If you’re planning to do some cooking and baking this holiday season, chances are you’re already thinking about all of the ingredients you’ll need to have on hand. It’s hard enough to decide what to make each year, so don’t stress yourself out more by trying to buy supplies as you go, risking forgetting things and battling supermarket crowds. Get your pantry in gear and stock it full of items you’ll need to bake all the holiday goodies your heart desires.
Whether you’re vegan, paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, new to baking or a well-seasoned baker who doesn’t follow a diet or special dietary lifestyle, there are plenty of items that you’ll want to have on hand for baking cookies and other desserts, breakfast dishes, casseroles and much more.
Here are five tips to help you arrange your pantry for success so you can breeze through this holiday season like a champ. Get those oven mitts ready!
1. Prep your pantry.
Before you purchase anything new, prep your pantry by cleaning it out. This may not be fun, but it’s important. It will help you enjoy the season more and possibly be a bit healthier, too. For instance, if you’re like anyone else, you likely have an opened bag of something or a few spice jars that are outdated. Those half-opened bags of flour or chocolate chips that you used last year? Toss them. Also be sure to trash any nuts or seeds, which should be kept in the fridge for optimal preservation of nutrients as well as freshness.
While many items have long expiration dates, they lose their freshness and flavor more rapidly once they’ve been opened. Some items are also sensitive to light, heat and humidity, which can fluctuate, potentially causing the development of mold and other types of bacteria. To be safe, toss out anything that has expired or has been opened that you’re not sure about.
Next, remove everything from your shelves, wipe them clean with some non-toxic cleaner and stand back and smile at your job well done.
2. Make a list of essentials.
Now, you’re ready to write down items you know you will need, such as items you use each year or ingredients you’ll need for dishes you’ve already planned to prepare.
Here’s a good list of basics:
- Cocoa powder
- Chocolate chips
- Spices and herbs
- Non-stick spray
- Coconut oil
- Baking powder
- Baking soda
- Egg replacers
- Dried fruit
Once you have a list of essentials, consider how much space you have to store them in order to plan how much of each you should purchase. This way, you’ll be ready to get as much as you can in one fell swoop and stock up ahead of time.
3. Complete a big shop.
While it can be expensive up front, doing a big shop will prepare you well in advance so you’re not just buying items as you go, potentially purchasing duplicates of items you don’t need. This tip may also help limit impulse buys, which, let’s be honest, are really hard to resist if you’re constantly going to the store during the holiday season. Make your list of ingredients and stick to it as closely as possible.
Before you complete a big shop for all your baking and cooking ingredients, consider anything else you might need to accompany these items, such as pans and utensils. Buying these items at the same time makes the process easier and will further limit trips to the store. You might also want to pick up disposable loaf pans or baking cup liners for easy cleanup and gifting baked goods.
4. Label everything.
Once you get home from the store, label your shelves, if possible, and store your items in the appropriate designated places. Not only is this pleasing to the eye (and a must for optimum organization), but it’s also much easier to tell when you’re out of something. When you see that a labeled item is all gone, add it to your list for next time.
5. Buy in bulk, but buy smart.
Finally, remember that many items used over and over again for holiday cooking and baking can be bought in bulk or when they’re on sale to save even more money. The important tip here is to make sure that you check the expiration date before buying items in excess.
Be sure you have room to store things, whether it’s in the fridge or pantry, and only open new packages of bulk items once you’ve used up the old ones. This keeps your pantry tidy, keeps you organized and will make it easier on you throughout the year.
Baking during the holidays can be such a wonderful way to get into the holiday spirit, and let’s face it, our friends, family and coworkers love us for it since they benefit, too! Keep these tips in mind as you head into the holiday season so you can stock your pantry for success and enjoy the merriment in a more organized fashion this year.