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The Secret to Easy, Family-Friendly Meals

I don't know what I would do without my pantry.  It is because of my pantry that I can whip up meals for my family relatively quickly any day of the week.  

Regular followers of Just One Donna know that my recipes are straightforward, flavorful, and simple to prepare.  Good food, prepared simply is my goal day in and day out.  

A well-stocked pantry will help you to do the same.  September is a perfect time to update your pantry in preparation for end-of-year holidays and family gatherings.

A Guide to a Well-Stocked Pantry

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A Well-Stocked Pantry

What is a Pantry?

For me, the term pantry refers to the places in your kitchen where essential meal-planning ingredients and tools are stored.  When I use the term pantry I am talking about the ingredient cabinets and refrigerator space in my kitchen.

The most important space I have dedicated to meal planning is the pantry closet you see pictured above.  This is my actual pantry, the way it looked when I opened the doors this morning.  I didn't "fix it up" for you.  You can see it is a no-frills pantry.  I don't have "Pinterest-worthy" storage containers with fancy labels. It is well organized with ingredients I regularly use for my family's meals. 

How to Organize Your Pantry

Use practical, budget-friendly storage containers to store the things that might attract the pantry moths that will make you crazy.  

Reuse and Repurpose: Sometimes I will reuse a plastic container that the ingredients came in. I like the plastic containers my bulk cashews are sold in.  You can see a container of cashews on the top right shelf.

Organization is important to your pantry.  You don't want to spend a lot of time searching for ingredients when you are making dinner. Choose an organizational approach that fits the space you have.

The left side of my pantry has a shelf for baking items, canned goods, a rice, pasta, and grains shelf, and a condiments shelf.  The right side of the pantry has a snack shelf and the remaining shelves are for kitchen appliances.  The very top of the pantry stores infrequently used appliances and seasonal baking supplies.  The very bottom of the pantry is dedicated to oils and beverages.  

Choose your pantry space for easy access.  This is not my only pantry cabinet space.  To the left of my stove is a corner cabinet where I store spices, flour, sugar, and onions.

Each shelf in the cabinet is a large lazy susan, making it easy to access items from the deep cabinet.  I also use a smaller lazy Susan for the small spice and herb containers.  It is very handy having these items next to my stove and prep space.  Choose a pantry space that is accessible to your preparation work area.

Declutter your pantry periodically.  Pantry space can get cluttered and unorganized.  Make time periodically to keep your pantry orderly.  An organized pantry will cut down on wasting precious time when you are preparing meals and will help you save money on your grocery bill.  I don't have a set schedule for decluttering and reorganizing my pantry, but I usually do some tidying up of my pantry space seasonally.  Choose a schedule that works for you.

How to Stock Your Pantry

Your pantry must be stocked with the basic items you use regularly for your meal prep.  That's the only way your pantry can help you to save time and money in your meal preparation.  If you feel like your pantry space is cluttered and it is hard to find what you need, it is time to reorganize.  

A pantry checklist will help. To help you with the basics, I have created a free guide for a well-stocked pantry.  It is a checklist of the essential ingredients I keep on hand in my pantry.  This checklist is not all-inclusive.  I was careful to include just my must-have ingredients.  Use this free guide to help you organize and stock your pantry. The checklist will also be a handy shopping list when restocking your pantry.  Keep the checklist handy for your weekly shopping trips.

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