A well-stocked pantry is the most critical tool for planning ahead when you grocery shop so you always have basic food items on hand.
After you've stocked your pantry, supermarket trips may be less frequent. You'll only need to shop for perishable foods and depleted pantry items.
The physical pantry in your home is any cool, dry place you can store food items for a length of time, including kitchen cupboards, shelves -- even a little floor space in a closet will work. Your refrigerator and freezer are part of the pantry, too!
Pantry items are considered dry goods or staples, things you always have on hand. Ideally, they will keep for a long time in storage, or are fresh, perishable foods regularly used up before they spoil. The idea is to subvert the need to go grocery shopping every time you cook -- a major hurdle when getting food on the table.
You don't have to buy everything at once; just buy what you think you'll eat fairly often, and in small quantities so foods stay fresh. Build up your pantry gradually. Of course, not all ingredients work as pantry staples -- fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and other foods are perishable.
These foods generally have a short shelf life. Buy only those that you consume frequently, such as milk or eggs. If celery gets all noodly before you finish the bag, buy only as you need.
On the other hand, some refrigerated foods that you use fairly often, such as cheeses, are considered staples. Cheese that keeps well in the refrigerator includes parmesan and romano. Some frequently used soft cheeses such as mozzarella and cheddar, may also be considered staples if you use them so frequently they don't spoil.
The freezer is an excellent place for pantry items. Often-used meats, such as chicken breasts and bacon, can be stored for short periods of time in the freezer. Other foods, like flour and nuts, will keep longer if stored in the freezer.
Store dried herbs and spices in a cool, dry place (not above the stove) to keep them at their peak of flavor. They will lose much of their flavor after a year, so buy small containers. Write the date you opened them on the label.
Flavored liqueurs have highly concentrated flavors, making them a great cooking staple. Stored in a cool, dark place, they last almost indefinitely. Buy small bottles, though, especially when trying something new to you. Wines also contribute a rich and subtle flavor to recipes. Store wine bottles on their sides in a cool, dark place.