Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Proper Pantry

I know people are really busy these days, but I think it's really important to make time in life for baking cookies. Or bread.  Or bars.  Or really just cooking in general.  So many people think they're too busy to bake cookies, but I think that with a properly organized pantry, it doesn't take more than 5-10 minutes of actual work to pull a couple dozen cookies out of the oven.

Remember the old study that showed that using a boxed mix isn't any faster than baking from scratch?  Sometimes just the perception of something being time-consuming can keep you from doing it.  Sure, baking cookies takes longer than opening a package of Oreos.  But it's only a few minutes and the taste is SO much better.  Not to mention, home-baked whole grain, naturally sweetened cookies with actual dark chocolate, fruit and nuts are a heck of a lot healthier.  

As long as you have all of the ingredients you need and are able to read a recipe, you can bake a little something.  But finding all the ingredients you need is pretty critical.  If it's hard to find the baking soda and the chocolate chips are hidden, baking becomes a chore.  This is where having an organized pantry comes in.

I'm a big fan of organizing things in jars (what?  you hadn't noticed?).  And I'm an even bigger fan of using a label-maker in conjunction with said jars.  This, paired with logical placement of the baking ingredients on the pantry shelf makes whipping up some cookies no big deal.

I recommend grouping your ingredients as they are found in recipes rather than alphabetically.  So my dry baking ingredients are together (baking powder, sugar, cocoa, xanthan gum), my liquid sweeteners are together  (agave, stevia, brown rice syrup, etc.) and my flours are together (millet, tapioca, wheat, pastry, etc.).  Spices are grouped similarly, but then alphabetized within each group.

Stocking Up
It's also important not to run out of your baking staples.  I like to know that on any given day I have the ingredients make nearly any basic baked good: gluten free chocolate chip cookies, a loaf of whole wheat bread, biscuits, cornbread, etc.  Sure, this required extra attention when making my grocery list- But it's pretty easy if you use a grocery list template!  

My list template is an Excel spreadsheet of all the staple grocery store items I never want to run out of.  There's a column for us to check off when we use the last of something.  This means that everyone in the family is responsible for adding to the list as they use the last of foods.  Then when it's time to shop, I just grab the list, do a quick check and then head to the co-op!  Everyone's list is different, but just send me an email if you'd like my copy to use as a starting point for creating your own.  

My guess is that if you're still reading this, you're either already doing most of these things yourself and this is making perfect sense or you're concerned about my sanity for caring so much about the organization of my pantry.  But I promise that it helps make cooking and baking so much faster and easier if you organize things and always keep the staples in stock.  And anything that enables me to bake two dozen Chocolate Trail Mix Cookies (when it was parent-teacher conference night, I had to work until after 7pm and still hadn't made my dinner at 8pm) is worth it.  


Catherine said...

I covet your label maker.

Anonymous said...

I would love a copy of your spreadsheet....but can't email you for some reason! ckgato@yahoo.com

Jackie Smith (the other one) said...

This makes perfect sense to me! Have you seen the "Other People's Pantries" series on The Perfect Pantry? It's not a vegan blog, but I do love peeking into other people's pantries (and, in a new series, other people's markets). It's fun! http://www.theperfectpantry.com/other_peoples_pantries/

Callie said...

Great ideas! And I'm going to try your Bean and Sausage stew. Thank you!

Kris said...

Spreadsheets, lists, whatever you can do to get yourself more organized in the kitchen is a good thing. I have a list of what's in my freezer so I don't have to do a pull-it-all-out style inventory. And as long as I remember to cross things off when I use them, I'm golden (although apparently around the time of my move, a few weeks ago, I lapsed, resulting in an unhappy finding of no cooked white beans last night).

Anonymous said...

I love this! Organizing my pantry is one of my favorite activites. So far I've just made lists on paper with a pen. Love the idea of a spreadsheet!

Pearl said...

I do like an organized kitchen. spices in alphabetical order, for example.

Evan said...

Ah, I need to get my pantry organized... Thanks for the tips!

I've written a similar article on my vegetarian site! Would love for you to stop by and check it out.