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Buying for Your Pantry...


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So I want to know who does the same thing as I do...I always have a well-stocked pantry, including things like Italian tunas, sardines, oils, vinegars, canned beans, canned tomatoes, roasted peppers, dried mushrooms, palm sugar, peanut butter, shrimp paste, harissa, olives, nori, konbu, dried bonito, rice wrappers, etc. etc. And I always like to add to my pantry; any time I'm in an exotic store, I'll pick up a can of this or that - especially Asian items, as they seem to can just about everything that might go into a can. BTW, I don't consider dried pasta a pantry item - I use it too much for me to consider it as such. Same with rices, flours, dried fruits, etc.

This post got me thinking about it, as it was easy enough for me to go to my pantry and find a couple of cans of Maesri's pastes, including Red Curry Paste and Masaman Curry Paste. Of course, I had to check expiration dates, and one of them has a date of September, 2007; though I doubt it has gone bad, it has EXPIRED.

This leads me to my question - do you fill your pantry up with things you may never use, just because you like having all sorts of weird stuff in your pantry? Or do you buy for your pantry only things that you know will be used? When you buy something exotic, do you buy it with the thought that you will definitely use that in an upcoming meal? And how often do you go through said pantry and start discarding, oh, those cans and jars that expired 3 years ago?

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Oh please! I don't need a guilt trip this early in the day! :biggrin:

I will see a recipe that calls for let's say Ancho Chilis (a pretty exotic ingredient around here) and then one day will be in some specialty store or market and grab the packet of said chilis. This is likely many, many weeks or months later. By then, of course, I have forgotten/lost/or lost interest in the recipe. Or the recipe calls for even more exotic ingredients that I don't have and can't easily get. Hence, every time I go to my pantry I am faced with ingredients that no longer have any reason for being in my pantry!

I am working up to a pantry clear-out but what deters me isn't the work, it's the guilt. :sad:

Can we find a solution?

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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Some friends and I have a semi-solution. All of us are compulsive interesting-food-product buyers/hoarders, and we also have friends and family who bring us food as gifts from various trips to different places.

Every time the guilt comes on, (or we just run out of space), we vow to buy produce only for two full weeks and just cook out of the pantry. The original rule had a "no eating out" clause in it, but that tends not to work very well with schedules. Plus, by the end of the second week, if you only have a jar of cinnamon honey and some sambhar powder..... :blink:

It is a fun way to use things up because I find myself being more creative than I usually am. And you also have the added advantage of creating more space for more *new* interesting foods... :rolleyes:

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We wind up with lots of crazy crap that never gets used. And I hate throwing stuff out, I must've had a prior life during a famine or depression.

We have a similar method of pantry purging known as "read my lips . . . no new ingredients" or "just say no to groceries". After a week of unorthodox meals we're left with some rock-hard galangal slices and half a bottle of Rose's lime cordial.

Then the cycle repeats . . .

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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I never waste any food, not so much as a grain of salt. I just plan perfectly and everything is used up before its expiration date, with no compromises in terms of the deliciousness of what I prepare. What's wrong with you people?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Oh, man. You've nailed me. Thoughts:

Every time the guilt comes on, (or we just run out of space), we vow to buy produce only for two full weeks and just cook out of the pantry.  The original rule had a "no eating out" clause in it, but that tends not to work very well with schedules.  Plus, by the end of the second week, if you only have a jar of cinnamon honey and some sambhar powder.....  :blink:

For those of us who benefit from externally imposed arbitrary structure, this is sheer genius! I plan to dive in this weekend. Does anyone have a recipe using mudfish paste, pine nut honey, five pounds of tarbais beans, Pickapeppa sauce, and smoked pigs' feet?

And are there any others willing to take the plunge?

Edited by chrisamirault (log)

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Well, having bared all in the blog, it's apparent that I'm....well.....compulsive.

As I travel, I see things that look....interesting. In most cases my buying decision will come down to three factors:

1) how much does it weigh (I am at war with the fascist airlines and their new weight limits)

2) can I see a clear picture of where this would be worth trying (like those deliciously sweet Chinese dried tomatoes that have turned out so well in risottos)

3) is it really bizarre?....okay, okay, I'm a guy.

3a) is my wife within sight when I buy it? (I scored four tubs of bamboo worms when she was busy in the lounge in Chiang Mai!).

Bottom line.....if you think you'll regret not having bought it, then the decision is pretty clear.

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You need a partner who'll say, "Why the hell did you/are you buy(ing) this?"

Although there are no guarantees... he/she might fail you at the most inconvenient moments (a.k.a. "Mmmm, what's this?") :raz:

"I know it's the bugs, that's what cheese is. Gone off milk with bugs and mould - that's why it tastes so good. Cows and bugs together have a good deal going down."

