As promised, today I’m sharing about another very important component of meal planning: the pantry. A few things of note before I dive in. One, this post is specific to our needs at this particular season of life. There is certainly a subjective nature to what I feel is essential in our pantry versus what someone else might think is essential. Two, this list is a good general guideline but does exclude things such as food allergies and any specific dietary restrictions. On a practical note, most items can actually be stored in the pantry but there are a few things (i.e. ketchup, mustard, salad dressing) that eventually migrate to and live in the refrigerator.
Here we go!
*Bread – sliced, whole wheat or whole grain (depending on how quickly we use it, it sometimes ends up in the freezer to stay fresh longer); sometimes, we have bagels! not the healthiest but usually our son ends up eating half of one for breakfast and they keep well in the freezer.
*Wraps – whole wheat, spinach, roasted tomato or other fun flavors
*Corn tortillas – yellow or white, great for tacos and enchiladas
*Flour tortillas – whole wheat, great for quesadillas and burritos
*Pasta – inexpensive, so it’s a good idea to always have a variety such as thin spaghetti, fettucine, linguine, rotini, rigatoni, elbow
*Panko bread crumbs – good for breading fish or making meatballs
*Cereal – for quick breakfasts or toddler snacks
*Oats – we love the steel-cut variety but regular old fashioned oats are good too; makes for a filling and satisfying breakfast
Grains, Legumes, Nuts & Fruit
*Quinoa – buy it in bulk if possible since it’s less expensive, great as a side dish for a meal, cooks quickly
*Jasmine rice – we use the brown type and it cooks in less than 20 minutes, great for curries or stir fry
*Lentils – red and green, both have a unique and different flavor, cooks in less than 30 minutes
*Beans – it’s usually easier to grab canned ones, but they are high in sodium so try getting dry beans and invest in a good pressure cooker or cook them the “slow” way on the stovetop or slow cooker. Good ones to have are black, red, kidney, pinto, garbanzo and white beans. Beans are great for making salads more satisfying, too!
*Almonds – roasted or raw, great for snacks
*Peanuts – roasted and unsalted, great for snacks or make your own peanut butter
*Dried cranberries, apricots, cherries, raisins, figs, dates – these are all great to snack on, use in a homemade trail mix or even in recipes like homemade Larabars
*All purpose flour – the kitchen workhorse! great for pizza dough, biscuits, bread, cookies, cake, scones, etc.
*Whole wheat flour – a good substitute for AP flour (usually, I sub half of the AP flour amount in a recipe with it)
*Bread flour – makes a quick naan, also helpful for pizza dough
*Cake flour – gives cookies and cakes a nice touch
*Active rapid-rise yeast – great for throwing together a homemade pizza dough
*Cocoa powder – I usually have dutch processed, special dark and regular cocoa powder
*Cornstarch – great thickener for soups and sauces (bonus: use it for homemade all-natural deodorant!)
*Salt – coarse sea salt is my favorite, and I also have some pink Himalayan salt for when I feel fancy.
*Extracts – vanilla, almond, mint
*Sweeteners – white granulated sugar, light brown sugar, turbinado, powdered sugar, coconut sugar, agave nectar, pure maple syrup, honey, molasses
*Chocolate chips – semisweet & dark in both regular size and mini. It’s just always a good idea to have some on hand for adding to trail mix or putting in cookies.
Sauces, Condiments & Dressing
*Marinara sauce – a few different jars are always handy (tip: it also makes a great pizza sauce!)
*Broths – veggie, chicken. These are great for soups and also cooking rice or quinoa.
*Coconut milk – a great non-dairy creamer for coffee, good for curries or in baking oatmeal
*Tomato sauce, tomato paste, diced and whole tomatoes – these all come in handy and you never know when you’ll need them for a recipe or to make a quick soup
*Enchilada sauce – this is a nice to have item, but you can easily make your own if you have tomato sauce and spices
*Coconut oil – virgin, unrefined, organic (Trader Joe’s has the best prices for the quality), I use this for just about everything and even have a separate container in our bathroom as a moisturizer
*Extra virgin olive oil – another kitchen workhorse! great for sautéing, baking, cooking and making a quick homemade salad dressing
*Ketchup – my husband needs it (it’s also a decent tomato sauce substitute) so we buy the non-high fructose corn syrup variety
*Mustard – regular, Dijon are good for sandwiches and also other recipes such as glazing salmon
*Bottled salad dressing – a good Caesar salad dressing (Cardini’s is our favorite), Italian, or any other flavor you enjoy
*Soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Sriracha, sweet chili sauce, Tabasco hot sauce – these are absolute staples in our cooking whether it’s a stir fry or using them as toppings on eggs
*Vinegars – white, rice, balsamic, red wine
Spices, Coffee, Tea
Since I don’t want to list out every single spice, I’m just listing the ones we use most often and that are handy to have.
*Red chili pepper
*Coffee – regular, decaf (espresso is what we use)
*Tea – I have a pretty big collection but some good basics are black, Earl Grey, chai, green, peppermint, and chamomile.
There you have it! A basic but all-inclusive list of the things that live in our pantry on any given day. As far as cost goes, a lot of items can be purchased in bulk so you can save some money there. Some items you don’t replace very often, like spices or maybe sweeteners. It all depends on your usage. More than likely, you don’t be needing to replenish every single pantry item on a weekly basis.
I’m curious to hear if there’s anything YOU would consider a pantry essential that I haven’t listed here. Also, does anyone hold the secret to keeping an organized pantry?