Thursday, November 3, 2016

Homekeeping 101 - The Pantry

I'm going to start this post with some lovely photos of Autumnal beauty. The golden maple outside our front porch as I mowed the lawn for the last time this year on a sunny 73 degree day...
 These darling sunflowers my sweetheart had waiting for me after a weekend trip away to visit my precious daughter, Lauren, in Pennsylvania...Love!  Ok, now for the not beautiful part.  You may have noticed the name of this post. Homekeeping 101 - The Pantry.  It turns out that my daughter has some friends who would like me to do some posts on some of the things I have learned over the years on that subject.  I'm sure we can all look back and come to the conclusion that we have learned a LOT since those first few years of marriage and learning to manage our own homes! So, I promised to do a series on some of those things. Meal planning, keeping a pantry, easy meals with basic ingredients.  The next photo is not so pinterest worthy as the first two, unless it's as an example of a "before" remodeling project. I can't believe I'm putting it up here but for all it's ugliness, it is one of the hardest working areas in our home and you've been my friends a loooong time:)
 I present to you the dungeon,, er, basement pantry.  Yeah, it's in an unfinished basement circa 1945.  In the 35 years we have lived here it has had a few minor water issues so it is just not feasible to finish it.  Earl built these shelves years and years ago and as much as I hate how they look, I love how they work!
Excuse the board leaning against the wall in this photo. It was left there by the chief woodworker and head of building projects in this house. Aka, Earl.
This pantry saves us loads of money in so many ways.

First, when we see an item that we use regularly on a deep discount we can stock up.  We do rotate and put newer items to the back to keep things fresh. Let me tell you, this is like having a mini grocery store in our basement. 

Secondly, when I'm in the middle of baking and run out of flour, sugar, commonly used spices or extracts, I don't have to go to the store, I go to the basement.  This is especially nice in the winter.  It not only saves gas, but it keeps you from going into a store and picking up all those things that catch your eye that weren't really on your list.

Third, when everyone else is standing in line buying emergency supplies for that big Michigan winter storm, I'm snug on the sofa with a hot cuppa, reading a book.  I know I'm stocked with essentials.

I think the best things to stock in your pantry are  the basics of every day cooking. I know I've seen lists in magazines that made me scratch my head in wonder for all the strange oils, condiments and ingredients that I have never in my life used. Start with what you use most!  Canned broths, tomato products, (crushed, sauce, paste), pasta sauce and pasta, beans, and home canned fruits, vegetables and jams, basic oils like sunflower and vegetable oil, ketchup, mustard and mayo, baking essentials like flour, sugar (white and brown) salt, soda, baking powder, cocoa , and your most used spices. Don't forget vanilla, wines and liqueurs for flavoring your cooking. We don't drink, but we cook with wine, and the liqueurs are often used in holiday baking as a flavoring.

We have a shelf for paper plates, cups and plastic utensils, a shelf for foil, saran wrap and sandwich and freezer bags. 

If you are just starting a pantry don't expect to fill it all at once.  Pick up a few items every time you shop. Yes, at first it may stretch your budget, but as you build up a good selection of regularly used items you will find that you have the freedom to buy when they are on sale rather than when you need them immediately.  You will also find that, if you have it stocked properly, you can throw together soups, chili, and a lot of other easy and low cost meals just by shopping the pantry. 

Earl and I often bake and cook for large groups of people.  We shop the after Christmas sales for really great prices on chocolate chips (I have gotten name brand for 69 cents a bag!), nuts, dried cherries and craisins, and other dried fruits.  We use these throughout the year to add flavor and a little something extra to our baking.  Keep an eye open for great baking deals as the Christmas baking season approaches, but most of the above items show up in deep discounts in January when the stores need to get rid of the leftovers.  Be prepared to buy in bulk. When you get nestle chocolate chips at 75% off you can stock up for the year! They keep just fine.

I know a lot of my readers don't need this advice, but I bet you have some great advice to give! Do you keep a pantry? What do you keep in it?  Lets leave some great homekeeping tips for the next generation!


  1. Kathleen;
    After 48 years of marriage - I finally have a large enough pantry off the kitchen. I feel so blessed. Before, I had a tiny one and used the basement. I had to stay on top of the spiders, etc. Your ladder going down would be a bit of a challenge but the overall look is very charming!

  2. Hi Bernideen! A ladder would be a challenge! That piece of wood on the left side is just an extra piece stored there by my husband. He uses the other side of the basement for woodworking projects :)

  3. Oh the glory of that maple! Thank you, thank you. I knew that my blogging buds would come through.

    Pantries. I love looking at them. They make me feel warm and cozy. I used to have one in the basement (and still keep some things down there), but climbing those stairs while balancing laundry AND cans...too daunting, Just yesterday, I was thinking that if I did some reorganizing I could have a larger upstairs pantry. That would mean packing John's clothes and giving them away. Nope. No way. Not ready for that step yet. Besides, I do not need too much of a pantry these days and, further, I may need an excuse to get out of the house.

