pantry essentials

Be Prepared.

When the pandemic hit, we suddenly went into quarantine.  I discovered that my pantry did not contain what it should, and I was limited in what I could make for dinner until I could get some groceries.  My first grocery order through Instacart was enormous as I realized all the staples I did not have.  If we have another pandemic shutdown in the late fall, as predicted, I will not make that mistake again.  Here is what a fully stocked pantry should have. adjustable to personal tastes, of course. You don’t need to have every single item listed here all the time, but if you have most of them, you will  get through several days until you can buy some groceries.

The first step is to go through your existing pantry and freezer and get rid of items that are past their edible dates and those you will never use.  Fill the extra space you’ve created with fresh items that you know you will use and that you like to eat.

The Basics:

Oils & Vinegars:  Extra virgin olive oil, canola oil, red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar

Boxes, Jars & Cans (these are also shelf-stable foods):  Tomato paste, diced or chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce, chicken or vegetable stock, fruit jams and preserves, anchovies, dried Porcini mushrooms, tuna fish in olive oil, canned salmon, canned Cannellini beans, Heinz baked beans, Del Monte whole kernel corn, Green Giant cream style sweet corn, Campbell’s condensed soups – cream of celery, cream of mushroom and cream of tomato, artichoke hearts. olives.

Spices and Herbs: Kosher salt, ground black pepper, red pepper flakes, ground cayenne, curry powder, bay leaves, sweet paprika, ground cinnamon, ground cumin, garlic powder, dried thyme, dried oregano & dried tarragon

Grains & Starches:  Basmati rice, long-grain white rice, quinoa, farro, a variety of dry pastas, bread crumbs, panko bread crumbs, assorted crackers, canned black beans and chickpeas, dry white beans, dry lentils, Ramen noodle soups, tortillas

Nuts & Nut Butters:  Creamy & crunchy peanut butter, almond butter, chopped walnuts, slivered almonds, pine nuts

Condiments:  Ketchup, Dijon mustard, mayonnaise, hot sauce, soy sauce, honey, hoisin, white miso

Produce:  Garlic, onions, potatoes, lemons, scallions,  carrots, avocados, ginger, shallots, fresh mint

Baking:  All-purpose flour, rolled oats, light & dark brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, granulated sugar, confectioner’s sugar, semi-sweet chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate chips, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, molasses, corn syrup, active dry yeast, , Biscuit pancake mix

Dairy:  Eggs, unsalted butter, hard cheeses like Parmesan, cheddar, milk, cream for cooking, plain yogurt

Freezer:  Chicken parts, sausages, ground beef, turkey and lamb, shrimp, vegetables, sliced fruit, bread, edamame, bacon.

The second step is organizing your pantry.  After you have pulled everything out and gotten rid of expired items and the things you wouldn’t eat if your life depended on it, clean the shelves and begin to put the remaining items back.

Group like items together.  I have a spice and condiment shelf, a baking shelf, a canned shelf, a snack shelf and so forth. I hate searching for items and ending up buying what I didn’t find, only to discover it misplaced later.  I keep teas and coffee in another cabinet to save space in my pantry which I consider prime kitchen real estate.

Losing items in the back of the pantry shelves is a pantry hazard.  It wastes food and money when you pitch it several years later.  I use plastic lazy Susans which help me keep track of what I have.  Pull-out drawers or bins also let you see what you have.

Finally, the third step,  labeling is a must, especially for freezer items.  Masking tape and a Sharpie work well for freezer labels.  Plastic containers with wet erase marker labels are fine for homemade pantry items like bread crumbs, candied ginger etc.  Make sure you date when the item was made.

Note:  When you have leftover fresh produce like peas, spinach or any vegetable, just cook it up and freeze it.  When you are foraging in your kitchen during a blizzard or pandemic, you will be able to throw these little packages into pasta, soup or a casserole for extra flavor and nutrition.

For Pantry Pasta recipe from Bon Appetit click here.

Pinch of Yum is a fun cooking blog.  Here is the link to their “25 pantry recipes (that you’ll actually love)”.

Here is the link for “75+ Recipes Using Fridge, Freezer and Pantry Staples” on the Iowa Girl Eats.

Some organized pantries:

                                                                                                   Image from Better Homes & Garden

A well-stocked organized pantry is truly a thing of beauty.

Earlier ASE articles about pantries:

Keep Food Fresh in Your Pantry

Storage for a healthy pantry

Make a Healthy Meal on Short Notice – From Your Pantry

Healthy Pantry Items

Whip up dinner from your pantry

Healthy meals from the pantry