As near and dear as bulk bins are to my heart, dry goods are only part of the battle – you also have to have a well-stocked fridge and freezer if you want your kitchen to be as adaptable as you are. Knowing you have supplies on hand to make a lazy Monday night skillet meal or to feed a surprise crowd can make all the difference.
1. Fresh Produce
I would suggest keeping 3-4 different vegetables in the crisper at all times, along with some onions. Vegetables are healthy and (with the right touch) can be delicious and versatile. I usually scour my grocery store produce section for whatever is on sale that week and then plan a few meals around that. Most vegetables will keep around a week or so if stored properly, so as long as you can make a weekly shopping trip you should always have one or two options around. An even better strategy is to focus on fresh produce that doesn’t freeze well. For example, I tend to buy things like spinach, zucchini, tomatoes, okra, and cucumbers fresh.
I know, I know – my love of butter is going to earn me an early grave, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take. If I am given a choice of cooking oil that’s not deep frying or high heat, I will almost always choose butter. Don’t even talk to me about the insanity of using VEGETABLE OIL to make waffles or cookies. I know I just spent an entire paragraph singing the praises of fresh veggies, but here’s some real talk: I used to be a crazy picky eater. I would not have gotten this far in my love affair with the veg had it not been for numerous sides of sauteed squash in butter or adding a pat of the sweet stuff to steamed broccoli over a hundred sad, cringey nights. Side note: I don’t do this anymore. Steamed broccoli is an abomination.
3. Minced Garlic (In A Jar)
Somewhere between the crushed sadness that is garlic powder and actually making an effort, there lies minced garlic in a jar. You can probably get enough of this stuff to last three months for less than $3, which in my opinion is a pretty sound investment given that you should really be adding garlic to, oh, PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING. Or maybe that’s just me.
4. Parmesan Cheese
While it’s definitely worth the investment to shell out for a block of the good stuff (especially with the rind, which can be added to pasta sauces or soups to add some seriously amazing flavor), but even a canister of the cheap stuff will do in a pinch. If you can’t tell, I have a big thing for roasted vegetables as side dishes, and I almost always add a sprinkle of parmesan cheese on top. Heck, I can’t think of many savory items not made better by parmesan cheese. Veggies, baked chicken, pork chops, bread, pasta, rice, popcorn, potatoes… Sorry, what was I saying?
One of my favorite breakfast foods, yogurt’s usefulness extends far beyond the crap (Get it, guys? Get it?) Jamie Lee Curtis tries to sell you. Nary a brunch is served at my house without a pretty parfait, and many Monday mornings begin with me shuffling into the kitchen and pouring some raspberries and vanilla on plain yogurt with my eyes still closed. I would recommend buying the giant tubs of plain yogurt and kicking the flavored habit, since that Boston Cream Pie Yoplait is mostly just sugar (and don’t act like you’re even a little surprised, buddy). Plain yogurt can be a healthier alternative to mayo in salad recipes, replace sour cream on tacos and baked potatoes, and can be made into a great marinade or dipping sauce.
And there you have it: You’re five items closer to having a pretty damn well-stocked kitchen. Next up in the series is my secret weapon for entertaining at the drop of a hat – an overflowing freezer.