We find that there certain ingredients we end up using day in day out when preparing our meals at home (and when I say we… I of course really mean my husband, who’s an absolute whizz in the kitchen!).
A well-stocked pantry can be a life saver at times… for instance those days when you just can’t face another trip to the grocery store with the kids in tow 🙂
The items that we consider to be essentials are generally inexpensive, keep for a long time and are hugely versatile. So in addition to the staples of sugar, flour, Kosher salt (not the tasteless fine-grain table salt!) and pepper, these are the foods that we always try to have on hand so that it’s possible to throw together a delicious and flavorful meal even at short notice.
This list can easily be extended or tweaked to suit your own personal tastes and cooking style.
Grains and beans
- Pasta – keeping pasta always on hand ensures that a simple, quick, and healthy meal for the family can be whipped up at a moment’s notice. Furthermore, it will keep in the pantry for a long, long time.
- Rice – rice (we usually have long-grain white and basmati) is an essential, base accompaniment in a multitude of dishes from across the international spectrum and will also keep for years in the pantry.
- Dry beans – we most often use black beans, but sometimes also garbanzo.
Fruits and vegetables
- Onions – this fragrant essential vegetable is a base ingredient in an astonishing array of savoury and sweet dishes as well as salads and sandwiches.
- Fresh garlic – as with onions, garlic is an essential spice included in an incredible array of dishes, sauces, and vinaigrettes from all cuisines.
- Lemons – great for use in salads (in lieu of vinegar for a fresh snappy flavour) and in a variety of dips, marinades, drinks and side dishes.
- Limes – similar to lemons, limes add a bright, fresh background flavour in dips, marinades, drinks, and dressings.
Oils, vinegars and sauces
- Olive oil – if you’re going to have one oil in your pantry, make it extra virgin olive oil. It simply tastes better than plain vegetable oils. Olive oil imparts a rich, robust flavor and adds to the depth of the flavour of your dish. It’s used worldwide as a base element in a vast array of cuisines.
- Peanut oil – perfect neutral-flavor oil for dishes, dressings, dips where you don’t want the oil to interfere with other flavors. Peanut oil is also perfect for deep frying.
- Vinegar (red and white wine) – in addition to salad dressings and pickling, vinegars are used frequently in marinades and as a finishing element to flavor and brighten dishes like greens and other vegetable sides.
- Soy sauce – soy sauce is used like salt in many Asian cuisines. It’s also a base flavoring agent in a variety of marinades.
- Worcestershire sauce – used in many sauces and marinades.
- Honey – again, features in many dressings, sauces and marinades.
- Hot sauce – whichever type or brand you prefer most (we like Frank’s Red Hot). By the way, one of my favorite things to do with hot sauce is to put it on warm, buttery popcorn… sounds really weird, but is delicious, trust me!
Herbs and spices
- Garlic powder
- Dried basil
- Dried oregano
- Whole cumin seed – keeps forever in whole form and can be ground up as needed
- Whole coriander seed – keeps forever in whole form and can be ground up as needed
- Smoked paprika
- Canned whole peeled tomatoes – cans will keep for a couple years and are used in many dishes.
- Tomato paste – will keep forever and is an important structural element in many tomato-based sauces.
- Canned tuna – keeps forever, is inexpensive, and is a versatile, quick-meal option.
- Chipotle peppers (in adobe sauce) – my husband loves Southwestern flavors, so we tend to use these in many of our sauces, dips etc.
- Single serve chicken/beef stock (that’s if you don’t make it homemade, which is so simple, inexpensive and SIGNIFICANTLY better than canned… we do try to keep homemade stock on hand as much as possible)
One final thing to add – neither my husband nor I do a lot of baking, but if that’s your passion, you should of course add some baking essentials such as baking powder, baking soda, cocoa, chocolate etc. to the list.
So there you have it! With these items in your pantry, you’ll be all set to prepare a whole range of inexpensive yet delicious homemade meals.
A great tip is to keep a checklist like this handy, so that you always know what needs to be replaced on your next trip to the store.
What else would you consider to be pantry essentials in your home? I’d love to hear your suggestions.