metal-Lids-Z7AB027S2R/307617724
Do you have a favorite kitchen scale? I need to buy one soon. I will be using it mostly for measuring flour for bread baking and pasta making.
Totally with you on buttermilk. I usually have buttermilk in my fridge for about two months past the date before I feel like it’s going bad. I get funny about dairy expiration dates, trust me, except for buttermilk. Thanks for saying it out loud :) If others have access to stores with bulk spices instead of jars, I think that is the best way to get what I need for recipes that I like but don’t make often – or to buy lots of what I do love to use! We use so much cumin that we buy the seeds, and then use an inexpensive coffee grinder to grind it as needed. Great for stuff like cardamom too (which I LOVE but rarely use) – buy the whole spice and grind when you need it.
Hi Deb! I’ve just switched over the last few months to glass jars and found that the Bormioli hermetic jars from the Container Store are my favorite. They might work well alongside your Borgonovo ones!
An unasked-for suggestion for the freezer: canned chipotle in adobo chopped into paste, put into a ziploc bag, and patted out flat. Few require a whole can and it’s easy to break off a chunk to add to recipes.
Yes, we do that as well. Usually use a stick blender right in the can to blend the pepper and sauce, and then freeze to use in chunks.
I usually chop or blend the whole can of chiles in adobo, and then put it in a glass jar in the refrigerator. It keeps a long time and super easy to add as much as you want to any dish.
where did you get your glass containers
I love posts like these! Super interesting to see your pantry, would love to see more articles like this, perhaps some insight into your favourite kitchen equipment and gadgets?
Just a quick note, in case it helps anyone…I also use only glass to store things in the kitchen, and one of the best sources I’ve found for larger jars is my local deli: they get all those lovely pickles and other assorted things in them and are only too happy to have me lug them away when I need some. Check with your local shop too, and see if they don’t have some lying around to hand off, or if they’ll save you a few. The size I’m talking about will hold almost three pounds of oatmeal, a couple of pounds of pasta, four or five pounds of white sugar…I use them for a lot of things. Going full Martha, I sprayed some of the lids with a bright copper paint (just be sure not to spray the underside of the lid, as you want to avoid any food contact) and am working on stenciling some wheat sheaves and like motifs, using disposable stencils and etching cream. Et violà: inexpensive matched designer storage.
OMG my refrigerator is just as packed. I thought it was just me. Of course my mother in law also did that until one day she opened the freezer and a 5# roast dropped right next to my son who was crawling by! I don’t keep a lot f different rice around, just arborio, basmati and long grain white…until I tasted Carolina Gold rice. I HAVE to have it on hand. Soooo delish. Thanks for sharing. Love ❤️ your weekly pep talk.
Thank you for this excellent list! I would love it if you would support/promote fair trade/child labor-free brands of chocolate, coffee, and nuts. You have such a big platform and could make a real impact. Abusive child labor is rampant in the making of coffee, chocolate, and cashews in particular, and Illy, Trader Joe’s don’t do anything to ensure that there are not abuses in the supply chains of the products they sell. You can find ethical chocolate brands at slavefreechocolate.com and ethical nuts and coffee via Equal Exchange.
Thank you for your comment MT! I would like to add that Nutella is full of PALM OIL which is produced in a harmful way for many reasons – environmental and social. So for the sake of the animals losing their habitat, the local population whose lands have been stolen and all of us ― because in the end we’ll all face the challenges of climate change ― please use another spread. Nowadays there are other options that are also fairtrade without children labor and with decent pay. Same goes for coffee, tea, bananas and other ingredients that are made in terrible conditions thanks to modern slavery. The best chocolate in the world is not worth that. Instead of spending lots of money on high-priced Valrhona, choose a fairtrade-certified chocolate, preferably with organic ingredients to be respectful of farmers and people whose work we benefit from.
I cook from scratch 3x a day. Always have. I love your recipes for their elegance. Always in the right order, no need to dirty extra dishes. This project is a real gift. Especially since I know you also cook from a small kitchen.
Can you comment a bit on yeast? I have been using active dry, but just ordered instant dry (getting what I can these days!). I believe it is the SAF and is in a vacuum sealed package.
