Soul-warming, homemade soups will be at your fingertips all winter long when you know how to stock your pantry with delicious, healthy, and long-lasting dried goods. Storage is key, and Rubbermaid has joined me to create a beautiful home for my favorite soup ingredients. This post is a sponsored collaboration with Rubbermaid and their BRILLIANCE™ line of pantry organization containers. All thoughts, suggestions, and opinions are my own.
I have to be honest with you, my fellow soup-lovin’ peeps: winter caught me completely off-guard this year. By mid-December, I’m normally in a major homemade-soup-makin’ groove, ensconced in my soup-lovers’ kitchen with all my soup-friendly supplies.
But that just didn’t happen in 2017. One day, as Christmas neared, I went to make soup for the first time in over a month (I know, whut!) and stood before my dried goods pantry with my face hanging out in a puzzled scrunch.
“Where’s all my stuff?!”
I hadn’t yet done any serious shopping for soup season, and my go-to collection of dried goods was pathetically low: No rice, a cup full of lentils here, a palmful of black beans there. No pearl couscous (a must-have in my kitchen). And the storage container sitch was out of control: too big, too small, mismatched. It looked like something a college student would cobble together (complete with empty containers).
If it’s possible to have an existential soup crisis, this was it. (Dinner that night was a good old fashioned vegetable soup, sans the pasta I was really craving.)
But then … Rubbermaid to the rescue! Their BRILLIANCE™ pantry containers were exactly what I needed to restore sanity to my soup-makin’ ways, and helped me create a space in my kitchen where I could organize and track what I needed each week to bring scrumptious food to the table.
Since I was having the unique opportunity to reconfigure my empty soup pantry from scratch, both ingredient- and container-wise, I thought this would be the perfect thing to share with you, Soup Friends, as you prep your kitchen for winter cooking. Let’s get started!
First things first: the bulk bins are your friends!
If you have a store near you with bulk bins of dried goods, I absolutely recommend making a shopping list and hitting the bins. Not only will you save money, pound for pound, but you can buy exactly what you need, in quantities large or tiny.
I love bulk bins for a number of reasons, not just for stocking up on soup ingredients, but also things like, since I bake so infrequently, I’m the person who buys one cup of pastry flour at a time, lol, rather than that three-pound bag that will go rancid before my next homemade pie craving.
Now let’s take a look at some of the things I bought on my most recent pantry stocking trip. I hope it provides ideas and inspiration for both how to stock your pantry for soup season, as well as soups and stews you might like to cook with your fresh collection of yummy ingredients.
Pastas & Grains
Pastas, rice, and quinoa are natural additions to soups and stews and are must-haves in my dried goods pantry. I purposely have a selection of Rubbermaid® BRILLIANCE™ container sizes here, because my stock will flex as I run out of one ingredient and replace it with another. The rainbow pasta above, for example, will probably be used up in one recipe, and the next pasta I buy might be something else entirely. Or maybe I’ll want to load up that 16-cup container with my favorite rice blend, and use the 12-cup container for elbow macaroni instead.
I do keep a variety of pastas in the house, including spaghetti, tube pastas, and usually a larger pasta for carbtastic saucy pasta dishes.
One thing you might notice in the photo above is my appreciation of the tiny pasta. I *love* pasta in soup, but I have a big issue with things that don’t fit on a soup spoon. Chicken noodle soup? Lol, nnnnoo. Slurpy, splashy, slip-sliding, long, twisty noodles, nuh uh. Soup with little pearl couscous or ditalini sitting pretty on a spoon? Now dat’s more like it! Yes, I’m completely weird like that.
The pasta on the upper left, by the way, is fregola: an Italian cousin to pearl couscous that’s toasted and nutty, and entirely awesome. It’s always in my pantry (and often in my salads).
Gluten avoiders, you don’t have to give up your love of pasta soups! Although not shown here, I keep a corn and quinoa blend on hand. I love the flavor, and the al dente texture holds up nicely in soups.
Rice and quinoa are also regular characters in my soup pantry. I’m currently crushing on the wild and brown rice blend shown, but at any given moment, I might also have arborio, jasmine, or long grain brown rice on hand, depending on the recipes I’m cooking. I also stock sprouted quinoa because it’s so easy to toss into a soup, or mix into a green salad for extra nutrition.
Legumes (Beans, Lentils) & Seasonings
Winter soups and stews’ bestest friendsies: legumes! If you’re anything like me, soup is often the meal at dinner, perhaps with a side of whole wheat baguette if I’m ambitious enough to get to the market. So, while I love brothy soups, especially when I’m feeling sniffly or achy, a winter-hearty dinner needs some substance to make my tummy happy, and that’s where beans and lentils come in.
The decision to buy an electric pressure cooker last year upped my from-scratch game to new heights. It’s not that I have anything foot-stompingly negative against canned beans — I don’t! — but the truth of it is that, to a soup and stew maker like little ole moi, a “can” just isn’t a convenient unit of measure.
