One thing I forgot to include when I wrote about pantry items over the past couple weeks, is bigger is not always better! Yes, most pantry items have a very long shelf life, but the prevailing American attitude that if a little is good, more would be better is not wise in this instance.
First of all, a very little goes a long way in recipes. Even though the smaller jar of dried Rosemary doesn’t look like much, it probably is enough. Remember, spices and herbs lose potency over time, so you are better off to buy the small jars, and repurchase when you run out. Trying to save a few pennies buying the gigantic jar that will take you so long to use, you end up tossing most of it away (renders your bargain purchase “penny wise, but dollar stupid”).
Depending on the size of your household, the same is true for oils and sauces – they can eventually go rancid. If you do not cook often, or you’re only cooking for one, be sure to buy the smaller size bottles, and remember that some of those items should be refrigerated after opening – the labels will let you know.
On the other hand, if you have a full house, you may well save some money buying in bulk with canned and boxed goods. For example, it’s amazing how fast I fly through diced tomatoes and chicken broth. Think about the ingredients you use most regularly and feel free to stock up on those. Just as with cooking the Personal Chef Approach way, you will save both time and money.
Last, I wanted to leave you with the list of things I usually keep stocked in my fridge and freezer, so your kitchen is ready for anything. Whether you use the weekly menu plan I write for you, or the the menu planning tool for your own household specific menu, both come with automatic grocery lists. Just check the items you already have stocked at home off your list, and pick up only what you need. Your previous pantry investment will begin to pay off as your shopping trips are lighter and quicker.
Here is my list of what I usually keep stocked in my fridge and freezer, so I can snack, bake, or throw breakfast, lunch, or dinner together that can help stretch the time between PCA cook dates:
Various cheeses – cream cheese, shredded mozzarella, grated Parmesan
Bacon and sometimes Pancetta and/or Prosciutto
Sandwich meats – ham, sliced turkey
Celery, carrots, and at least a couple green vegetables
Fresh fruit – apples, grapes, melon (or whatever is in season)
Wet rubs I’ve made
Frozen berries for smoothies
Peas and spinach
Steaks, sometimes pork and lamb chops
Any leftover broth, homemade sauces, or marinades I want to use again
Other Dry Goods
White or sweet potatoes
Remember, I already have pasta, and various grains stocked in my pantry as well
TIP: As I make spice rubs on PCA cook dates, I usually double the ingredients, then package and label the extra in airtight containers (especially now we are coming up on grill season). The dry ones are stored with my other spices in the pantry, or the wet ones are stored in the fridge. Then I can defrost a chicken breast or steak in the fridge before I go to work in the morning, and grill off a quick weeknight dinner with minimal effort and cleanup when I return home. This is one of my favorite rubs I like to keep on hand in my refrigerator, because it works so well with just about any type of protein.
Roasted Garlic & Chili Rubbed Chicken Breasts
A mouthwatering blend of aromatic flavors that easily transform a boring old chicken breast into an exciting dinner! I sometimes find garlic already roasted at the store, which does save time, but it is very simple to do – just check out my note below. Any extra can be saved and used up to 5 days covered and refrigerated, but in my household it goes quickly.