With the USDA’s recently updated food graphic and dietary guidelines, we’re leaving behind the food pyramid that many of us learned about in grade school.
One thing we didn’t really learn way back then, and still isn’t addressed in the guidelines, was what to keep in the pantry. We’re in the midst of a food renaissance of sorts, and it’s fashionable, but not always practical to shop local, fresh, and often for the larger portions of veggies, fruits and grains that the government advocates. Here’s how to outfit your pantry so you can always have nutritious basics or entire meals that taste good on hand.
Pantry Twelve Commandments
- Keep whole wheat rolls, pasta, and brown rice on hand for a quick and healthy side dish for any type of meal. Couscous and polenta are also easy to store and easy to fix staples that fulfill the grain “wedge” of the plate.
- Avoid storing non-food items, like cleaners, light bulbs, plastic storage containers, in the pantry. If you must, assign them their own shelf. These items just become clutter, and you really want to see your foods clearly so you can prepare them easily.
- Store all food items together in a pantry or in cabinets that are close to the food prep area.
- Keep similar items together. By doing this, you are more likely to use items before they expire. You’ll also be less likely to over buy the same items at the store.
- When putting groceries away, put newer items behind older items of the same type. Use the FIFO (first in, first out) rule.
- Eat down to the shelves twice a year. Do the same with the freezer. See how creative you can be with your combinations. Stop buying items you never actually eat, regardless of their health claims.
- Store small quantities of opened items or small items like sauce packets in clear containers, jars, or baskets. Re-use empty glass jars, like those from spaghetti sauce, to store small quantities of crackers, nuts, dried beans, and rice.
- Use risers to allow visibility to cans near the back of the shelf. Canned beans are a great way to introduce veggie-based protein into your diet. Canned meats can be an economical source of protein for use in soups and veggie-based dishes.
- Use rolling carts to make items on the floor easier to corral and access.
- Adjust shelf positions if needed, and add rolling shelves for too-deep or hard-to-access shelves.
- Use lazy-susans to make full use of corners or high shelves.
- If you want help in the kitchen, label shelves so others know where items should go. Have your family help you put items away, and you’ll likely learn what they prefer. Load up on plant-based items they like, and try something new from time to time.