A Well Stocked Pantry

Our kitchen pantry holds most of the food we need so I am always ‘shopping’ those shelves when it is time to make a meal.

This pantry is filled with our preserved fruits, vegetables, sauces, jams, pickles, and preserves. The pantry also includes a bunch of various sized jars of flours, sugar, grains, beans, and dried pastas. The closet-style kitchen pantry is perfect for us since the shelves are high and deep — jars are shelved 3-deep and 2 or 3 jars high.  The pantry has a door to keep daylight out, too — an important factor to consider with home-canned glass jars.

Tending to a well stocked pantry means that foods and staples are within reach and easy to find. Most shelved foods in the kitchen pantry and the cupboards are in regular size jars or containers. Staples such as flours, rice, beans, and some grains are in oversized storage jars on the floor of the kitchen pantry and they are conveniently located when I need them.

Since I bake all of our breads and rolls, keeping a well stocked pantry is important.  Always having 5-10 cups of unbleached flour is necessary and buying flour in bulk is more economical than the little 5 pound sacks. For me, it’s also a time-saver.

The kitchen pantry is convenient but it is only part of our kitchen food system. We have several kitchen cupboards where we also store some of our foods, too. Between the food pantry and some kitchen cupboards, most of the foods we consume are conveniently located and ready to use.

Kitchen Cupboards. Most of the foods contained in the kitchen cupboards are in small quantities for easy access.  One set of kitchen cupboards is used for baking items like molasses, honey, maple syrup, cocoa, vanilla, dehydrated milk, dried fruits and nuts. The top 2 shelves hold an assortment of dried pastas, my one convenience food.

Another kitchen cupboard stores most of the oils and vinegars.  Two sets of spice drawers and an overhead cupboard near our stove hold some of our herbs and spices in small jars.

The kitchen island houses another extension of our kitchen pantry. When we built the island, we used cupboards for the base so that the area could serve double-duty. Under the island counter, we store a few grain cereals in small quantities.  These cupboards also hold several jars of juices,  a few fruit syrups, a tin holding some home-made crackers, snacks, coffee, and teas.

Our Food Storage. For us, the kitchen pantry and the food cupboards are important for our daily cooking but they only hold a portion of our foods. We have been building up a food storage system so we have stored foods in other locations in our home.

Our food storage also includes an open shelving unit in our laundry room. There is also another dedicated area downstairs where we store dry foods in 5-gallon food buckets. Dry foods include rice, beans, grains, and flours that we purchase in bulk quantities.

Cold storage is a requirement for some foods we stock so our refrigerator and our freezer are considered as part of our food storage system. When you think about it, the cold storage appliances are nothing more than cold-storage pantry units that keep hundreds of pounds of foods cold or frozen until ready to use.

Restocking The Pantry. Periodically, stored foods in the kitchen pantry will run low and the pantry will need to be restocked.  Foods from the storage area in our basement are used to replenish what has been consumed.  Jars of home-canned foods will be replaced with other jars stored downstairs.  Empty jars of dry foods will be replenished from the foods stored in the 5-gallon buckets. All foods are replaced as needed.

Date Stored Foods. Label all foods to be stored. Bulk purchases are always labeled with dates of expiration and our labels note the expiration dates, too. Foods that were preserved by home-canning are also labeled with dates too, but the dates on canned jars are dates they were processed.

With labeled dates,  stored foods can be rotated for use according to those dates. Even though our home-canned foods are labeled, most of these foods are eaten in a year or less.  We always have extra, though, and we have learned that many of the jars of canned foods last several years with little to no compromise to the food’s quality.

Rotate Stored Foods. The method of stocking and restocking our kitchen pantry is a rotation system known as FIFO, or first-in/first-out.  FIFO helps track foods by date and will ensure foods will not be spoiled. Whether we have a 5 pound bag of flour or a 50-pound bag of flour stored in a 5-gallon food bucket, our food is used according to date so that there is no waste in our food storage system.

Flours, rice, and other dry foods we have stored are all used according to the dates purchased and the dates of expiration. If stored foods are sufficiently marked with the basic information, food rotation is a simple process.

Our jars of home-grown foods are rotated according to date. As jars are added into the pantry, older jars are brought forward to ensure that the oldest foods will be used next.

Rotating jars of home-canned foods is an important part of keeping a well-stocked pantry. It’s not difficult — just note the dates marked on the canning lids or labels and use the oldest jars first.

There’s really no need, though, to feel so obligated to use all of your pantry foods within 6 months to a year. Many home-canned foods last much longer.

The home-canned foods we find most sensitive is pickled cucumbers — they tend to lose some of the crispness and if spices are added into the jars, the brine tends to darken the pickles. Though not ‘fresh’, they will remain edible.

Inventory List. Some people might like a spreadsheet or a full blown list of all things in the pantry. In our household, the only food tracked with full accuracy is the beef stored in our freezer.  We buy a quarter of beef at a time so the cut and quantity is recorded as we stock the freezer. When beef is used, the cut and quantity is subtracted from the inventory list.  Simple. No surprises.

Storage Considerations. The best food pantry is one that is located away from bright light, humidity, and temperature fluctuations. Excess heat, humidity, or freezing temperatures can destroy stored food quality.

Food containers should be air-tight and glass jars are my containers of choice for foods that will be consumed within a year or so. Foods that are home-canned or stored in glass jars should be carefully shelved and stored to prevent cracks, breaks, or broken seals from the  jar lids.

Foods that are stored for a long-term, or foods that are stockpiled for long-term storage, should be further protected from spoilage, nutritional loss, or contamination. Air-tight containers that keep moisture and light out are very important.

Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers are critical for long-term storage. The mylar bags line the plastic food buckets or other large food containers before the food is stored. Once the food has filled the container, oxygen absorbers are added, and the mylar bags are heat-sealed.

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Having a well stocked pantry is a time saver and an investment.  During hard times, periods of inflation, or times of crisis or illness, a well stocked pantry might make an enormous difference in coping with family problems or severe economic difficulty.

If you and your family have not considered a pantry filled with food items, I hope that you will consider one! Even if you don’t own a true pantry, a well stocked pantry can be maintained in several areas around your home.

A well stocked pantry is a concept and does not need to be a large area. Your pantry may include several cupboard areas, shelving in a cellar, or food stored under a bed or in an unused closet. Closets are especially handy, especially when they are dark and contain shelving. Whatever the arrangement in your home, a well stocked pantry will provide the family with enough foods to last for a specific period of time that you determine.

Written: Nov. 2010

26 thoughts on “A Well Stocked Pantry

  1. Pingback: Cooking Ahead, For The Pantry « Wood Ridge Homestead in the Shenandoah Valley

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  3. Pingback: Canning A Pot of Beans « Wood Ridge Homestead in the Shenandoah Valley

    • Carolyn, I’ve never had a problem storing dry foods yet. I keep these foods in lidded jars. For long-term storage, use mylar bags and an oxygen absorber — those bugs can’t live without air!

  4. Love the site! We are buying a farm this summer and have been urban homesteading for a while now. I love your extra large glass storage jars that have your grains in them. Where did you get them? We need them bad!
    Thanks!

    • Hi Sharie, glad you found us! I wish you great success with your new farm — it will be so exciting and every day will be filled with something new.

      The extra large storage jars are recycled — they once held pretzels. They’re actually plastic — oh how I wish they were glass, but if they were, I wouldn’t stack them on top of one another!

  5. That’s a good idea! I have purchased those large, glass, dill pickle jars for storage in the past but the smell is so hard to get out! Plus it takes us like a year to eat that many pickles :p I love glass jars for storage.

  6. Hi there, I love your site, I just found it! Thank you for your pictures showing each step (especially in your garden section) and for your detailed instructions. I have a quick question: Since I don’t have a pressure canner, I’ve been freezing my stock in jars. But, half of them crack and I lose that stock! You mention to “be careful” with frozen jars… can you give more details? Thank you!

    • I just put 9 qts. of cabbage soup in the freezer in jars. The best way to prevent breakage is not fill the jars full. Leave about 2 1/2 in. for expansion. Also be sure they are completely frozen (at least two days) before putting on the lids. Good luck.

  7. Hello, Just read your site. The best one I’ve seen. I am in the process of starting a pantry, and your advise is invaluable. Thank you.

  8. I am blown away how lovely your pantry looks. I am still new to making foods last, as I always lived close to town and didn’t feel the need before. But next year I am building off grid and have to learn all these arts. I don’t like driving and the next town will be 60km away, so I hope it will become possible to go to town only every 3 month. With a full pantry like yours, how often do u still need to go shopping? Any advise for beginners? I have planned a pantry room in my new home, I heard that 2 ventilation windows (one close to the ground and one close to the bottom would be helpful to ventilate the air. Could u confirm that?
    Warm regards, maYa

  9. p.s. with a pantry like that, what do u actually need a fridge for besides animal products. As I am a vegan I start to wonder if a fridge is necessary for me at all.
    Thanks for a brief reply. maYa

  10. For keeping bugs out of our dry products we have put bags of sugar, rice, flour etc into a plastic tub but also place 2-5 bay leaves in on the bottom as well. So far have had no problems. Also another way to store stock is to freeze it in freezer bags – – would suggest putting on a cookie sheet until frozen solid then can stack a number of them as they will be ‘flat’. Hope these help.

  11. Wow, reading this article and the one on the quilt from your son’s shirts was like looking in a mirror. My wife quilted with our daughter until she died. Our pantry looks like yours – including the co-op purchases. Sometimes we look around and feel a bit alone but then we see web sites like yours or a young couple comes to us and asks us to teach them . . . and the world is back in focus. Keep up the good work.

  12. Love your site and it’s inspiring. Was wondering why you don’t vacuum seal your freezer items? My husband and I use a foodsaver for our venison and for sausage we make and it preserves flavor and eliminates freezer burn even up to a year. Just a thought.

    • Debra, when I wrote that article we didn’t own a FoodSaver — we do have one now and always vacuum seal our frozen foods. We’ve been very happy with the results so far! Thanks for inquiring.

  13. I seem to be having a bit of pantry-envy! LOL :) Love the photos and information that you have provided. I just stumbled upon this sight today and it has a lot of great ideas and a lot of great info. I have been trying to get “back to the basics” within the past few years, trying projects such as home canning, baking my own bread, and homemade laundry detergent. I don’t always have time or resources, but I try to keep the mindset of going natural as much as possible. I love mason jars for storing my dry goods, and gladly accept when friends or family are looking to get rid of them if they do not can themselves. One thing I have found to keep the flour bugs out is to use bay leaves or dried chili peppers. I read it some time back and thought I would share after reading one of the above comments about weevils. Thanks for sharing your website! Will definitely continue reading. God bless!

  14. Thanks for this info. I’m getting ready to make leather britches and am going to store them in quart jars. This will be a great help!

  15. Heavens to Betsy, Carolyn, I haven’t heard of “leather britches” since I stayed summers with my Granma in Tennessee 50 years ago. Would love to have some of hers again. Her pantry and root cellar were always well stocked. She was best cook in the whole world!!

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