The no-stress guide to stocking your freezer and pantry
By now, we can all agree that it’s a good idea to have about two weeks of food stored in your kitchen. But how do you actually go about stocking a family pantry and freezer? We've got answers for you, as well as links to our most popular tutorials on starting kitchen gardens, meal planning and making the most of your leftovers.
You’re probably used to planning which fresh foods to purchase on weekly grocery visits, but it can be harder to judge which frozen foods and shelf stable foods to stock up on now—sure, you know dried beans and evaporated milk keep well, but what if you’ve never prepared them before? When you supply your kitchen, start by thinking about the order you’ll eat things: fresh meat, dairy, and vegetables first; then frozen foods; and then shelf stable foods. Then, keep it simple: use your freezer to store future meals for yourself, as well as a place for frozen fruit and veg if you fall short before your next shopping trip. Use your pantry to store staples you love and know how to prepare. For example, if those dried beans aren’t already a family favourite, don’t stress—there are lots of other shelf stable and delicious foods you can stock up on, like tinned beans, fish, rice and pastas.
You have flexibility with a freezer, because you can prepare the food you love in double batches, and then freeze half for later while you enjoy some fresh for dinner. Think soups, lasagnas, pies or burritos (we love this Budget Bytes recipe for freezer burritos, and it’s an easy one for kids to put together!). You can also freeze dairy ingredients that come in handy for adding protein to a meal—for example cheese or butter is easy to freeze in large blocks, just make sure to wrap it well. (Tip: if you suddenly need either ingredient, you can grate it straight from the freezer.) Your freezer is also the perfect way to store sliced bread (to defrost, just toast it!) as well as all sorts of summer produce when it’s in season. To get started, pick a weekend when your family can work together as a team to chop and prep, and try out some of these delicious batch-cooked freezer recipes here and here.
Stocking your pantry can teach you a lot about how versatile your favourite staple foods are. For an excellent basic guide to pantry-based recipes, we love this post from Budget Bytes. And once you’ve worked your way through those 15 ideas, here are 200 more! Smitten Kitchen also has a wonderful guide to stocking your pantry that breaks everything down into, er, bite-sized pieces. If your kids are looking for cooking projects on a non-grocery day, our hands-down favourite pantry-based recipe for kids to make is Smitten Kitchen’s pasta e ceci: you almost certainly already have all the ingredients, it takes 20 minutes to make, and it’s totally satisfying. Pizza is another surprisingly shelf-stable friendly food—toppings like olives or tinned pineapple keep longer than other foods, and your kids will be extremely motivated to make the dough. Check out our pizza archives here.
To help you get more greens in your life, you don’t have to wait till your next grocery store run: instead, try adding a kitchen garden to your pantry stores! We’ve got ideas for how you can start a kitchen garden in any space, including microgreen gardens and indoor gardens you can start from food scraps. And to help stretch your stores even further, we’ve also got you covered for learning how to meal plan, and how to rock your leftovers.
Right now, you could win big and help fill someone else's pantry with our Kitchen Hacks Challenge, running till May 22—for the first 100 entries recieved in this short video contest, BC dairy farmers will donate to support local food banks! Details are here. For more contests and ideas, join our Facebook and Instagram feeds—our community has lots of inspiring ideas to get you and your family gathered around the kitchen table.