If you’re like I used to be, you buy pantry items and stash them wherever there’s an empty space. That’s great until you either run out of space, or you happen upon a fossilized item you can’t identify.
Pantries in professional kitchens are organized by USE, meaning the most regularly used items are the closest to the work area, and items that are more obscure are more out of reach. This works great when you’re working through cover after cover of food that you’re specifically provisioning for.
But home kitchens are different. Sometimes, you’re having people over for Pad Thai. Other days, you’re batch cooking Indian Curries or making pulled BBQ Pork. Your pantry begins to look like an old Bodega.
There is a solution. Instead of the Pro Kitchen method, I switched to the Grocery Store method. In a Grocery store, all the “Asian Pantry Items” are stored together. All the Baking Ingredients are stored together.
One rainy day, I took EVERYTHING out of my cupboards and threw out anything that looked past its prime.
Then, I began organizing the ingredients in groups: Basics (like beans, vinegars, canned tomatoes, etc.) Indian pantry ingredients, Thai ingredients, Chinese ingredients, Korean, Japanese, Mexican, Baking, and anything else that was specialty. Then, moving from closest to the prep area to furthest, I loaded the cupboards with the ingredients. I kept the basics within reach of the stove, because they are most often used. I grouped the stations with crossover ingredients together (the Asian pantry items, for instance.)
This has transformed weeknight prep and decreased my time doing mise-en-place, but most helpfully, I can now check at-a-glance what I have on hand for nights when I am at a complete loss for what to make.
Try this method and see how it works for you. (At the least, you’ll clean out your cupboards, which it’s best to do every 6 months anyway)