1. Would you recommend putting the sealed package in an additional container until it is opened (once I open it, I will put it in jars or reusable plastic containers in the freezer)?
2. Is there any trouble storing it in a frost free freezer?
3. Is there a difference in how much instant dry I would use in a recipe that calls for active dry and what would be that “translation”?
Excited to see that there are advantages to the instant dry now that I have ordered it! Thanks for your help and great recipes!
Great list of ingredients, I ordered the preserved lemon paste and gave your site credit for pointing me to the source. I can’t wait to try.
I love your blog and enjoy the use of common and new to me ingredients. Thank-you for sharing your creativity.
I too love the better than bouillon and recently found their Lobster Base…nice when making any seafood sauce or bisque. I like to use the Better then Bouillon or a Knorr homemade stock container to double the flavor of my chicken soup stock.
Can you tell me recipe(s) in which you use the chili crisp ? Is it like sambal?
I place a food safe oxygen absorber packet in pantry items
I am a fan of Better Than Bouillon as well! It is so easy for so many things (soups, DIY Rice a Roni, pot roast, quick broth for recipes). It lasts a while in the fridge and is cost-effective!
One caveat is that some varieties (premium vs organic vs natural, etc.) do contain monosodium glutamate or hydrolyzed soy protein, so if anyone in your household has sensitivity/allergies to those items, just check the labels. This is not unusual for bouillons, soups mixes, canned soup/broths, and most breakfast sausages. Fortunately, some varieties do not contain these ingredients and they get the green light! PHEW! It is much easier to forego Doritos, canned soups/broths, and breakfast sausages than to go without BTB!
Imagine my delight when I found you love Lowensenf! I bought a couple tubes of it on a trip to Weisbaden two years ago and it is divine…The mustard aisle in Germany was a thing of beauty. I had never thought of ordering it off Amazon….squee!
Wow! What a post. It must have taken a long time to write, so thank you. I think this is my first time commenting after following your blog for a long time. I just have to say that I love the little tidbits you threw into this post. I learned a lot and enjoyed seeing how similar yet different our kitchens are. One thing I appreciate most about your blog is the actual text and notes, as well as your readers. I had almost as much fun reading through all of the comments as I did reading the original post! So, thank you for creating such a wonderful community where I learn so much.
Few things make me happier than having everything on hand to make a new SK post! It happens often enough that now I see recipes on other sites and *know* if you’d like it :) Thanks for all this fantastic detail, and for keeping the fridge real, Deb!
I just came here to say that I am the type of person that would like to hear about every single type of mustard you have and revere you for it. This was fantastic! Thank you so much for sharing!
Two suggestions: go on line and look at the Uline website. They have all sizes of jars that are ideal for spices. You have to buy them by the box (24 per case), but 48 still wasn’t enough. Second, I use two metal mesh hanging files for all my small jars of boulion and other condiments. It’s amazing how much you can cram into one.
I find it strange that you would waste so much refrigerator space on condiments that don’t need to be there. Mustard, hot sauces, soy sauce, worcestershire, many steak and bbq sauces, most cooking wines, vinegars, most bean pastes, most nut butters… these are all things that keep well at room temp. Especially if used with any frequency.
Most things with high vinegar content will not spoil easily. Same goes for most things with high salt content. Miso, worcestershire and vinegar have all gone ‘bad’ already. Nut butters have a high fat to low water content prohibiting bacterial and fungal growth.
Yes, however, our kitchen runs very warm and there’s no a/c in it in the summer. So, we keep things longer in the fridge. Everyone needs to find the solutions that work for their own kitchen!
Not to mention some kitchens have more room in the refrigerator then cupboard space which is sad but true. I have some items in the refrigerator only because they will not fit in my cupboards. sigh!
I really appreciate the post on your stocking your pantry. I enjoy know what the professionals do. I also appreciate that you state what brands you like or prefer but you also state the more inexpensive ones are ok. I would like to know more about the Borgonovo 145-ounce jars.
Thank you for posting this! I love that your fridge looks like mine — “Hilary fridge,” packed to the gills and a challenge to find anything. Yes, mine always looks like that, not just during a pandemic, because I’m a borderline hoarder. But I also haven’t noticed things like butter going bad!
