Sunday, August 22, 2010

How I Stock a Pantry

Stocking a Pantry for Effective Use of Foods and Last Minute Changes to Your Plan:

The basic list is for people who don't have a stand alone freezer. I have also broken it down by dry goods and perishables. This is my pantry list. Obviously if your family doesn't eat fish you won't be buying the canned fish. Try canned chicken. Also, I am only cooking for 2 people on a regular basis. If you have a large family you will need more for sure! I personally don't like frozen peas and corn; I prefer the canned. However, if you prefer the frozen, replace with 2 bags of frozen each.

I buy most of the dry goods items when on sale and/or when I have a coupon.

This isn't a list for everyone, it is my list. However, it is a good starting point for anyone new to cooking or planning meals. If you don't like pasta, don't add it to your pantry. If you cook Thai food everyday, add the appropriate fish sauce and curry pastes.

DRY GOODS: (Goods that don't require refrigeration and can be stored in a pantry/basement shelves for longer periods of time.)

Olive Oil - a basic one, no need to spend a ton of money
Canola or Sunflower Oil - Or any vegetable oil

Vinegar - I always have cider vinegar and red wine vinegar. If you like making pickles you will also need white vinegar.

Boxed Dried Pastas - buy when on sale and I always have at least 10 pound boxes
Rice - I usually have 5 pounds of brown, 2 pounds of white, 1 pound exotic (Jasmine/Basmati etc)
Dried Beans - I usually have 3-5 pound bags of varied beans
Dried Lentils - I always have 3-5 pound bags, and at least one is the exotic orange/red
Dried Grains - I usually have 2 or 3 kinds - right now I have quinoa, barley, bulgar and wild rice


Paste - 5 small
Crushed - 4 large
Stewed - 4 small
Sauce - 10 small


Beans - I always have kidney, cannellini, chick peas

Canned chicken broth (3-5) and beef broth (1-3) - (non-fat and low sodium is all I use.)
Canned Soups - some "cream of" soups for recipes and your favorites for last minute meals

Evaporated Milk - 2-4 cans (I only use SKIM or FAT FREE)

Canned fish - Tuna and/or Salmon and/or Tiny Shrimp

Jarred Pasta Sauces - 4-6 jars
Jarred Salsa - mild/medium or hot - whatever your personal preference. We like hot as a dip, but I use mild/medium in many recipes.

Peanut Butter

Spices and Seasonings: I have broken them down to what I consider very basic and the next level.

Granulated Garlic
Granulated Onion
Dried Red Pepper Flakes
Vanilla Extract - the REAL stuff

Ground Ginger
Curry Powder
Chili Powder

Flour - 5 pounds
Sugar - 2 pounds

Corn Meal
Oatmeal - not the instant packets
Baking Soda
Baking Powder

Once opened these items should be stored in the refrigerator:
Worcestershire Sauce

If you cook Asian inspired foods (I do!) you will want to add some/all of the following:

Soy sauce, tamari (Japanese soy sauce), oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, chili-garlic sauce, and black bean sauce, to name a few. These sauces are used in both marinades and stir-frying. For Southeast Asian cooking, stock red or green curry pastes, coconut milk (not the sugared kind for making cocktails) and fish sauce.

Refrigerated/Perishable Basics (including some produce)

Milk (if you make your own yogurt as I do, you will have to figure out how much you need)

Potatoes - white and sweet

Frozen Boxes of Spinach (I always buy when on sale and have 5-10 at any one time)


Harvest Time

So what do you all do with the abundance of squash and tomatoes, among others.

I love zucchini bread and zucchini in my salads and of course zucchini in stewed tomatoes. I also love to pickle zucchini. I love zucchini frittatas and fried zucchini. But I am always looking for new ways to use it.

Tomatoes are one of those fruits that I could eat 3 meals a day. Chopped up in scrambled eggs or hashed browns. On sandwiches with or without anything else. Salads and salsa and all of this without mentioning making fresh tomato gravy for pasta.

What do you do with the harvest?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Menu Planning Diane's Style

I have been menu planning for at least 30 years. My mother was a great menu planner. Anyone on a budget or who does grocery shopping is already menu planning to some degree, but we could all do it better.

