Pantry Basics: Non-Food Items

We’ve discussed the ingredients you need to have a reasonably well-stocked pantry. There are plenty of items we could include, but we’ve tried to concentrate on the basics.

So, while we’re talking about Pantry Basics, in addition to food, you’re also going to need some other items to help keep your food. These are all non-food things your pantry should also include.

Containers. There’s no need to spend hundreds of dollars on expensive plastic containers from name-brand companies. You can now buy inexpensive containers that can go well in the refrigerator, freezer, and microwave. Because they are inexpensive you don’t care if they get stained, lost, or ruined. Starter sets are available or you can buy packages of just the sizes you need. Typical sizes are called Entree (about the size of the center of a dinner plate, square), Side/Salad (more versatile cube-like and just the right size for a single serving of soup or stew), and Snack (small, can be rectangular or round, just the right size for dressing, condiments or single servings of protein). You can buy larger sizes, but I find breaking things down to fit these standard-sized containers gives me more options, like one-serving meals or portions that can be divided into “use soon” in the fridge or “use later” in the freezer. These are a MUST for leftovers. As I don’t encourage bachelors to make single-serving meals, you need to have a way to keep leftovers and have them available for quick and easy meals when you get home from work and don’t want to cook or wait for a meal.

Plastic Wrap. This has been in American kitchens for many decades and it is so very useful. The advantage is that it keeps air from getting to food, and air is, as I have stated before, a greater threat than almost anything else. Plastic wrap should always be backed up by other containment if used for storage. It can be used in the microwave, but only for short periods, as it will melt if what it’s covering gets too hot.

Aluminum foil. This has been around the kitchen even longer than plastic wrap and is just useful. The good thing is it can be used for cooking, except in the microwave.

Wax or Parchment Paper. To make parchment, fibers are boiled down from plant pulp and then collected and washed, leaving behind just the cellulose which is then dried. This gives it resistance to grease and semi-transparency. Wax paper is regular paper coated with wax. These are not always interchangeable. Wax paper is useful for mixing dry ingredients or coating a countertop to protect it from stains or dirt. It is also handy for covering dishes in the microwave to prevent splattering all over the inside of the oven. However, under high heat, the wax will melt making food taste like biting into a candle. Parchment paper is great for lining cookie sheets and cooking in the oven using a method called “en papier” (in paper). It will burn if it gets hot enough, but in contact with food, it is safe.

Freezer and/or Storage Bags. The difference between freezer bags and storage bags is the thickness of the plastic. Freezer bags can keep out frost and some freezer burn, while a regular storage bag will not do quite as good a job in sub-zero conditions. Freezer bags also allow less of the food’s scent, making them better for storing vermin-prone goods like flour, sugar, or cornmeal. However storage bags are usually cheaper. They both have their uses. Storage bags can usually only be used once, while freezer bags can, if kept clean, be re-used, depending on what was stored inside. If it was meat, do not reuse the bag. But bread or wrapped products might be reused if clean.

You can probably find other useful things to keep in the pantry, but these are the basics. If you have some tips, please tell us in the comment section below.