A well-stocked pantry means inexpensive family meal planning is a snap when the basics every kitchen should have are ingredients that are already on hand. With the COVID-19 pandemic, it has never been so clear to me that a well-stocked pantry for baking essentials is now a necessity at our house! Also, how to organize a pantry is equally as important!
We can learn some lessons in frugality from our grandparents who survived The Great Depression, especially when it comes to doing more with less. They saved money by growing some of their own food in the kitchen and container gardens. Click here for more information on Mason Jar Gardening!
They also came up with inventive stretcher recipes, ones that deliciously used what they had on hand. The well-stocked pantry was critical in their day, and the top ten basics every home cook should have is basically the same as it was in the 1930s.
The Well-Stocked Pantry
Staples for a Well-Stocked Pantry
Whip up most anything at a moment’s notice with these top 27 kitchen must-haves:
- Chicken broth
- Canned fish (take your pick of salmon, tuna, anchovies, or sardines.)
- Olive oil
- Canned tomatoes
- Tomato sauce
- Milks – evaporated milk, powdered buttermilk, powdered milk, sweetened condensed milk
- Liquid sweeteners – honey and agave nectar, a great all-natural sweetener
- All-purpose flour, unbleached
- Bread flour – for bread making
- Whole wheat or white-wheat flour, or both
- Granulated sugar
- Powdered sugar
- Brown sugar
- Molasses – not absolutely necessary, but helpful in cutting sweetness and adding a hint of sour.
- Baking powder
- Baking soda
- Yeast – regular or instant
- Ground chocolate – semi-sweet, bitter-sweet, and Dutch-process cocoa
- Chocolate chips – semi-sweet and dark are both good to keep around
How to Keep the Baking Essentials Safe
It is important to keep baking ingredients fresh and ready to use. Store white flours in airtight containers that help to keep moisture and bugs out. If stored in a cool, dry place, white flour can easily last eight months, and even longer in the refrigerator or freezer. Wheat flours have the tendency to become rancid and need to be kept in the refrigerator or freezer, also in an airtight container. Wheat flour doesn’t have an as long shelf life as its white counterpart and will only last six months to a year if in the freezer.
Sugar is much more durable and is fine in the pantry, airtight, for at least a year. Baking powder does not stand the test of time as well. Once opened, it needs to be used in three months, or it loses its potency. Baking soda is not quite so delicate and will stay a full six months after opening it.
Depression-Era Family Meals
With these baking pantry staples, the household food budget can stretch a very long way. The possibilities for inexpensive, pantry-based meals are endless. Peruse recipes online or purchase one of the oldest cookbook, the Joy of Cooking for easy recipe ideas.
Stretching Food Budget
Think about baking pantry stretchers, such as using leftover pasta to make the next day frittata lunch, with the just the edition of beaten eggs, salt, and a little milk. Here are some ideas:
- A hearty healthy breakfast of oatmeal with nuts and honey
- Save leftover oatmeal and form into a loaf, allow to cool in the fridge overnight and then to slice and pan fry in butter for a “stretcher” breakfast the next day
- Spaghetti with a simple tomato sauce
- Tomato soup with rice
- Tuna and rice casserole
Creative Family Menus
Don’t be discouraged by no longer having the means to be high end in the kitchen with the artisan olive oils and fancy packaged gourmet goods. Good-tasting, healthful food that the family will dig into is no farther than the kitchen cupboard. The most important ingredient now, as it was when times were tough before – is love.
After reading this article on Baking Essentials: The Well-Stocked Pantry, if the urge to bake a cake, a simple meal for the family or brownies to take to the neighbour house, just open the newly stocked pantry and get to work!