Setting Up Your Pantry
When your baby starts eating solids, set aside a cabinet or some shelving for these staples. Fresh foods can go in the refrigerator, in a hanging basket, or on the countertop. Once you organize your kitchen with basic equipment and ingredients, you will find that cooking your baby’s first foods is surprisingly easy.
Many attractive and efficient storage containers are available today. Look for ceramic, stainless, or glass containers with an airtight seal to keep grains, beans, and other staples fresh and free of bugs. Storing grains, flours, and beans in plastic bags can increase the risk of grain moths, because the moths can bore small holes through the bags and lay their larvae inside. Glass jars are economical containers that are available at grocery, hardware, and kitchen stores, and they come in sets of 12 per size. A case of 12 jars may seem like a lot, but you may be surprised at the various ways you can use them. In addition to storing dry goods, they are convenient for storing prepared foods, such as soups, purees, and beverages. They also have measurement markings on the side that can be helpful for measuring and mixing ingredients. Glass jars are a practical way to keep your staples organized.
Glass Jar Sizes
- 2 quarts (64 ounces or 8 cups)
- 1 quart (32 ounces or 4 cups)
- 1 pint (16 ounces or 2 cups)
- 1/2 pint (8 ounces or 1 cup)
- Small (4 ounces or 1/2 cup)
Buy a package of labels at an office-supply or craft store and write the date of purchase on these labels and put it on the jar.
Whole grains, pasta, beans, sea vegetables, nuts, and seeds can be purchased in bulk or in their own box or bag. These dry ingredients are easily stored in airtight glass jars. Staple ingredients should be stored away from light, especially from direct sunlight, and they do not usually need refrigeration. Ideally, whole grains should be stored at temperatures that do not exceed 80ºF for a long period of time, so I often store them in the refrigerator in the summertime. Grains that are cracked, such as rice cereal, rolled oats, and flours, also can begin to oxidize in warm weather; therefore, refrigeration keeps them fresher and protects them from pests. Pantry pest traps are a safe way to control these moths.
Bottled, canned, and packaged items
Seasonings, such as tamari, plum vinegar, and oil, do not usually need to be refrigerated, so these items can be stored in a cabinet or on a countertop. Most seasonings last longer when kept away from light and heat. Oil is susceptible to turning rancid, so look for dark green or brown glass containers, to protect it from exposure to light. If tamari is unpasteurized, store it in the refrigerator after opening. Miso paste that is not pasteurized should be stored in the refrigerator. You can store plum vinegar, rice syrup, and maple syrup on the countertop or shelf for a few months after opening, and then store it in the refrigerator for longer periods of time. Salt and umeboshi plums are the least perishable, and they do not need refrigeration.
Vegetables and fruits
Vegetables and fruits are more nutritious and delicious the closer to home and the fresher they are from your garden or from a local tailgate, or farmers’ market. When warehouse stores transport fresh and frozen food from across the country and from other countries, produce loses its vitality as the food miles add up.
The longer food is stored, the more of its life force it loses. Less perishable vegetables and fruits keep longer, so you can buy them in larger quantities, and then purchase the more perishable foods more frequently. This way you can have fresh food available that is tasty and healthy.