- Gareth Blackstock (Lenny Henry), Chef!

eG Ethics Signatory

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I have learned recently that things I never knew had an expiration date, actually do. And 9 times out of 10, I find it is expired.

When I renovated our kitchen we were without a ktichen for 13 months, so I had a large amount of boxed pantry items stored in our basement. They were all unopened cans and jars. I did a major clean out before putting the stuff back in the pantry at which point I became painfully aware of how much was expired.

I just went through the pantry again a few weeks ago and again found stuff I bought that expired. That lovely jar of young preserved ginger? expired Trader Joe's chili mango? expired. Mango chutney? yah, expired.

Live and learn. (maybe)

John Deragon

foodblog 1 / 2

--

I feel sorry for people that don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day -- Dean Martin

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I have a cute little crate that had clementines in it, and it sits on my counter. I call it my "you bought, now eat it" crate.

Periodically, I pull all those things out of the back of the cabinet, and put them in plain view in that crate.

Seems to help.

(And creates a lot of conversation when "normal" people come in my kitchen. :shock: )

sparrowgrass
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I'm absolutely guilty of buying things with no plans for consuming them. Far too often I find myself "saving" ingredients. For what, I'm not sure. Perhaps I'm terrified that I'll never find said interesting/delicious/exotic ingredient again? Frequently I "save" the item until well past its expiration date, swear not to do it again, and the cycle repeats.

I do tend to clean out the pantry at least once a year, but usually it's because I can't fit everything in it anymore.

Thanks for reminding me to use up some of those special items before I have to purge again. BTW, I like the orange crate idea!

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Instead of doing a binge of pantry cooking every night for a month, we try to use one random pantry item & one freezer item each week. The freezer is still completely full because we often end up with leftovers, but I'm beginning to see a little progress in the pantry. Not that my shelves are no longer crammed but at least you don't risk dropping something on your head every time you reach for a jar :raz:

Do you suffer from Acute Culinary Syndrome? Maybe it's time to get help...

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Periodically, I pull all those things out of the back of the cabinet, and put them in plain view in that crate. 

Seems to help.

That's really clever . . . its just like the Eddie Bauer clearance rack rolled up to the front of the store. I love that rack.

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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I am also guilty of buying various oddments that languish in my pantry for varying periods of time and I have always hated throwing things away. I grew up in a time in which frugality was considered one of the "queenly" homemaker's virtues.

A few years ago I discovered an interesting and fun way to "recycle" the things that are nearing the end of their useful life (some things actually will last for years, consider pickled walnuts, or fruits infused in liquors, for instance).

I have frequent food-loving visitors and will pull a selection of various condiments, jams, jellies, unusual ingredients or fancy food items, out of the pantry and place on a large tray on the counter. These are all still consumable, well within the "use-by" dates and often are duplicates as I don't always remember that I already have two cans of quail eggs...... or a couple of cans of hearts of palm, jackfruit in light syrup, etc., etc., etc.

I invite my guests to help themselves to anything on the tray and even provide cute small paper shopping bags with cord handles (I bought a case a few years ago and would really like to see the last of them also. Another case of "What was I thinking?")

My guests have fun picking out goodies (one once enthused, "This is better than Marshall's.") and we have had several interesting discussions on how to use these not-so-common items and I have learned about dishes I would never have discovered on my own. And more important, I have lots of space in my pantry for new purchases of the exotic and unusual, occasionally wierd and wonderful foodstuffs from around the world!

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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I invite my guests to help themselves to anything on the tray and even provide cute small paper shopping bags with cord handles (I bought a case a few years ago and would really like to see the last of them also.  Another case of "What was I thinking?")

If I were one of those guests, I'd be extremely pleased to take some of those interesting ingredients. And then said interesting ingredients would be there in MY pantry, adding to the clutter. Why, even as I write I have a package of apricot paste and a jar of home-cured olives from friends who were clearing out their kitchen prior to remodeling, about a year ago.

My pantry and cupboards have overflowed with chickpea flour, home-made jellies, Trader Joe's condiments, dried chilis that looked interesting for which I had no specific use in mind, various vinegars and oils and barley flour and nuts and noodles and canned goods and bagged goods and.... Then there are the ingredients and condiments that we do use, which we stock up on when we can. (In truth, most Trader Joe's condiments fall into this category.) Everything's muddled together in there. I've thought about starting a topic titled "Pantry roulette: help me use up this stuff!" or making it the theme of a foodblog. Every once in a while we'll start working our way down through the mess, but just as we're making progress we'll go away on a trip and find more exotic ingredients.

I really like the idea of the crate on the counter!

ETA: Expiration dates? Not to worry, Peter. Some of us don't bother looking at them.

Edited by Smithy (log)

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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Cranberry sauce from a jar or can be "recycled" and re-structured by heating it and adding chopped seedless orange, peel and all (if the peel is quite thick, remove the outer part with a vegetable peeler then discard the pithy part) bring it to the point where it is just simmering, hold it at that point for 5 minutes or so and transfer to a container and store in the fridge. You can even freeze it.