Such a great article on what you have and why! Advice for me on storing and recipe ideas if I ever want to add things to my pantry! I agree with keeping in airtight containers! I do too and not only for the crawlers, but things stay fresh and dry longer!
I am going to try your make your own vanilla extract recipe as the vanilla I can find in Rome is very expensive!
Thanks SO MUCH FOR SHARING! I recently moved to a new place and previously kept my dry goods in shameless vlassic halves pickle jars. They were perfect for rice, beans, and smaller quantities of flours. Love the masking tape so that I don’t feel pressured to keep restocking the brother label maker. There are some really great tips here for organizing that I plan to use moving forward. (And thanks for the years of your amazing recipes as well!)
Great way to use tomatoes that are about to “go:” make a lovely relish. Slice and cook down. Add banana peppers from that jar that has been in the fridge forever, with some of the juice. A tiny bit of sugar, S&P. Mash and serve with some black-eyed peas, field peas, etc., from the freezer, cooked in that last bit of chicken stock, along with a piece of saved onion and a T of bacon grease. Cornbread and pork chop. Done.
I am not sure the place you’re getting your info, however great topic.
I must spend some time finding out more or understanding more.
Thank you for great information I used to be searching for this information for my mission.
Loved reading about the details of your pantry :-) I feel totally validated, I also don’t believe in buttermilk expiration dates. Also applies to other dairy. (Growing up, my family owned a Polish deli, and we brought home the dairy products that were at or close to expiry and not likely to sell, so eating expired dairy is kind of normal to me.)
OMG! I love the arrangement of your fridge.
Thanks for this brilliant post.
Would you please write a much needed article or create a video about the commonly used baking pots and pans? I need to buy a few such as spring-foam baking pan but not sure about the measurements. I’m sure it would be helpful to others like me.
I’m working on it! It’s even more of a doozy than this one. :)
This… is the best! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for publishing a picture of the inside of your fridge and freezer! I’ve been a caterer for 17 years and my husband is always commenting on how full the fridge is! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard” do we really need all of these condiments?” The answer by the way, is yes!
Hi, I need new red pepper flakes, what brand of Aleppo pepper do you suggest? Does this take the place of generic crushed red pepper flakes?
I don’t buy a brand, per se; I usually buy my spices a Kalustyan’s here in NYC but there are many places you can order online. Aleppo are milder red pepper flakes and I like their flavor. But I also have regular red pepper flakes.
Thanks for the quick reply! The red pepper flakes I have seem to have lost their heat so I’ll try some generic and Aleppo!
Fabulous post. I have a small kitchen and fridge freezer too. It’s great to see what you *really* need. Thank you!
I can’t believe you don’t have balsamic vinegar/glaze in your pantry.
I have beef Better Than Bouillon, since after years of trying I gave up on homemade. But I buy Kitchen Basics Turkey Stock by the case.
I can also highly recommend Pensey’s Justice blend of seasoning. I can’t remember what food tastes like without it now.
How wonderful to see your fridge and freezer are as overstuffed as mine! Now I don’t feel so guilty. I am so glad you shared these lists, it’s great to compare notes and discover new favorites.
Hi Deb! Huge fan — thank you so much for all your thoughtful guidance — whenever I want to be inspired I turn to you! Any recommendations for alternatives to Goya for canned goods? Thanks!
Sadly, I do not have a another favorite brand of canned beans, but am on the hunt. Canned beans are usually kind of messy looking, not firm enough to keep their shape, and Goya’s were usually the exception. Hopefully someone else will pipe up.
Can you come here and straighten my kitchen stuff out? I love that you have a NY kitchen like mine and not like Martha Stewart’s. Thanks you for all those helpful hints.
Thank you so much for sharing. it was a wonderful read.
I love the way you organized your “pantry” especially your little spice jars and hinged glass jars. May I ask where you obtained them ? I totally agree to only stock what you require for your recipes. BTW, I did bake the pumpkin bread. It was absolutely delicious, very moist and the sugar/cinnamon topping was unique for us and tasty. My finicky husband even enjoyed the bread and remarked to increase the amount of sugar topping on the next one. It is definitely a keeper in my favorite recipe collection. Thanks much and I look forward to trying more of your recipes!
