Monday, January 25, 2010

Stocking the cupboard: Teaching Old Mother Hubbard how it's done.

A friend of mine, the reason this site was spawned, recently went shopping and wanted some advice. Normally I would have gone with her, but I'm tired this weekend. When I go shopping for basics I try to think about shelf life, ease of use, likely hood of use and storage space.
The worst thing to deal with is a crap ton of food that you won't cook during the week, letting it spoil and not having enough room for all the crap you just got. I am a culprit of this as well. I admit it. When I see fancy stuff on the shelf I get all grabby like a teenage boy at his first girly bar. The Mr. is the same way. We end up spending way to much on stuff that eventually gets tossed or we spring for pizza because nothing is really a meal. Honestly, McVitties cookies can only bring so much joy before you get into diabetic shock mode.

That being said, here is the list of things (so far) that should always be in your house at any given point.

Bread: It can be the good stuff from behind the bread case or the bagged stuff for lunches and grilled cheese, but remember that bread can easily go hard or spoil if not used right away and stored properly. I keep mine in the fridge if it's bagged. If it's fresh, whatever makes it through the day is stored in the paper bag it came in and stuck in the fridge.

Pasta (any kind): 8 to 10 minutes in a pot of boiling water and dinner is served. Shake on some pecorino romano or parmagiano and you're done.

Jarred marinara sauce: Or any pasta friendly sauce that does it for you. CHECK DATES!!!! I had a bad experience with a fettuccine that left me scarred for a damn long time.

Canned tomatoes (crushed or diced): If you like making your own sauces or want to whip up a soup, having these guys in bulk is a life saver.

Stocks (mostly chicken. vegetable if vegan/vegetarian): Best for making soups, stews & gravies or cooking rice for extra flavor, having stock in the house is a must!

Rice (white or brown): I'm not a fan of minute rice, but when you have two kids, a dog and a husband going nuts, sometimes cutting corners has to happen.

Canned tuna: Make tuna salad or just dump it from the can (drained) onto a salad. Go.

Frozen vegetables (broccoli, corn, spinach, peas): Indispensable when you have some chicken defrosted or steaks frying up and you want some greenery with your meat bomb.

Cereal: Pick up cereal. Use cereal with bowl. Walk to milk. Pick up milk. Use milk with cereal in bowl. Eat cereal with milk. Go to work.

Coffee or tea: I'm a tea fiend. I need to have my tea. Some people feel the same about coffee. When you spend a few more minutes in the morning brewing your own coffee and taking it to go you'll see how much money you save by skipping that five dollar cappuccino.

Canned or dried beans: Excellent for salads, soups, stews or just as a side dish.

Lentils: You got lentils? You got dinner! These little guys are pack with protein, fiber and a lot of nutrients. My husband has a recipe from a book one of his foodie friends wrote and it is stellar! I'll have to pass that on. For now the book is called "Indian Home Cooking" by Suvir Saran. Buy it, read it, use it. Great for vegetarians!

Canned soups: We all have those days where just getting out of bed deserves a medal.

Frozen waffles: see canned soups

Pure Maple Syrup: see waffles - and spend the money on the real stuff, it won't kill you.

Chicken breast (skinless, boneless - keep in freezer): Versatile and easy, chicken breasts win hands down for that "I want something meaty but not complicated." Fry it up in a lightly oiled pan and you have something you can use in a salad, as a main course or over pasta.

Sweet or hot Italian sausage (keep in freezer): For sausage & peppers, over pasta, in a hero or on a stick. Yes, a stick. Shut up.

Ground beef (keep in freezer): Chilies, mince stew, hamburgers, meatballs, bolognese sauce or meatloaf.

Frozen shrimp: Over pasta, in soup or with cocktail sauce. I get the cleaned & deveined type to save my brain.

Peanut butter: Great for the emergency lunch - PB&J

Jelly (any kind): PB's best friend.

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