Stocked Pantry Cuts Food Costs

A well-planned pantry saves time, money and stress in the kitchen.

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Pantry Organization Tips

To work the pantry principle, you've got to get organized. Maximum pantry power requires that you know what you have, how long it will keep, and how to store it safely.

1. Starting a pantry does not require complex organization. Create it by buying twice as many of each item as needed for weekly use, then store the extras. When you've used up the mayo in today's tuna salad, retrieve the back-up jar from the pantry, and add "mayo" to the week's shopping list.

2. The beginner's pantry can often be stored side-by-side with opened or in-use items. For example, stack the open box of detergent on top of the pantry box or line up cans of chicken noodle soup front to back on the canned goods shelf.

3. Rotate the contents of the pantry by placing just-purchased items at the back of the stack or row; use the front items first.

4. A dedicated pantry area can be a big help. Set aside a cabinet or shelf to hold pantry items. Organize them by category, stacking cans and boxes. Flat-bottomed plastic baskets support and contain bags of dried beans, rice, or pasta.

5. Complete pantry meals are one exception to the "store by category" rule. On a section of pantry shelf, assemble all the makings for three to five pantry meals: a family-sized can of clam chowder, an extra can of chopped clams, and the box of oyster crackers shelved together make it easy to spot the empty spaces after use, and restock.

6. Larger pantries require more storage space and may be sited in multiple locations around the house, depending on different foods’ storage needs. Root vegetables and apples need to be cool and dry; canned goods can tolerate greater temperature fluctuations. A written inventory can remind forgetful cooks of the location of pantry items.

Storing Pantry Items

How to Store Pantry Items
Select pantry storage areas in cool locations; canned food and pantry items should be kept at 70 degrees F or below; don't store them in direct light. Newer packaged foods now include a use-by date as a guideline for product freshness. Where dates are unavailable, observe the food storage guidelines given here for best quality.

Product Code Dates: What Do They Mean?
Sell-by date. A sell-by date sets the last date of sale for perishable products, such as milk. A period for safe home use follows. Newer products often list both the sell-by date, after which the food should not be sold, and an expiration date, after which the food should not be eaten.

Use-by date. A use-by date is a guideline for best quality for foods with a longer shelf life. The use-by date is not a safety date. The food remains edible for some time after that date, but food quality will begin to decline.

Expiration date. Commonly used for highly perishable foods like meats and dairy goods, the expiration date is the last date on which the product should be consumed.

Pack date. Pack dates for canned goods and processed products indicate when they were packed. Use specific food storage recommendations to determine how long the food remains edible after packing.

Building a Pantry on a Budget
Investing in the pantry principle pays off in savings of time and money, but it does involve an up-front cost. Try these tips to spread the load:

"Tithe" for the pantry. Set aside a regular percentage of each week's grocery budget for pantry building.

Buy on sale. Take advantage of supermarket loss leaders — tuna, tomato sauce, canned soup and canned beans — to stock up.

Buy in bulk. Bulk-buying for the pantry really pays off. A 25-pound sack of bread flour at the warehouse store will be better value than the supermarket's pricier 5-pound bag. You'll save and stock up at the same time.

Excerpted from Houseworks, by Cynthia Townley Ewer

Text Copyright © 2006, 2010, Cynthia Townley Ewer, extracts from Houseworks, reproduced with permission from Dorling Kindersley Limited

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