I have jars from all over (Weck, Le Parfait, Bormioli Rocco) but when I need more, usually buy 6- or 12-packs of Ball Wide-Mouth Jars in 16-ounce and 24-ounce because (praise hands) they stack! I have various sizes of these small clamp-top jars for easy access to salts, baking powder, and baking soda I buy in larger quantities. I keep my flours and sugar in Borgonovo 145-ounce jars I can never find anymore but I’m working on a new solution — for you and me.
Maybe there’s been a post on this, but I can’t find it: what’s your favorite cook and bake ware? I’m especially interested in what you use for sheet pan cooking, like roasting vegetables etc. I’ve been using the same heavy aluminum pans forever — used to try to clean them, and then just gave up and cover them with aluminum foil every time. There has to be a better way!
Thank you. I haven’t written it up yet — it’s on my fall to-do list. I don’t have a single favorite baking sheet. I have a few brands, but none that I’d consider perfect — very heavy and with the kind of edge that’s fully rolled under.
Thanks, Deb! Looking forward to your list. Have you tried any of the non-stick sheet pans?
Not a big fan. It can easily chip off with one stuck cookie or roast, and I also find that you don’t get the same brown/crisp from nonstick pans.
I just came here to say that I am the type of person that would like to hear about every single type of mustard you have and revere you for it. This was great! Thank you so much for sharing!
Do you ever use Maggi Sseasoning?
I don’t! Should I get some?
I love it. It has the umami of soy but more depth. A few drops is all you need for savoury dishes like stews.
Just took a minute to read through your pantry items and loved your nod to no kid hungry and feeding america. Another worthwhile but lesser known grassroots org is lasagna mamas. They are a need based org who defines “need” loosely. Overwhelmed single moms, seniors or others in your community who might need a hand or hug during a difficult time. Look for them at lasagnalove.org to donate, volunteer or request a meal.
Thank you that was very helpful. I live in a very warm climate. I often freeze pulses and beans overnight before putting in the pantry. Seems to kill any little unseen bugs.
That was fun and inspiring. Two things – 00 flour for homemade pasta and Rancho Gordo dried beans. Their bean club!
Here are the 145 oz jars, although it requires a $250 minimum purchase!
I think the link to the “everyday Dijon mustard” may be missing.
Thanks for this guide! Helpful tips here. And I appreciate the reminder of ways to contribute to organizations helping people who don’t have enough to eat. Thank you.
Pro tip: Costco sells jars of Better Than Boullion. I save the empty jars to store larger quantities of spices. I then discovered that pint-sized Talenti ice cream containers have lids that perfectly fit the bouillon jars. What I usually do is pair up the BetterThanBoullion glass jar with the Talenti lid (for spices), and then reserve the Talenti plastic jar with the BetterThan metal lid (for office supplies or to take meals to sick friends etc).
I saw you in an interview with David Lebovitz at the 92 St Y. You referred to a special mustard, Ancora? What is it, and where can I buy it?
Thanks for tweeting a link to this today — after a year of pandemic, I’m still trying to organize my kitchen. My mom taught me a great storage idea for bacon: take a long piece of waxed paper and lay a single piece of bacon on it width-wise. Then fold it over toward the rest of the paper, and put another piece of bacon on top. Keep doing this until you have a whole pack of bacon, stacked up neatly. Put it in a plastic bag and freeze. Then you can crack it off, slice by slice, as you need it. The waxed paper should just slide off — if it doesn’t, a brief rinse will unstick it. As empty-nesters, we take a loooong time to get through a pack of bacon — and this ensures that the bacon stays fresh until it’s gone.
I adore this post. I adore you!!
Cooking and reading and researching food, recipes and ingredients has been a surprising but very welcome (read: needed) distraction from all that is going on these days. Like many, I feel emotionally exhausted, and remain highly anxious. And, I often feel uninspired or unmotivated. That is, unless I’m thinking about food, or online window-shopping for cookware, or daydreaming about my fantasy kitchen.
This is a very helpful & timely post! Thank you so much!! I’ve been wanting to rearrange my cupboards and take inventory of my dry ingredients and plan a reorg & consider ways to reduce using too many single-use containers/packaging.
