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A well-stocked pantry is like money in the bank: With the right long-lasting staples, you can take advantage of fresh, seasonal foods and impulse purchases or try a new recipe without having to scout out every last ingredient. You'll save time, too, by pulling together entire meals from pantry staples, from a quick pasta dish to an exotic couscous.
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Variety, we all know, is the spice of life, but it's also true that spices add incredible variety to your culinary endeavors. When it comes to seasoning with spices and dried herbs, follow your nose. You'll quickly develop a sense of how these flavorings complement each dish. Spices won't spoil, but they will lose potency over time, and in general, they're best if used within six months of purchase. They should be stored in a cool, dry place, and if you're unsure of a spice's freshness, take a sniff -- if there's no smell, toss it and restock.
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What better way to show off your suave, sophisticated hospitality than offering your guests their favorite cocktail from a well-stocked bar? A home bar should reflect both your own tastes and those of your guests and friends, and it should be suited to your particular style of entertaining, but there are a few basics, including inexpensive tools, you shouldn't be without.
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Baking can be one of the true joys in the kitchen. Unlike the nightly meal, you never really have to do it, so it's always an indulgence for baker and eater alike. With the proper equipment on hand, you will have better results with less frustration, and -- who knows? -- find yourself baking more often.
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Most utility closets serve several distinct purposes, holding daily cleaning tools, occasional supplies such as light bulbs, and even emergency equipment. The result? A confused jumble that makes everything hard to find. After gathering everything you need, try keeping your supplies grouped according to the room they're used in, store the most frequently used items between waist and eye level, and rarely used ones on higher shelves. With everything in its place, it'll be easier to find and obvious if it's missing.
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Photography: Simon Upton6 of 8
Unfetter your creative impulses by keeping essential crafting tools organized and at your fingertips. Store your craft-specific kits in separate toolboxes, painter's trays, or picnic baskets, or if you have the space, organized on shelves in a designated crafts room like Martha's.
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Whether your skill level ends at replacing buttons or you're expert enough to create your own personal fall line, sewing is an essential if sometimes overlooked component of homekeeping. With the essentials gathered together and ready to use, you'll never have to fear a potential wardrobe malfunction.
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Gardens come in every shape, size, and style, but there are a few tasks that are common to all: digging and preparing the soil, weeding, and pruning. Your tools, too, should have one thing in common: They should be the most durable and highest quality you can afford. The better the tools you have, the less the effort on your part -- and the more time to enjoy the fruits of your labor.