Invest in Storage Containers

There is a lot to be said for storing ingredients in clear, airtight containers that fit neatly into cupboards and pantries. To conserve space, they should be square or rectangular, not round. They should also be well labeled. Six or seven years ago, I purchased clear stackable containers that fit in my panty in a modular fashion. I filled them with dry goods and have never regretted the time investment. In my downstairs pantry I store rice, bulgur,barley, oatmeal, dried beans, egg substitute, gluten, agar (vegetarian gelatin),and bread crumbs, among other things, in these containers. 

I also store roasted walnuts, almonds, pecans, and flaxseed in the same type of containers in my upstairs cupboard because we consume these items almost daily. Pasta, which we use more than rice, is stored upstairs in cupboards in the prep area as are the spices, oils, vinegars, and other basic ingredients. My flour, sugar, cornmeal, and master mix, a homemade all-purpose baking mix, are stored in a roundabout in my prep area both because these ingredients fit there and because I use these items with surprising regularity. 

Don’t Bury the Herbs and Spices Another hint I learned when we lived in a new home in Louisiana that had lots of kitchen drawers was the concept of the spice drawer. Keeping spices and herbs in similarly sized containers in a drawer near the stove is a tremendous time saver because you can easily locate the spices you need without having to take everything out of the spice cupboard. My favorite containers are the small glass jars that are round on top with slightly squared bottoms that keep them from rolling. Organizing them in the drawer, however, should be done by personal preference. I typically go with the Simon and Garfunkel approach and put parsley next to sage, rosemary, and thyme and follow with basil and the other spices in a functional order that is probably only logical tome. Others simply alphabetize.

Take a Self-Guided Grocery Store Tour Somewhere in the process of organizing,it might be wise to visit your favorite supermarket or health food store both to stock up on ingredients and familiarize yourself with products for vegetarians.This is a great idea even for veteran vegetarians because new foods come onto the market regularly. Before making this trip, take stock of what you have in yourpantry and what type of items you are looking for. For example, you might be curious about which food products are fortified with vitamin B12 or have added flax,or what healthy snacks, premixes, or bean varieties are available. You may be interested in everything, which is fine; just go prepared to be there a while (and don’t take the kids).