Est. 2011

February 7, 2018

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Pantry Essentials and How to Organize Your Pantry

Update: I wrote lots more about the idea of A Capsule Kitchen and put together a free download to help you apply this concept to your kitchen! Read about A Capsule Kitchen here, and grab the checklist to help you curate the essentials in your minimalist kitchen!

I’m so excited to be writing about pantry essentials today! I’ve been wanting to write about this subject for a while now, and finally got around to compiling my thoughts, talking to others about their pantry essentials, and actually organizing, reorganizing, and reorganizing again my own pantry.

When Joe and I were first married, I called my mom for a few of her go-to recipes that I wanted to make those first few weeks of marriage. I quickly realized my pantry lacked the essentials that my mom’s pantry always had, items I had just taken for granted. I didn’t even know WHAT I needed, exactly, I just knew that it desperately needed to be stocked with ALL. THE. THINGS. I had no spices, no baking supplies, no oils or vinegars, no dry goods. You get the picture.

I learned that a well-stocked pantry, like an intentional wardrobe or a well-decorated home, takes time to establish. It’s built by slowly adding layers. If you’re just starting a home, or a pantry for the first time, you’ll soon figure out what exactly it is that you’ll need. You’ll learn the things you cannot live without, day-to-day, and the items that you want to have on hand, just in case. Your dietary needs or wants might also impact what you consider essentials.

I don’t think it’s necessary to build your pantry all at once. Rather, slowly make – or buy – the things that you need. Eventually you will have a prepared, but not superfluous, pantry. Even if you’re not just starting out, this post is aimed to help you. To help you discover what you have, assess if you need to keep it, make things pretty, and stay organized. Let’s reclaim your pantry!

I’ve compiled my personal top ten pantry essentials, as well as a more comprehensive list for “the prepared capsule pantry.” Having a well-stocked (but not ridiculous large) pantry will make your life in the kitchen easier and more efficient (no last minute grocery runs for cornstarch). It will also make your life less stressful and help you embrace easy entertaining.

My go-to dinner party appetizer, or a friend-just-stopped-by-and-there’s-nothing-in-the-house offering is an abundant cheese spread. And abundant doesn’t have to mean expensive; for me, this just means full and not lacking anything. And not lacking anything doesn’t literally mean everything. It just means your cheese board has a combination of the necessities, pulled straight from your pantry: jams and honey, nuts and seeds, something pickled, olives, crackers, dried and/or fresh fruit, and whatever cheeses you have in the fridge. This is effortless perfection in my book. Bonus points if you have a loaf of freshly baked homemade bread to add to the spread. Add to it all some wine, and you’ll be seriously #winning.

Being prepared with a well-stocked pantry is the key to easy entertaining. Well prepared starts with knowing what you have and where it is: organization!

HOW TO ORGANIZE YOUR PANTRY

1. Empty it and clean the shelves.
2. Sort items into “categories.” See categories below.
3. Examine everything before putting it back. Is it expired? If so, and if the expiration date is important, toss it. Have you needed it in the last 6 months? If not, consider giving it to a friend who may use it. Is it a specialty ingredient you bought for a recipe you have since decided against? If so, consider giving it to a friend who may use it.
4. Put dry goods into glass storage containers. For me, this one is huge. Having a beautiful pantry brings me joy every time I open it, and helps me keep it organized. It’s easier to see when you’re running low on items, too. I linked to the glass containers I have at the very bottom of this post.
5. Label items in glass containers. I chose not to label mine, because I wanted a cleaner look. But something as simple as masking tape and a black sharpie would work well.
6. Place items back into pantry in a way that makes sense. I put them back by category and keep the categories together. I put the items I use the most frequently at the front.
7. Maintain, maintain, maintain. The older I get (ha!), the more I realize that the key to having a tidy home/closet/bedroom(still working on this one)/pantry/etc. is maintenance. Don’t let things get out of hand. Keep sorting through, getting rid of things you rarely or never use. I have gone through our pantry 3 times in the last 6 months, and I’m still pairing down. It’s like a capsule wardrobe, only a capsule pantry. It might take time to learn what your your personal essentials are, but once you have it nailed down, it will make your life so much easier.
8. If buying in bulk is too expensive OR you don’t have room in your pantry (two very real realities), try finding a friend who can split purchases with you!