My favorite line:
“…but it will make a lot more sense for you to buy spices as you long for them in your food.”Probably them pay intuitive, and most straightforward advice I’ve ever heard/read when it comes to “kitchen things”!
Anyway, I do actually have a question…. lol…. do you buy spices in bulk? If so, what is your source? I’m thinking of buying more glass containers and trying to find as many spices as possible in bulk to fill them.
Also, do you recommend any fun, not necessarily recipe, books about anything food/cooking-related…..in addition to your books?
Thanks so much! Wishing you & your family good, healthy wishes!!
I don’t buy spices in bulk but I do buy larger bags (than would fit in the jars) of spices I seem to go through more often, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, ginger. Re, books about cooking: Let me think on it a little more.
Thank you for taking the time to respond. And thank you for sharing your recipes and tips & tricks!!
A.) Looking at the pictures of your fridge makes me feel seen. My hubs always complains that ours is far too full, but I’m happy that I’m not alone in my mania. Thank you.
B.) The BEST jars I’ve found for decanting large quantities of dry goods (e.g. flour, sugar, etc) are the large 1 gallon glass jars that bars/restaurants get their olives in. You’re in NYC with a gazillion of these establishments at your disposal – I’d recommend popping in for some takeout to support their biz and offering to take any empties off their hands!
Okay, so I’m a year late. But I just loved this post. Living in NYC and seeing your refrigerator gives me hope.
I’ve been using glass jars in my pantry for years (Trader Joe’s glass mayo jars make excellent containers!), and it’s the best method ever. I used to use masking tape for labels, but then I discovered Sharpie’s watercolor-based paint markers. These are wonderful! They come in all colors, but I usually use white (even with flour – it’s readable). You write with them right on the glass or plastic. And when the jar is empty and you wash it, the paint washes off and you can write a new label. I love mine so much, I bought an 8-pack of white markers on Amazon. :)
Can you share link for your favorite cooking tools/pans/etc? I can’t seem to find it. Thanks!
I don’t have a page for it yet, sorry. What are you looking for?
Your favorite non-stick skillet/saute pan, not cast iron. Thanks!
Currently, I have a few! I have this white one. Nonstick coating quality: medium, not amazing. It’s mostly good for photos and filming. ;) I have this one, too. Nonstick quality: perfect. It’s great for eggs, pancakes, crepes, tortillas, etc. And I have the smaller one of these, but might go ahead and get the larger too. It’s good because it holds more. Nonstick coating quality: I’d say better than the first one and less good than the second.
Hi Deb, I came to know your website from my daughters, and I love the way you write! And your recipes! I can relate to you and really appreciate your honest advice, and your occasional brand naming, and your honesty about storage and how certain foods keep well or don’t. Thank you for so many great ideas, and helping me become a better cook in my home.
Yikes! How big is your kitchen/pantry/fridge? I know that I have more than I need but my cabinets, pantry, cupboards, and fridge often feel unmanageable. How do you find what you’re looking for?
Thank you for your lists and recommendations. I’d love to try some of your recommendations but I’ve already outgrown my kitchen space.
My kitchen is very, very small!
Will you please come organize mine? 😂
Please think about buying a different brand than Goya. Very troubling with how they fund some of the worst politicians and social issues.
This is such a useful resource!
My favorite feta is Bulgarian too. So rich and creamy!
This may sound crazy, but I usually buy at least two kinds of feta when I go shopping. I’ll do a bit of domestic or Greek for things like salads, where I want the feta to stay chunky, and another Bulgarian when I want it to “melt” apart, like with pasta.
Very good and interesting article. Let me know more knowledge. Thanks
sữa cho trẻ táo bón
I have been following your recipes since the beginning! What a great list of kitchen staples! Every year I make your hazelnut chocolate thumbprint cookies. Today I’ve been searching your site for a good cabbage recipe, I think I might try the cabbage lime salad or roasted cabbage recipe – they both look amazing!
Just some notes as I was reading this amazing post. Have you tried rice bran oil for general cooking? It has a pleasant slightly nutty flavor and is great for high heat cooking.
We use mostly Kerrygold Irish butter and sometimes organic stick butter (Sonoma) because it’s easy to measure. Don’t bother with unsalted butter. Gets rancid. Nothing like a little salt for flavor.
