Nourish Yourself in the New Year: Love Your Lists

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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.

par-stock-lists-post1.    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.

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Braised Chicken and Chickpeas with Smoked Paprika

This recipe works wonders with the Valu-pak of frozen chicken thighs you bought last month at Costco (or was that me?). If you don’t have smoked paprika on hand, just use a twist of freshly ground black pepper. Or experiment with other combinations of spices in your pantry. Serve over brown rice, whole wheat couscous or bulgur to soak up the flavorful juices.


3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 pounds chicken thighs and legs
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes (I recommend Muir Glen)
1 cup chicken stock
2 (14-ounce cans) chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained

Place flour in a plastic zip-top bag. Sprinkle chicken with salt, pepper and paprika, and drop half in the flour. Seal bag and shake until well coated. Remove, shake off any excess and transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining chicken. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chicken to pan and brown well on all sides, working in batches if necessary so you don’t overcrowd the pan, about 6 minutes total per batch. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add onion to Dutch oven and sauté 4-5 minutes or until tender and slightly browned. Pour in vinegar, scraping pan to loosen browned bits on the bottom, and cook 1 minute or until liquid evaporates.

Add tomatoes and chicken stock to pan. Stir in chickpeas and bring to a boil. Place chicken on top of chickpeas and sprinkle with an additional pinch of salt and paprika. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 40 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and chickpeas are tender.

Serves 8

  • Cheryl Arkison

    I also keep a master grocery list. With a Hubby and a nanny who don’t necessarily know the way my mind works it helps to keep a handle on what is needed for the house. You can organize it by aisle of the grocery store. But I shop at at least 4 different spots (market, one store for dairy, etc) so I keep it more generalized.

  • Jacqueline Church

    Do you know about the BPA in Muir Glen? Do their cans use something else? I’ve begun to worry about that …not finding lots of info on the cans I have in my pantry…

    • Kurt Michael Friese

      The BPA is nearly everywhere, and the FDA actually says in so many words “our hands are tied.” See Tom Laskawy’s article on it here:

      O and Lia, this recipe will be dinner tonight!


    • Shane

      I am not sure about Muir Glen but I do know for a fact that Eden Organic cans are BPA free! (I use them for my canned beans – I don’t think they produce canned tomatoes, yet)

      PS – Hi Lia and thanks for the list reminder!! I have been saying forever I need to do that and now I will…and Happy New Year!

  • Cheryl Sternman Rule

    OK, Lia, that’s genius.

    I’ve just trained myself to use the “Notes” tab on my phone to keep running lists of what I need from the various places I shop. I prefer your system, though. Plus, writing stuff on a chalkboard allows the other potential shopper in your house (i.e. your spouse) to see what’s needed in case he ever runs to the store himself.

  • Lia Huber

    Prevention just did a post on various health and science experts saying what they would never eat, and canned tomatoes came up for that and other reasons (which really bummed me out). So I’m on the hunt for good diced tomatoes in box packaging, but until then will continue to use my Muir Glen. And, hopefully, can my own tomatoes next summer!

    Enjoy the chicken, Kurt!

  • Julie

    I made a spreadsheet for our chest freezers. We recently bought some beef, pork and chicken from local farmers and my husband hunts pheasants so we needed a handle on the situation. Anyone have a better solution? I will take any and all suggestions.

    Like Lia, I hate waste and learned how to can extra tomatoes from the CSA share. I even tried making frozen coleslaw from gigantic heads of cabbage we seemed to get in our weekly allotment. Strange texture. :)

    What will stick to stainless fridge/freezers in the kitchen so they can get organized?

    Thanks Cheryl, I am going right now to check out the notes function of my phone so I can dump my paper list!

  • Jennifer Tankersley

    I do love lists – so of course I had to come check this post out. I love the idea of the 2 that I don’t have: par stock and produce lists. Those are great!

  • kvignos

    Coupla things… I use Shopper on my iPhone ( for my shopping list. It’s almost as good as HandyShop, which I used on my Palm Pilot *forever*. It’s definitely much better than using Notes, because Shopper automatically organizes my list by aisle (and the aisles can be sorted to be in the order you walk through the store). I also have a separate list for each store. Also, as you put things in your cart, you check items off, so you only see what’s left on the list. I found this app to be much better than GroceryIQ, which auto inserts a bazillion products I don’t use, cluttering up my list.

    Now, back to Lia’s lists, which are great… I’m curious about how you update the cupboard list. Do you change the quantity of the item each time you remove/add something, even in the flurry of a quick meal-making session? It is easy to remember to do it? Do you keep an eraser handy for this? I’m trying to decide before I implement this whether I can follow through on the maintenance!

    You know me, Lia – I’m all about the details. ;)

  • Lia Huber

    Love this conversation!

    Julie . . . I think the spreadsheet is a good idea. Or a chalkboard or whiteboard nearby where you can just update as you take out. As for the stainless steel issue, you can check out these Choopa Boards ( that are essentially metal boards that stick to your fridge with suction cups. Or, I have a long, thin metal strip that I bought at IKEA for about $15 that I mounted above my counter top below my cupboards. Then I just hang lists (and recipes . . . very handy for recipes) from there.

    Jennifer . . . Oh my, where has ListPlanit been all my life? If y’all haven’t checked out Jennifer’s site, definitely do so (

    Kathleen . . . You saved the day. I had dug up all kinds of iPhone shopping list apps to check out and then (sadly), lost the list of lists (doesn’t that sound tragic?). So I’m all over that MyShopper app. In answer to your question (because, yes, I DO know you’re all about details . . . I love that about you :-)), I do pretty well with updating my cupboard list, but it’s not perfect. About every quarter I’ll wipe it all off and start over. As for eraser? Fingertip. Last of the quinoa? Swipe, gone.

    Love all these thoughts . . .