PANTRY ESSENTIALS – CATEGORIES
To keep your pantry organized, sort & store items into the following categories:

  • Oils, Vinegars, Sauces
  • Dry Goods
  • Baking
  • Canned and Prepared
  • Herbs and Spices


PANTRY ESSENTIALS

And now, without further ado, here are the actual “pantry essentials” items. I start with Rebecca’s 10 Can’t-Kitchen-Without and then beyond that is a comprehensive list of Capsule Pantry Essentials. I asked my Facebook and Instagram friends for their pantry essentials, and I’m really happy with this list! I turned this list into a pretty, handy-dandy little pdf for you to print and use for all your pantry organization and updating needs!

PANTRY ESSENTIALS – REBECCA’S 10 CAN’T-KITCHEN-WITHOUT 

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Chicken stock
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Whole wheat pasta / Light brown rice
  • Onions / Garlic
  • Beans, usually black or garbanzo
  • Tomatoes, usually sauce and diced
  • Active dry yeast
  • Flour
  • Old fashioned oats


CAPSULE PANTRY ESSENTIALS – OILS, VINEGARS, SAUCES

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • White wine vinegar
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Mayonnaise
  • Dijon mustard
  • Hot sauce, usually Cholula


CAPSULE PANTRY ESSENTIALS – DRY GOODS

  • Beans, either dry or canned, usually black, cannellini, garbanzo
  • Lentils
  • Grains, usually quinoa, light brown rice
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Potatoes / Sweet potatoes
  • Oats, usually old fashioned, steel cut
  • Nuts, usually pecans, walnuts, almonds
  • Seeds, usually flax, chia, pumpkin, hemp hearts
  • Granola
  • Popcorn kernels
  • Dried fruit, usually cranberries, raisins, apricots, dates


CAPSULE PANTRY ESSENTIALS – BAKING

  • Flours, usually whole wheat, white
  • Baking soda
  • Baking powder
  • Sugars, usually white, brown, confectioners
  • Active dry yeast
  • Cornmeal
  • Cornstarch
  • Vanilla extract
  • Cocoa powder
  • Chocolate chips


CAPSULE PANTRY ESSENTIALS – CANNED & PREPARED

  • Olives
  • Pickled things, usually okra, dilly beans, pickles
  • Canned meat, usually solid white tuna fish, wild Atlantic salmon
  • Organic chicken stock
  • Tomato products, usually diced, whole, paste
  • Pasta sauce
  • Coconut milk
  • Pumpkin puree
  • Jam / Jelly
  • Raw honey
  • Real maple syrup
  • Peanut (or other nut) butter
  • Tea, usually herbal, black, green
  • Coffee


CAPSULE PANTRY ESSENTIALS – HERBS & SPICES

  • Turmeric
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Ginger
  • Cumin
  • Crushed red pepper
  • Chili powder
  • Garlic powder
  • Curry powder
  • Flaky sea salt
  • Black peppercorns
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Herbs de provence sea salt
  • Nutritional yeast

 

What would you add to these lists? I’d love to hear your top 5-10 items and if you think I’ve left off anything essential!

Here are the links for the glass food storage canisters I used:

 

Update: I wrote lots more about the idea of A Capsule Kitchen and put together a free download to help you apply this concept to your kitchen! Read about A Capsule Kitchen here, and grab the checklist to help you curate the essentials in your minimalist kitchen!

*This post has affiliate links, meaning if you choose to buy something, I will make a small percentage of the sale so I can continue to write and support my family (at no extra cost to you). It would mean the world to me if you like an item you see, to purchase it directly through my link.

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  1. Sophie

    February 8th, 2018 at 2:49 am

    It looks beautiful and I am big on having my pantry organised too, one thing though for the sake of other people using your pantry- you could always label one side of the container and have it turned away, or stick a label on the base. That way in 3 months when you’re not sure whether it’s plain or self-raising flour you have you can check without sacrificing aesthetics.

  2. Rebecca

    February 8th, 2018 at 4:06 am

    So true! I haven’t put my baking ingredients in glass canisters yet, but when I do I will use labels so flours/etc. don’t get confused! Love your side of “hiding” the labels, too!

  3. Ellie

    February 8th, 2018 at 3:20 am

    This post inspires me, particularly your go-to party appetizer! What a wonderful idea. May I ask where your sweater is from?

  4. Rebecca

    February 8th, 2018 at 4:06 am

    Thank you so much! <3 My sweater is from H&m!

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