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.
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