One of the easiest ways to make delicious and tasty meals during the week is having a fully stocked pantry. Having flours, grains, spices, herbs, oils, vinegars, dried beans and specialty sauces on hand makes cooking at home a breeze.
Can you imagine if you had to purchase every spice, herb or tablespoon of this and that for a recipe each time you wanted to cook something? The constant grocery store trips would feel a bit overwhelming, especially for a week’s worth of meals. This is just one reason why a well-stocked pantry is so important.
A well-stocked pantry has many benefits
- Helps you steer clear of pre-packed and processed foods that are high in sodium and nasty additives
- Makes it easy to come up with last-minute meals
- Saves you money by letting you stock up on ingredients when they are on sale
- Keeps food on hand for emergencies, such as snow storms or pandemics like Coronavirus
- Helps maintain a healthy diet full of real foods
- Canning fresh fruits and vegetables during peak season from your local farmers market helps build a strong local economy and gives you control over what goes into your food.
What should you keep on hand?
Easy! Look at what you like to cook most often. For instance, if you’re not making split pea soup too often, then it’s best just to buy those ingredients as you need them, allowing space in your pantry for items you enjoy on the regular.
An easy way to do this is writing down your menu for the next 2 to 3 weeks, or looking back on what you made in the last 2 or 3 weeks. Did you cook with a lot of whole grains? Did red pepper flakes make their way into several of your dishes? Writing a menu for the next couple weeks may be a hurdle at first, but will allow you to stock up with less trips to the market.
Next comes dessert. Are you an avid baker? Are you on a sourdough kick? Do you make banana bread to use up ripe bananas? How about cookies, cakes, granolas? If you like baking, I would recommend purchasing in bulk when building your pantry stash.
Finally, look at any specialty ingredients or cuisines you’d like to try. Do you want to up the ante with a new kind of pepper flake? For example, aleppo has an alluring, sweet, earthy smokiness that can easily replace the classic red pepper flake in many dishes. You may even want to try your hand at dried Mexican chilis like ancho, pasilla and guajillo. The beautiful thing about a pantry is that it allows you to explore the world one ingredient at a time. As I like to say, cooking is the only time you’re allowed to play with your food!
Pantry-building basics: best items to stash, stow & stock away
- Flours – unbleached white, wheat, rice, cake, almond
- Sugars – brown, cane, beet, powdered, turbinado or demerara
- Dry pastas – various 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 and 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, etc.
- Salts – kosher salt, sea salt, pickling salt, rock salt
- Baking ingredients – baking powder, baking soda, yeast, cream of tartar, baking chocolate
- Extracts – vanilla, almond, lemon, peppermint
- Beverages– coffee, tea, cocoa