Here is a list of 9 things I do to meal prep, my favorite pantry staples and tips to stay organized.
Here are 9 tips and tricks to keep my kitchen well organized so preparing meals, snacks and cocktails is always a breeze. Scroll down for PANTRY STAPLES, recipes and more:
1. The Well Stocked Pantry:
Items recommended for your pantry –
Keep these items on hand so dishes with just about any flavor profile or baking up a batch of cookies or quick bread anytime for a friend is a breeze.
- Don’t Kick the can: Capers, green and black olives, sun-dried tomatoes in oil, water chestnuts, chickpeas, red and white beans, canned Italian tuna in oil, canned tomatoes & chopped green chilies and jarred marinated artichokes
- Salts and peppers– Kosher, sea salt, flaked salt, smoked flaked salt and ionized salt, peppercorns, white pepper and ground pepper
- Oils & vinegars– Extra virgin olive oil- keep a premium brand for vinaigrettes and a discount brand for sautéing, PLUS-sesame oil, chili oil and vegetable oil. I also always have apple cider vinegar, rice wine vinegar, red white vinegar and balsamic vinegar on hand- they have an almost indefinite shelf life so it’s smart to stock up on these.
- Ground Spices & Extracts– cumin, smoked paprika, garlic salt, Italian seasonings, oregano, turmeric, crushed red chili flakes, cinnamon, cloves, vanilla beans and vanilla extract or paste, lemon extract. Replace dried spices annually.
- Whole spices– Cardamom, nutmeg, mustard seed
- Condiments, sauces & More– Better than Bouillon, Soy sauce or tamari, Worcestershire sauce, dijon and brown mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup, sriracha
- Baking must haves: Honey, maple syrup, jam, light brown, confectioners and granulated sugars. All purpose flour and almond flour (I keep this in my freezer), chocolate chips, raisins, dutch processed cocoa, coffee beans, tea. Baking soda, baking powder, corn starch and Cream of Tartar- check those expiration dates.
- Grains & Pasta: Old fashioned oats, Basmati, Jasmine or Wild rice, risotto, orzo, quinoa, soba noodles
- Various crackers– rice crackers, fruit and nut crackers, water crackers with cracked pepper, dried popcorn for quick snacks. Never buy microwave popcorn- it’s full of chemicals.
2. Keep it cold- refrigerator and freezer must haves
I try to keep these items on hand as well. Living in rural Montana, quick trips to the grocery store are no easy thing in the winter, so we try and keep the freezer well stocked. I recommend the following:
- Frozen chicken, ground beef and shrimp
- Eggs- Keep in the coldest part of the fridge.
- Frozen peas & chopped spinach- Here is a great recipe using frozen spinach
- Nuts: walnuts, pecans, almonds pumpkins seeds, chia seeds are always kept in our freezer. The oils in nuts cause them to go rancid very quickly.
- Whole garlic, lemons, limes, onions, bell peppers, carrots and celery
- Feta, goat, parmesan and cheddar cheeses for salads and quick charcuterie trays when we don’t feel like making dinner
- Dairy items- plain full fat greek yogurt ( I almost never buy sour cream anymore as yogurt makes a healthier substitute), heavy whipping cream, oat milk. Butter is always in the freezer.
- Frozen wild blueberries. Try this blueberry tea cake– a perfect snack.
3. The Bar
Even if you are not a big drinker or wine enthusiast, it’s always a smart plan to have these basics for when company pops by.
- Basic wines to hand on hand- a good bottle of chilled champagne, a pinot noir, California Cabernet Sauvignon, sauvignon blanc and a chardonnay.
- Vodka, gin, bourbon, light rum and dark rum, tequila
4. Bar Essentials and Mixers
For more serious mixologists, add these to your bar:
- Bitters and shrubs
- Sparkling water, tonic water, club soda
- Grenadine and simple syrup
- Chambord, VSOP Brandy, ginger ale, ginger beer and flavors tonics
- Jigger, corkscrew, martini shaker and ice molds
5. Essential barware
This list of glassware will get you through almost any gathering. More folks are downsizing so tag sales, estates sales, auctions and thrift shops are becoming a great place to find all the glassware you will ever need.
- Water glasses- these can double for highballs like mojitos
- Wine glasses
- Double old fashioned glasses- for whiskey sours and rocks
- Highball & collins glasses-
- Martini glasses- these seem to break all the time
- Champagne flutes or coupes – there is nothing more elegant than a tall flute filled with golden bubbles . Here is my favorite coupe to purchase- makes a great gift.
- Cordials or sherry glasses- a little dram or sip of cognac after dinner is a thing- trust me.
6. The 2 Kitchen items I use everyday:
- Parchment paper- Here is the brand I prefer. It saves me so much time cleaning up. I go through boxes and boxes of it. Buy the pre cut flat sheets, not the stuff on a roll.
- Silpat liners- just as amazing as parchment, but requires the tiniest bit of clean up. Here is where to buy.
7. The milk frother- how did we live without it?
8. Cleaning items I use daily:
- White terrycloth bar towels- I keep these small towels tucked into my apron as I cook
- Thick dish towels
- Dawn dish soap
- SOS pads
- counter spray
- mineral oil for wood cutting boards
- thick bristle scrubbers
- Scrub Daddy Sponges
9. Meal Prepping Tips
These are the items I prep for the quickest dinners and lunches
- As soon as you get home from the market: Wash all your greens, chop and pop into a container lined with a dry paper towel. You won’t believe how having greens ready to eat will increase how many salads you will enjoy with every meal. Keep kale, spinach and salad greens in the same container.
- Chop two onions for the week. Having chopped onions is a huge time saver. I also will chop peppers- just saves so much time to do it all in batches.
- Peel your garlic– Is there anything worse than peeling garlic? Maybe using that jarred garlic mess? Peel a few cloves, throw them in the fridge.
- Wash and Store tomatoes with a piece of tape over the stem end. Research shows tomatoes last longer when left at room temperature with a small piece of tape over the end. The tape prohibits oxygen from ripening the fruit.
- Don’t bother with bananas. Tired of bananas turning brown a day after your bring them home? Peel them as soon as you get home and pop into freezer bags. Make smoothies, overnight oats or quick breads anytime. No bugs. No more brown bananas.
- Compost! Are you composting yet? You should be! Stop tossing food waste in the trash. Your trash can be turned into great topsoil for farmers, gardeners and stay out of our landfills and ground water. Here is a list of compost companies across the US. I pay $27. 00 per month and our foods scraps are picked up right from our front door every week. They even provide a large 5 gallon bucket for food scraps. Read my blog post about composting HERE. I use Dirt Rich and in Florida- O- Town Compost.
- This is my favorite countertop compost bin.