Soooo many times, I need more than or less than an exact can of beans, and then … what do you do with the leftovers? (In my household, a 1/2 cup of leftover beans in the freezer will quickly work its way to the back wall and end up in the trash two years later.) And cooking dried beans on the stovetop means that there’s no such thing as a 4:00pm dinner menu change to, say, the smoky black bean soup I’m suddenly craving like crazy.
But the pressure cooker means that all options are back on the table, and stashes of dried beans have once again moved into my kitchen pantry. I particularly love fava beans (the brown beans above) and black-eyed peas, but black turtle beans make their way into so many of my everyday recipes that they warrant space in a large Rubbermaid® BRILLIANCE™ container.
Other dried beans you’ll want to consider for your favorite winter recipes: kidney beans, great northern or cannellini beans, garbanzos (chickpeas), adzuki beans, mung beans (shown in the small bowl above; they make awesome sprouts, too), butter beans, and lima beans.
Hello, fresh cooked beans, I love you!
As you can tell from the photo above, I also have a thing for lentils, as there is not one, or two, but four types of lentils shown therein – red, French, yellow, and black beluga (shown in the little bowl because that’s all I had left today, lol. They’ll get their own container after the next trip to the bulk bins).
Red and yellow lentils are perfect for quick-and-thick soups and curries, because they cook like lightning and break down into stewy, spoon-clinging comfort food. French du Puy and black beluga lentils are sturdier versions that hold up to long simmering turns on the stove, and are also amazing additions to green salads, even long after soup season ends.
Green and brown lentils are economical and super easy to find, but I don’t stock them because I have to draw the line in the lentil sand somewhere (four.types.of.lentils!). Normal people, however, should feel free to snatch up those bags of brown lentils with joy in their hearts.
You’ll also notice in the photo above, the small Rubbermaid® BRILLIANCE™ container perched on top of the black beans. I have small spice jars that I love and serve me really well (I buy my spices from a local bulk purveyor, because I can bring the jars with and buy exactly what I need). But there are some seasonings that I use so much of, I buy them by the ginormous scoop, not the dainty ounce. Nutritional yeast is one of those seasonings.
I put nutritional yeast on so many things – salads, chilis, soups, mashed potatoes, popcorn, steamed broccoli – that I literally keep it right next to my stove. The 1.3 cup Rubbermaid® BRILLIANCE™ container is the perfect size for ingredients like my nutritional yeast, which I use by the heaping tablespoonful. More uses for this container: flaky finishing salt, and fragrant bay leaves that are too long to jam into a squat jar (I grow my own bay laurel tree, and the leaves are big and beautiful and deserve roomy, non-squishing storage).
One construction feature I really appreciate with the Rubbermaid® BRILLIANCE™ containers – and something you should consider as you think about how you access and use your dried goods IRL (srsly, never underestimate ease of use) – is their sensible dimensions. Maybe it’s just me and my klutzy self, but pouring lentils and small beans out of anything — containers, bags, jars — into a measuring cup always results in lentils and small beans all over the floor.
Unlike my previous storage containers, I can dip a measuring cup or spoon fully inside and retrieve what I need without waste (or that sing-songy ppiinngg-piinng-ping-ping-ping of dozens of lentils bouncing off the tile, lol).
Another important quality to look for in storage containers is an air-tight seal. Rubbermaid® BRILLIANCE™ pantry container lids are not only interchangeable with their stack-mates (woot!), but they feature an edge seal that keeps ingredients fresh. Which is really important for stretching those New Year’s budget dollars to the max: no waste due to leaky lids. In fact, the container lets out a satisfying “whoooossh” when you press down on the lid to clamp it closed. << Love dat.
And from a purely aesthetic perspective (a bonus, for sure), the clear lids mean all-around visibility to the contents, and the dark clamps and sealing ring blend unnoticeably into the container.
And so, we finally come to the current view of my real-life kitchen counter. I love the secure stackability of these BPA-free containers, and how the different sizes work together to create a neat and tidy display of these beautiful dried goods.
I mean, really, just look at that! The crystal clear plastic and low-profile lids of the Rubbermaid® BRILLIANCE™ line lets the contents shine, which, as it turns out, makes me really happy. Like, happy dance happy (which I’m absolutely not instagramming for your amusement ;)). I simply don’t have the cabinet space in my small kitchen to tuck away my collection of dried goods, so, appearance does matter.
(Also: the cool red tube pasta shown above … 100% red lentil pasta! See? I have a lentil problem! But don’t send help because it’s winter and I’m totally jammin’ with all da lentils.)
Pro-tip: although your dried goods probably don’t need labeling, you know those preparation instructions printed on the packaging? Just cut them out and either tape them to the bottom of the container, or lay them inside on top of the ingredients. That way, you’ll always have them handy.
With my pantry now stocked and organized (whew!), I feel completely energized by the season of winter cooking, and all the homemade soups, stews, and curries that are on my must-make list for January and February!
I hope this primer on how to stock your pantry for soup season has been helpful, and if you have any questions at all — or want to share you own tips, tricks, and favorite pantry soup ingredients — please let ‘er rip in the comments! Shop on Amazon for the Rubbermaid products you’ve seen in this post, and get your kitchen in soup-shape.