It doesn't matter if you are using a food service to supply several ships or doing some shopping for your spring clean up on the family fishing boat, you can have better food with less waste and cost if you plan carefully.
Planning Your Pantry
We are going to include all food and food prep items under the term pantry for this article. This is not proper but for the sake of clarity we will proceed. Usually only dry goods that do not need to be refrigerated are called pantry goods. Enough terminology, it's quite variable from place to place anyway.
To make our plan we will work backwards from the meals themselves. If you are on watch shifts you have a meal once every four hours or six times per day. This plan leads to interesting things like turkey dinner for breakfast.
If you are in a situation where you can pause and feed everyone at once it simplifies things considerably.
Working backwards means planning your table or buffet down to each item and gathering those recipes. Now you can try and make due, but you will need some specific equipment to make some of this food. Even a really good cook cannot make good bread without some sort of oven. If the recipe requires galley equipment you don't have then set it aside until you add that equipment.
Strong Suggestion #1 - Do only what you can do well. It' better to have a limited selection of well prepared food than a huge variety of mediocre products.
You will need to gather a lot of recipes and assess them for suitability. This is even true of professional food services, make sure the recipes work for the galley crew and satisfy everyone else. Meals need balanced nutrition for good crew performance but this is often overlooked.
If you have a culturally mixed crew try to include some familiar items so they are included at meal time. These shared ethnic foods are often a bonding point for crew members. Some may also have dietary or religious restrictions, be sure to ask about this in a careful way and be clear it is for menu planning and not separate treatment.
Now it's time to filter these recipes further by eliminating anything that does not store well on board ship.
After you do that look and see if you have similar ingredients. Do canned tomatoes or dried beans show up often? These frequent items are your staples and form the basis for most recipes. By eliminating items used for just one dish you gain space reduce spoilage.
The items that are used in some dishes might appear in only a few recipes. Unless it is a special treat for the crew, any ingredient that isn't used more than a few times a week should be phased out for simplicity. Just be sure not to take away someone's favorite meal.
Spices and condiments round out the list. These can linger for a long time but should be kept fresh for best flavor.
Shop local if you are visiting a port for the first time or the one hundredth time. Even in this time of big box stores you can still find small local producers. Online sources will lead you to many delicious discoveries.
Finally, without good management even a well planned pantry will go sour; sometimes literally. Food labeled with the stocking date will help keep stock rotated and inventory organized. With a good inventory system reordering should be almost automatic.
By the way people know about the jar of peanut butter and loaf of bread you keep in the helm station.