One of the very first keys to successfully eating as a family and cooking meals on a regular basis is having a good base to start from in your pantry. Having food on hand and available makes this process less stressful and much less work.
Can you imagine if you had to purchase every spice and herb and tablespoon of ingredient in each and every recipe you make every time you make it? The task of shopping just to make one meal could feel a bit overwhelming, much less trying to plan a week’s worth of meals. This is just one reason why having a well-stocked pantry is so important.
Stocking your pantry…
- helps you steer clear of prepackaged and processed foods.
- makes it easy to come up with last-minute meals.
- saves you money by allowing you to stock when food items are on sale.
- keeps food on hand in case of an emergency (remember all those snow days last winter?)
- helps maintain a healthy diet full of real foods.
Photo by Shaina
What Should You Keep on Hand?
When deciding which items you should be stocking in your pantry, it’s always a good idea to first look at what you tend to cook most often. Stocking up on dried split peas, for example, will do you no good if you never cook them.
An easy way to do this is to write down your menu for two or three weeks or look back at what you made for that time period. Perhaps you often cook with whole grains, or maybe you eat at least one meal a week if not more that has red pepper flakes added in. Look at which ingredients you’re using most often; these are things you’ll want to be sure to have on hand all the time.
Next, consider your baking habits. Do you bake bread from scratch? Do you make cookies and cakes frequently for dessert? Do you make your own granola? These are also things to consider when building your pantry stash.
Finally, look at any specialty or ethnic ingredients you use on a regular basis. My family loves to cook with Asian ingredients like sesame oil and rice wine; therefore, these are things we keep stocked in our home. We also use capers, artichoke hearts and sundried tomatoes frequently. What specialty ingredients do you like having around?
Photo by Shaina
Here are some general categories and food items that could be staples in your home. Add or subtract items to fit your family’s lifestyle and eating habits.
Pantry Basics: A Place to Start
Flours – unbleached white, wheat, rice, cake, almond
Sugars – brown, cane or beet, powdered, turbinado or demerara
Dry Pastas – a few different shapes and sizes
Grains – couscous, rice, barley, quinoa, oats, flax, cornmeal
Oils – olive oil, canola oil, coconut oil, peanut oil, sesame oil
Vegetables – onions, potatoes, garlic
Canned/Jarred Tomatoes – sauce, diced, stewed, paste
Spreads – peanut, almond & hazelnut butters, jam, jelly
Natural Sweeteners – honey, maple syrup, agave
Vinegars – balsamic, white, red wine, apple cider, rice wine
Specialty Sauces – hot sauce, Tabasco, oyster sauce, mirin, rice wine, soy sauce
Nuts – almonds, walnuts, pecans, pine nuts, coconut
Dried Fruit – raisins, apricots, dates, cherries, cranberries
Dried or Canned Beans– black, navy, pinto, kidney
Canned fish/seafood – tuna, salmon, clams, sardines, anchovies
Specialty Items – artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, olives
Herbs and Spices – oregano, basil, parsley, rosemary, cumin, peppers and many more
Salts – kosher, sea salt, pickling salt, rock salt
Baking Ingredients – baking powder, baking soda, yeast, cream of tartar, chocolate
Extracts – vanilla, almond, lemon, peppermint
Beverages– coffee, tea, cocoa
More Great Pantry Resources:
- Three Recipes to Keep in Your Pantry from Simple Bites
- 118 Essential Pantry Ingredients from The Perfect Pantry
- Spices 101: What You Need to Know About Buying Spices from Simple Bites
- Build a Frugal Pantry from Good (&CHEAP) Eats
- Stocking Your Pantry for Home Cooking: The Basics from Food for My Family
- Making Room for Bulk Storage from Keeper of the Home
- 13 Pantry items every baker positively, absolutely has to have from The Perfect Pantry
What are “must-haves” in your kitchen pantry?