Grains, as long as they are not rancid, can be cooked, drained and frozen too.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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So I want to know who does the same thing as I do...I always have a well-stocked pantry,  including things like Italian tunas, sardines, oils, vinegars, canned beans, canned tomatoes, roasted peppers, dried mushrooms, palm sugar, peanut butter, shrimp paste, harissa, olives, nori, konbu, dried bonito, rice wrappers, etc. etc.  And I always like to add to my pantry;  any time I'm in an exotic store, I'll pick up a can of this or that - especially Asian items, as they seem to can just about everything that might go into a can.  BTW, I don't consider dried pasta a pantry item - I use it too much for me to consider it as such.  Same with rices, flours, dried fruits, etc.

This post got me thinking about it, as it was easy enough for me to go to my pantry and find a couple of cans of Maesri's pastes, including Red Curry Paste and Masaman Curry Paste.  Of course, I had to check expiration dates, and one of them has a date of September, 2007; though I doubt it has gone bad, it has EXPIRED

This leads me to my question - do you fill your pantry up with things you may never use, just because you like having all sorts of weird stuff in your pantry?  Or do you buy for your pantry only things that you know will be used?  When you buy something exotic, do you buy it with the thought that you will definitely use that in an upcoming meal?  And how often do you go through said pantry and start discarding, oh, those cans and jars that expired 3 years ago?

Are we related?? :smile:

I wonder what the guy on Pantry Raid - would do with the things he finds in all of our pantries!!!! Makes we wonder..... any thoughts?

I see things in the store and think yes I need that because I am going to try this - and then I forget why I bought it! Or I read a recipe and think I would make that if I only had this in my pantry or I have read something on the things you are SUPPOSE to have for a well stocked pantry. Oh the horror!!!

I was Sociology major in college so here is how I reason out the reason I do this - I am a hordered - my father was born in 1931 and food and money were not always around - and his family went without - when he grew up he made sure that his family had all they needed in fact he ended up doing more than o.k. when it came to his childern and grandson - but alas I was his baby girl and I was (am) very spoiled and he would buy me things and tell me to hide them (you know extra pack of gum, six pack of glass bottle cokes, small bottle of saffron, etc.. aka the little horder) even as a grown up he saw I loved to cook and did a pretty good job - so he would encourge me to go for it and to hell with the cost -

Granted I hate wasting the things I buy, but it seems right at the time. I know I am setting a bad example here at the house, but then again I have come up with some very cool things when I have not been to the store in a week.

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I never waste any food, not so much as a grain of salt. I just plan perfectly and everything is used up before its expiration date, with no compromises in terms of the deliciousness of what I prepare. What's wrong with you people?

no one has called him on this yet??? PISHAW!! :laugh:

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Not only do I suffer from all the issues discussed above (well, except for FG's state of delusion :smile: ) but also a couple of extras.

-- If I notice something in the refrigerator that is near its expiration date, and I know perfectly damn well I'm not going to eat it before it expires, I put it back in to wait out its remaining days--then toss it with a semi-opaque conscience.

-- What really sends me into paroxysms are items stamped not with an expiration date but with a date of manufacture (usually Indian or Chinese foods). Uneasy lies the head that has to determine when her own food has gone off. How the hell am I supposed to know? It's bad enough trying to eat everything before the expiration date bomb detonates, but the uncertainties involved in divining the shelf life of a crock of Tianjin preserved vegetable are just all too much for me. These things tend to hang around forever because there is no expiration date to grant me permission to toss.

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I never waste any food, not so much as a grain of salt. I just plan perfectly and everything is used up before its expiration date, with no compromises in terms of the deliciousness of what I prepare. What's wrong with you people?

Yeah right! And everything dish I make rivals what Keller throws on the table at the French Laundry. :biggrin:

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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I don't hoard much in the pantry because I live close to a myriad of markets. The problem arises when I see a food item, especially an inexpensive one, that looks intriguing and I have never seen before. Afraid that I may never see it again I grab it. Witness the packet of kaisou salad with the directions in Japanese from the Marukai 98 cent store, and the fascinating packet of dried mushrooms from Chinatown labeled "da shan xi lie" which look like puffballs but I am afraid to eat besides being clueless about preparation. But it is fun, and I can think of worse compulsions...

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Obviously, we need an odd food item exchange. Between all of us, we probably have any number of delicious and ethnically authentic meals just waiting to be cooked. :laugh:

For those of us who benefit from externally imposed arbitrary structure, this is sheer genius! I plan to dive in this weekend. Does anyone have a recipe using mudfish paste, pine nut honey, five pounds of tarbais beans, Pickapeppa sauce, and smoked pigs' feet?

Edited to say - I Googled tarbais beans. Now I need some.

Edited by lperry (log)
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