Last Saturday morning, I cleaned the pantry. The whole process took three hours–the same number of years it had been since we moved into this apartment and stocked the pantry. Yes, I found some really old spices back there.
Anyway, I’m not here to share organizational tips, and you wouldn’t want them from me–I’m really disorganized. (Actually, one tip: if you decide that pouring grains into jars is the answer, label the containers with the contents and the cooking instructions.) The fact is, you may not really need pantry organizing tips at all.
Here’s why: the contents of your pantry matter more than its appearance.
As I cleaned, I discovered that my messy pantry was surprisingly edited, even for someone who experiments with new ingredients more than most. Over the years, I had subconsciously pared down my regular shopping list to the staples that made sense for our diet and lifestyle. That kept us stocked in food we love, rather than foods we wanted to eat or thought we should be eating, which meant that even the forgotten baggies in the back weren’t foods we hate. Our set of pantry goods was logical, even before it looked that way (notice, I’m not sharing a before picture).
In other words, the peanut butter, oil, and white rice that we always have on hand can turn into BGSK peanut sauce, which we’d always rather eat than order take-out. The stuff I don’t really like to cook or eat? We just stopped buying it.
So while I’m happy that my molasses is no longer dripping onto the neighboring bottle of fish sauce and that 16 bottles of stale curry powder don’t lay claim to cabinet real estate anymore, the cleanse led me to a greater realization than the importance of cleanliness or labeling or shelf liners: that stocking the pantry with foods that you like and eat at least somewhat often is the most important act you can do for your home-cooking success.
What are the essentials in your pantry, and what’s your greatest pantry challenge?
P.S. If you do want some guidelines: here’s a classic post on how to stock your pantry.