Originally, I was just going to write about keeping a par stock list to keep track of your (fabulously efficient) pantry. But then I looked around my own kitchen and realized I have three lists working synergistically to help me keep the basics well-stocked and use what I have on hand to turn out healthy meals. Here’s how I use them and how they work together.
1. Par Stock — In professional kitchens, chefs keep what’s called a “par stock,” which basically means a minimum level of essential ingredients. I’ve adapted this practice for my own kitchen with a laminated list of the ingredients my family can’t do without: olive oil, garlic, milk, bread, etc.. Then I go through the list to check the status of each ingredient before heading out to the store. Working with a par stock virtually eliminates those annoying “uh, oh, we’re out of olive oil” trips.
2. Produce List – There’s always something in the fridge. If you’ve been to the farmers’ market, it’ll be full of veggies. If you’ve roasted a chicken over the weekend there might be some extra breast meat. The trick is keeping track of everything you have so you’ll use it before it spoils. I’m an out-of-sight, out-of-mind kind of person, so this was a real challenge for me before I found a simple solution . . . in black and white, right before my eyes: a chalkboard. Now, when I come back from the market or if I’ve just picked a crop from the garden, I jot down what I’ve put in the fridge on the blackboard by the kitchen. I love to sit down, sip a cup of tea and let my mind wander to concoct meals out of what’s written on the board.
3. Cupboard List — My grains, pulses and legumes are on a shelf above eye-level so, in the spirit of my produce chalkboard, I’ve added a white-board to the inside of the cupboard door to keep track of how much quinoa and rice and red lentils I’ve got stashed up there.
The idea is to form a system of lists that keeps your basics stocked while capturing the ever-changing contents of your fridge and cupboards so you know what you have to work with at a glance. The payoff? Big savings on time, money and effort come mealtime . . . and a healthier approach to boot.