    I am so impressed with these young women who want to learn more about keeping a pantry. I did not know that they existed anymore!

  4. This, my dear Kathy, is a fabulous post...and your pantry is NOTHING to be ashamed of. It's a wonderful, large and workable pantry and that's something every woman in the world dreams of...
    I do the same on stocking up...and I buy lots of flour and things that can go into the freezer to keep them fresh...even cho chips...great post !

  5. This is such a great post! I had thought about doing one like this for a while when I had my cooking blog. I keep about the same things as you as staples in my pantry. I also seem to always have leftovers in the freezer in serving for two size containers, because when I cook I usually cook enough for a couple of meals. As we are getting ready to move I have been to the store less and less and my pantry and freezer more and more to clean things out for the move.

    Your maple tree is beautiful!

  6. Wow, I wouldn't be ashamed of your pantry either, it is chock full of goodness. Great informative, and encouraging post.


  7. Your pantry is wonderful and your advice is something everyone needs to hear. It took me years to learn that and now having food stockpiled to some extent gives me comfort. For the last several weeks, well really two months, we've been eating our stockpile to keep from having to move it all. I'll start over at the new place. Sharing on Facebook. ;)

  8. Gosh, I would love to have your pantry and then I started thinking, well, why couldn't I? I have a basement. I have shelves. Thanks for the good idea and realization that I don't need to have a pantry off the kitchen and it will be a lot easier to go to the basement than the store.

  9. I dont have a pantry but a storage and I have two bins I keep extras in and one shelve.. I don't cook as much like I did before... So its a lot of veggies brown rice chicken fish.. But I do keep a few things for when kids come visit etc... Your pantry looks pretty good to me and I think its a great idea and wonderful that you shared it... Have a lovely evening with love Janice

  10. Hi Kathy -- I don't have a pantry as such (like yours) but I do have storage in my cupboards and like you, there are certain things I stock up on. Butter (freezer), nuts, certain kinds of canned goods like crushed tomatoes, artichoke hearts, baking things, stock/broth, pasta and such. Most times I could be snowed in. I don't have an external freezer but in the fridge freezer there is always frozen shrimp (always!), hot sausage and at least one or two meat things that could easily be defrosted. Given the come-and-go of kitchen moths that finally seem under control, I don't overbuy flour or dry things, but there's always something. I love your idea of shelves in the basement. I might have to think on that one!

  11. Hey it works and that's what counts. I have no storage space at all for food. I'm jealous.

  12. I have what I call my 'overflow' pantry - a big cabinet in the garage that works much the way your basement pantry does. It's so handy to discover that I have the very thing I need out there. This is a great post. I have a 'new' pantry in my kitchen since we made some changes in there a year ago. Guess I should share that on my blog, shouldn't I?

  13. I have lived in the two smallest cottages and yet for some reason they both have had full pantries in the kitchen. Strange...or maybe not since the homes were both built in the 1920's. I love your charming space...and it works! Fabulous!

  14. I do keep a pantry, mine is in the basement too! I do have a free standing cupboard next to my stove that I use for items that are used daily, but the rest is downstairs. Not super convenient but workable.

    I agree with you too, about only buying items you and your family use and will eat. It is great to been stocked up on items and not have to go out before a storm hits etc...

  15. We have a basement pantry too! My husband always says the next house we purchase will be one level because I'm always asking "are you going to the basement?" so he can carry down things for the pantry or bring something up for the kitchen pantry. I did recently start a list that I keep upstairs of what is in the basement pantry, after twice purchasing something I forgot I had stored down there.

  16. What a beautiful maple tree...we have several on our lot. Our pantry is in the cellar too...and have a great space to keep extras. We could feed ourselves for a week on our pantry and where my cooking stuff is kept. Don't know what I'd do with out it sounds like you couldn't either.

  17. I love this picture of your pretty home! Beautiful in fall and every other season, I'm sure.

    I'm glad you wrote about your pantry and how and what you keep stocked. I have open shelves at the lake in the kitchen (filled with dishes and glassware) and most of my pots, pans and small appliances take up the space in the lower cabinets. We have a closet just around the corner in the hall off the kitchen and we never used it. I had our carpenter add four shelves and we now have a pantry. I like that you said not to worry bout filling it right away. I think we will get the feel for what we need as time goes along. I don't bake much there but I do indeed need to stock up on condiments and paper products for summer.

    Thanks so much, Kathy!



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