Have you ever heard of such a thing as a Capsule Pantry? This is something I’ve been doing steadily over the past few years, working on pairing down the food I consume (and store) to just the things I really need. In the process I’ve discovered things like the joy of eating in season, local produce, alternative grains, and cooking from scratch. My formerly bursting pantry that didn’t always have what I needed, but always had a lot of stuff I rarely used, is now much less full. The best is that it now typically has anything I could need to make a recipe, and building a recipe from scratch doesn’t necessarily take longer or involve more work. Going into this was rather more simple than reworking my closet :
Do I particularly like it?
Is it easy to use and store?
Does it go with a lot of different things?
Can it be prepared multiple ways?
Are there quality options (no added chemicals, hormones, pink slime, GMO, ingredients I can’t pronounce)?
What this means for my pantry is a large stock of raw ingredients like pasta, grains, canned tomatoes, beans, sugars, and spices. With this “collection” I can mix and match almost endlessly, with the additional of in-season produce. Thanks to a thoughtfully stocked pantry I don’t often need a big grocery list (in fact, our monthly budget for two people including all household essentials rarely goes about $350), or specific items, in order to eat well daily, and I can make most anything I like because there aren’t any absolutely essential single ingredients. My pared down pantry means I can usually find substitutes for ingredients not on hand or throw something together on a whim. The other side to this is not having to purchase specific ingredients just to make one recipe, one time, only to have no use for the rest. We purchase less quantity because what’s on hand can mix and match. The best part is focusing on higher quality ingredients; buying less means having more room in the budget to buy better. Our favorite place for meat is a local farm that allows the animals to graze free range, with no added hormones or pink slime, and they butcher your cuts to order on site. Amazing!
Knowing that we have enough variety of quality base items on hand means we don’t eat out as much – it’s just as easy, and so much more delicious, to throw something together at home. Added bonus : less waste. Spending more thoughtfully leads to spending less over the long term, but also wasting less. We compost the majority of our food waste, plant sprouted garlic, onions, and potatoes in the garden, and reuse leftovers to make new meals. Done, done, and done!
Things I prefer to make from scratch that aren’t too difficult, don’t require crazy ingredients I wouldn’t normally have on hand, and are so much more delicious this way :
Chocolate Chip Cookies, ok, seriously, cookies of any kind
Mac + Cheese
Pasta Sauces (tomato, cream, pesto, etc.)
(images and links to sample recipes? ask Robin for a contribution + link to her blog?)