How to Stock Your Pantry & Freezer to Maximize Your Menu & Minimize Food Waste

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We live in the middle of nowhere and I love to cook. Running to the store for me is a huge ordeal, it is at least 40 minutes to get there and back, plus that is if they have what I need at our local grocery store. So when I come to Wichita, I need to make a big grocery trip and get all-the-things so I can keep a very stocked pantry, fridge and freezer.

Obviously I have daily meals to make, but it is also good to have things on hand should I not have time to make it to the store for a week or so, or have to throw together a dinner party, brunch for a meeting, casserole for a friend or treats for school.

I don’t think of myself of a great cook – but I sure love it and read cookbooks in my spare time (as if I have any of that!). Baking is by far my favorite, in large part due to my husband’s sweet tooth and my love affair with bread. It has taken a long time for me to figure out what I need to have in “stock” all the time that we will actually use and not have food waste. No  matter what your thoughts are on what your family should or should not eat, eating at home is best and if you can figure out even a few easy recipes, you won’t even be stressed!

I have found that these are my necessities:

 Freezer

  • Meats – hamburger and also chicken breasts, pork tenderloin, and roasts

**Meats last for up to a year in the freezer – buy on sale and have a stock! Lots of beef!

  • Frozen Veggies – So wonderful during the cold months, but also great for soups and casseroles too
  • Frozen Fruits – whenever fruit is getting ‘sad’ I put it in baggies and throw it in the freezer to later use for smoothies or a cobbler
  • Chips and crackers – it sounds weird, but it actually makes them last longer and it seems like having a box (or 12) of crackers and a few bags of tortilla chips come in handy often
  • Dairy – butter and cheese both freeze. I don’t use much pre-shredded cheese but I do keep some in my freezer for the occasional mac and cheese for the kiddos.
  • Nuts – yep, keep a stock of these in the freezer too

  Pantry

  • Variety of pasta & noodles – different shapes for different sauces (or more likely what my kids request that day)
  • Canned veggies, beans and soups – great for soups and casseroles always have a lot of tomatoes in a variety of ways great for sauces
  • Cereals – not just for breakfast! Good in cookies and who doesn’t love a Rice Krispie treat? And don’t forget about oatmeal
  • Marshmallows (see above)
  • Chocolate – chips and baking bars
  • Baking necessities – Flour (always Hudson Cream Flour –it’s made in Kansas and amazing!), sugar – powdered, granulated and brown, baking soda and powder, corn starch, kosher salt, cocoa
  • Stocks – Chicken and Beef
  • Oils – Veggie & Olive (but there are tons of others I use) and Vinegars – balsamic, cider and white
  • Onions, potatoes, rice          

  Fridge

  • Cheeses – last a very long time in the fridge. Having a variety on hand including bleu cheese, goat cheese, cheddar, Parmesan and Monterey jack give you a good base for salads, Mexican dishes and pastas
  • Milk & eggs
  • Fresh veggies – lettuce, green onions, cucumbers, carrots and celery. They actually last quite a while in the fridge (as do avocados!)
  • Butter – salted and unsalted and lots of it, because butter is EVERYTHING!
  • Garlic – I love the pre minced garlic – what a time saver!

Keep on Counter

  • Tomatoes
  • Apples
  • Lemons and limes – love to have for a freshness to salad, sauce or dessert and also great in a much needed cocktail last longer in the fridge but love them in a vase on the counter

Most importantly is finding what works for your family and making a few changes on occasion keeps things fresh so things don’t get boring. When it comes to the kiddos, I know they would prefer to have spaghetti every night so mixing it up is purely for us!

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Jamie lives outside of Eureka on a cattle ranch with her favorites...husband, Diltz, and their three kiddos, Sydney (10), Henry (8) and Charlie (6). Works at Krehbiel Architecture in Wichita and spends quite a bit of time in her hometown working, playing, and volunteering. At home in Eureka, she is overly involved too...working with the community for revitalization and always enjoys encouraging people to learn how their food really gets to their plate as an advocate of agriculture through her Day at the Ranch tour, You Are Here agriculture education program and Greenwood County Cattlewomen social media outlets.