For me, the first thing I do is have a good pantry of basics. Ideas for that will come in a future post, but without that pantry, your last minute changes (and all who menu plan have to be flexible) will cost you in calories, lack of nutrients and big bucks of fast or prepared foods.

I plan one to two weeks at a time and usually start on Wednesdays. That's when the coupons and grocery store circulars come out. I choose my proteins first. I find what's on special, look in my "recipes to try file" and pick a few new ones that I want to try using what is on special.

Then I check my calendar. ONLY KEEP ONE CALENDAR!!! For all your family and work commitments. I look to see what days I need to cook fast, what days I am busy all day and need a slow-cooker to greet me when I get home, what days I will be away for meals and what days I will be entertaining. I play mix and match with the recipes I chose in the previous step. Sometimes I will do something like write down slow-cooker here or big roast and leftovers here.

Then I make my shopping list. After the shopping list I shop first in my pantry and cross off what I already have. Or if that item is running low I will then know to replace it and leave it on the list. Then for me, since I have almost all of my groceries delivered. I log in and start choosing my items. I can then see what I will have to go get myself.

I write my menu plan on the same calendar with all the other commitments. I include in the menu plan what I will take out of freezer or what I will do with leftovers. I also do some planning like Robin Miller on the Food Network. (She is the person who cooks/chops/seasons/once for 2-3 meals at the same time.)

Anything better than what you are doing now, is an improvement. Try just planning 2 meals a week. Or if you already do well on the weekends, try 2 meals during the week.

How do you plan? What do you do now? Share your ideas, concerns or issues.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Diane's Menu 8/19/2010 - 8/26/2010

Diane's Menu 8/19/2010 - 8/26/2010

Thursday 8/19 - Franks and Beans, Corn Bread
Friday 8/20 - Out
Saturday 8/21 - Garlic Chicken over Farfalle
Sunday 8/22 - Apple Glazed Pork with Sweet Potatoes
Monday 8/23 - Pizza
Tuesday 8/24 - Cheesy Chicken Chili Bake**
Wednesday 8/25 - BBQ Pork Ribs, French Fries, Salad
Thursday 8/26 - Pasta and Broccoli in Spicy Garlic Oil

** Recipes below
Cheesy Chicken Chile Bake

1 can (10 1/2 ounces) condensed cream of chicken soup
1 jar cheese spread, 8 ounces
1/2 cup milk
2 cups leftover cooked diced chicken
1 small can (4 ounces) chopped green chiles
2 tablespoons finely chopped green onion or 2 teaspoons dried minced
4 cups corn chips

Chicken and cheese and chile bake recipe directions:
In a saucepan over medium-low heat, heat soup and cheese until well
blended. Gradually stir in milk; add chicken, chopped chile, and onion.
Cook and stir until bubbly. Crush half of the corn chips. Place the
crushed corn chips in the bottom of a 1 1/2-quart casserole. Pour in
soup and chicken mixture; top with remaining corn chips. Bake chicken
with chile and cheese at 350° for 20 minutes. Chicken chile cheese
bake serves 4.


Diane's Menu 8/12/2010 - 8/18/2010

Diane's Menu 8/12 - 8/17

Thursday - 8/12 - Veal Parmagiana and Stewed Tomatoes
Friday - 8/13 - Sweet and Sour Chicken Curry **
Saturday 8/14 - Beef Bourguinon a la Julia Child
Sunday 8/15 - Grilled Boneless Pork Chops, Sweet and Spicy Cucumber Salad and Corn on the Cob
Monday 8/16 - Take Out Pizza
Tuesday 8/17 - Chicken and Potato Bake
Wednesday 8/18 BBQ Riblets, French Fries, Cole Slaw

** Recipe below
Sweet and Sour Slow Cooker Chicken Curry

1 pound uncooked chicken breast (boneless and skinless), cut into 1-
inch pieces
1 large green pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large vidalia onion(s), sliced
14 1/2 oz stewed tomatoes
1/2 cup(s) mango chutney
1/4 cup(s) water
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp curry powder

Place chicken, pepper and onion in a slow cooker; top with tomatoes.
Mix together remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Pour over chicken mixture,
cover and cook on low heat for 4 hours. Yields about 1 1/2 to 2 cups per