Why frozen corn? Canned is much better, no mushy aftertaste.
Agree with you on Aleppo pepper and the Ball jars. I have some Ball jars that come in colors. Mine are purple and turquoise. Plastic replacements lids are easily available.
I share your love of sour cream and buttermilk. (Being part Russian) and I easily have more mustard than you! Keeps forever!
I 100% agree with your “I don’t believe in buttermilk expiration dates” stance. Unless it has obviously growing green mold, I use it until it’s gone.
Lar, from Once-A-Month Cooking, Freezer Meals on FB shared your link and photos of your beautiful pantry. I have subscribed to your site and YouTube and am looking forward to more happy cooking. I’m very close to 70 y/o and love to cook for that cookie monster Hubster, affectionately known as “Munch”. I’m always looking for new ideas and techniques, and recipes are always inviting me to try something new! I’m glad I found you! Cheers!
Longtime reader and fan, here. I was wondering if you’ve found a new solve for what jars to keep your flours and sugars in since you haven’t been able to find more Borgonovo? I use large Le Parfait canisters, but I’d like something bigger and with a wider mouth for easier access with measuring cups and whatnot.
I hope you’re doing well, and thank you for everything you do!
Thank you — hi! I have not. I sometimes find them in stock again, but mostly do not. Currently, I’d say these look really close but I cannot be 100% from the photo whether the opening is as wide as mine. (Mine just fit some slim 1-cup measure but not all.) This also looks close but, again, the neck looks more narrow.
Thank you for sharing. I always learn something from a person’s pantry organization. I would like to somehow save (not on pinterest) this list/document. Not sure if you’re able to make a version that’s downloadable/pdf. Just a suggestion/request.
I recently found your site! First off, what an engaging writer you are and I’m loving your site. I’m going to subscribe to your Utube channel too.
I have a small private FB site just for my family and close friends. I have 3 grown kids and 4 big grandkids now but ai love to cook and share my food.
Oh, I think I’m buying the jars you use for my pantry. They look so neat. My pantry needs organizing!
Did you ever find a new solution for storing flours?
I need to expand my container solutions!
I store flours in the 5 liter Fido jars from Crate & Barrel outlet. Not sure how they compare to your favorites but they hold a bag of flour so they work for me. My oval shaped measuring cups fit in the mouth tho I also bought scoops to live in the jars – and try to take the time to scoop and level rather than scoop with the cup measure :)
Stumbled on this post by clicking through from another one – I had to comment when I noticed that you wouldn’t tell us how many types of mustard you have in your fridge. Currently, I have 8 varieties in mine, and I actually need at least one more because I don’t have any hot Chinese mustard at the moment. Does that make you feel better?
I would like to know where I can purchase one of the glass storage containers
that I saw in your spice cupboard. It looks like one of my Libby spice jars on
steroids (guessing that it’s 6 or 8 oz.). Yours is holding 00 flour i.e. farina.
I bought it over a decade ago and haven’t seen it since, unfortunately. Same brand, different size. It’s not listed on their site.
Well, I’m late to this party. Is it over? Even if it is, thank you for this! I especially thank you for the photos of your fridge contents. I must now stop whinging about how difficult it is to live with a small fridge and pantry. I just completely redid the spice drawer after many years of good intentions. It gives me a ridiculous amount of satisfaction.
Now, next question, I listened to an interview with you and you said you keep your counter tops clear (and can’t cook unless they are). Also, that you have a small kitchen. Where do you keep the mixer, the kettle, large canisters of flour, sugar, etc? By what magic do you manage this and where do I buy the magic wand?
Love your recipes. Bought the book.
Thank you! Sugar and flour are in the cabinet. My counter is a cart with shelf space underneath. I have some appliances there. Lesser used one are in a hall closet. The biggest outcome of having to heave up the Kitchen Aid to use it is that I’ve realized I can make most things with just a handmixer that takes up less space.
This post has been open on my computer since the day I received it… finally I read it this morning. LOVE IT. As I am practically a hoarder and love pantry items so much, I have 95% of the items you list. What I do not have is all of the storage knowledge- preserved lemon paste… WHAT??!!
Thank you for this resource. My only wish would be to see it in a check list format!!