“Let’s Get Organized” Series – Installment 1
I have never professed to be a particularly domestic chick. Tidying haphazardly, cooking sporadically, I have never placed much importance on such things.
I know what I’m good at and where I fall short. Major assistance is needed when it comes to areas of organization. I mean organization of the physical kind, not of the planning variety. (I can plan almost compulsively.) I can glance at the items that have taken up residence in our bedroom, feel my throat close up a little and flee from that room faster than my bulldog when the vacuum revs up.
For this reason, I am beginning a new series: Let’s Get Organized. Why on earth would I dare to write on this topic when I am a self-admitted bundle of disorganization?
Because one of the best ways to commit anything to memory is to convey it to someone else.
A good place for me to begin is in the kitchen area. Have you ever begun preparing a new recipe only to find that you are completely out of a cooking essential? This has happened to me more than I’d like to admit. Well, NO MORE!
What items should everyone have in their kitchen?
There are a ton of articles on the worldwide web addressing this topic, so I’ll do my best to simplify this for y’all. I jotted down food essentials mentioned on 12 websites. In my effort to get organized, I went through my pantry to make certain that I was well-stocked on each of these items to avoid the incredible annoyance associated with FPI (Food-Prep-Interruptus).
For the purpose of brevity, I’ll lump the obvious ones together in the first bullet point:
- All-purpose flour, granulated sugar, baking soda and baking powder. Oooh boy, it really stinks to forget to restock one of these non-negotiable pantry items.
- Garlic – This ingredient was mentioned in virtually every article I viewed, which is no surprise to me. I go through minced garlic like it’s my job. What I learned: Heart-healthy garlic can also help boost your immune system and could help you stay healthier during cold and flu season. It may also help to heal cold sores (BONUS!!!!). Take a look at http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/09/25/benefits-of-garlic_n_3990616.html
- Vinegar – Also heart-healthy and loaded with benefits, vinegar is everyone’s kitchen essential. Balsamic was ranked #1 among the articles I referenced, followed by white wine and red wine vinegar. What I learned: Vinegar kills bacteria and can help you kick a sore throat. See http://www.doctoroz.com/article/people-are-drinking-vinegar-should-you?page=1
- Extra virgin olive oil – A bottle should last around a year if stored properly and can lower certain heart risks. What I learned: For maximum health benefit, purchase olive oil in a dark bottle that will protect it from light.
- Chicken and beef broth – Super versatile with a long shelf-life, these will rarely sit in your pantry unused. What I learned: It’s pretty easy to make your own broth using a leftover chicken carcass (ugh, hate that word) with a few extra ingredients. Once it’s ready, freeze your extra broth in muffin pans to help your broth last even longer in convenient portions. http://americanheritagecooking.com/2013/06/homemade-chicken-broth/
- Honey – Lordy, honey was splattered all OVER the place as a long-lasting pantry staple. My husband buys local honey to help ward off seasonal allergies and SWEARS by its effectiveness. What I learned: Look for darker honey to increase its antibacterial and antioxidant capabilities.
- Canned tomatoes – Apparently, there is a good bit of controversy out there about the relative health benefits of canned versus fresh tomatoes. For the purpose of my list, I’ll not delve into those and just run down what kind of canned tomatoes you may want to stock. What I learned: Tomato paste may be the most cost-efficient form of canned tomatoes to purchase. A little goes a long way and the remainder will fare better in the freezer than its chunkier counterparts. Read http://www.epicurious.com/ingredients/whats-inside-your-can-of-tomatoes-article for more information.
- Onions – Another Peterson favorite. I prefer my onions extra-smelly, sautéed in olive oil and minced garlic and sprinkled over pizza or in otherwise-boring-risotto. What I learned: Store onions away from potatoes as they will literally suck the moisture and gas away from potatoes, shortening their shelf life. http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/ingredient-focus-onions
- Beans – Canned or dried, beans are cheap and super-healthy. Most of my readers are parents of young kids and don’t have a bunch of spare time to mess around with dried beans. The good news is that canned beans can still provide the health benefits you are looking for. What I learned: Don’t drain and rinse your canned beans because you will rinse away some of the nutritious properties along with the extra sodium you may not want. Instead, buy lower sodium canned beans and keep the juice. http://nutritionfacts.org/2014/09/25/are-canned-beans-as-healthy-as-home-cooked/
- Lemons – These little yummies are simply fabulous to have around. Not only can they jazz up boring dishes, you can always use them for something. If nothing else, you can cut them up and throw them in a pretty pitcher to encourage yourself and your family members to drink more water. What I learned: Lemons can help you get set-in stains out of the most delicate of fabrics. Read this article for more information: http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/cleaning/tips/a26268/new-uses-lemons/
- Brown sugar – (You’re singing the Rolling Stones song in your head right now. I know you are…) Brown sugar is awesome to have around if you need to whip up some caramely deliciousness. I have depended on brown sugar also to get my kids to eat oatmeal. What I learned: Most nutritional experts agree that, while brown sugar is *technically* healthier, the benefits over white sugar are so marginal that they are virtually insignificant.
- Eggs – Inexpensive, low-calorie and protein-rich, eggs are a great last-minute option for the undecided diner in your home. What I learned: Eggs should live on shelf in your fridge and never on the door, where the temperature can fluctuate more. Raw eggs can be eaten 4-5 weeks after their pack date or 3 weeks after you buy them. See http://www.incredibleegg.org/cooking-school/tips-tricks/egg-storage/.
- Butter – Your head can literally spin right off your body when you begin to delve into the decades old butter versus margarine debate. Butter’s bad, no wait….it’s good again! Oh, who the heck knows. My unscientific view (completely unsubstantiated) is that our bodies know what to do with the Real Thing, unlike the processed alternative. What you may not know: You can buy your butter in bulk at warehouse clubs and save yourself some serious money over time. Toss it in the freezer and take out one stick at a time. You won’t be able to taste the difference.
What are your absolute must-have pantry items? How do you keep your kitchen organized?