You can not cook well without decent ingredients. Not everyone, myself included, can afford the highest end products all the time. What we ALL can do is stock our pantry well so we can provide everyone at our table good meals throughout the day. An exhaustive list pf pantry items can seem overwhelming. When you decide it’s time to restock, this list will help you.
The first tip is to ALWAYS clean your pantry out at least monthly. Through out anything ridiculously unhealthy- do not donate it. People in need don’t need your unhealthy food. Check expiration dates. Throw out any old food. DO NOT donate old food. People in need do not need expired foods.
Second start by stocking the basics. Oils, stocks, grains, seasoning, salt, pepper etc. Meals can be made with a few new purchase and these pantry basics. Slowly add more unusual or less used ingredients when your budget allows. Keep a printed checklist on the pantry door to make restocking easier. You can print and laminate this copy. Just cross items that you are running low on off the list. You can simply check that list on grocery day.
Lastly, keep quick to expire food in an easy to see/grab location. Don’t let these items get buried in the depths of the pantry. You will 1. be more likely to use them in a timely manner and 2. be able to dispose of expired items more easily.
Here is the list I have complied. I hope it serves you well:
Oils, Vinegars & Condiments
- Extra-virgin olive oil for cooking and salad dressings
- Canola oil for cooking and baking
- Flavorful nut and seed oils for salad dressings and stir-fry seasonings: toasted sesame oil, walnut oil
- Butter, preferably unsalted. Store in the freezer if you use infrequently.
- Reduced-fat mayonnaise
- Vinegars: balsamic, red-wine, white-wine, rice (or rice-wine), apple cider
- Asian condiments and flavorings: reduced-sodium soy sauce, fish sauce, hoisin sauce, mirin, oyster sauce, chile-garlic sauce, curry paste
- Kalamata olives, green olives
- Dijon mustard
- Barbecue sauce
- Worcestershire sauce
- Kosher salt, coarse sea salt, fine salt
- Black peppercorns
- Fresh garlic- do not buy the garlic in a jar GROSS
- Fresh ginger
- Anchovies or anchovy paste for flavoring pasta sauces and salad dressings
- Dried herbs: bay leaves, dill, crumbled dried sage, dried thyme leaves, oregano, tarragon, Italian seasoning blend
- Spices: allspice (whole berries or ground), caraway seeds, chili powder, cinnamon sticks, ground cinnamon,coriander seeds, cumin seeds, ground cumin, curry powder, ground ginger, dry mustard, nutmeg, paprika, cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper, turmeric, onion powder, garlic powder
- Lemons, limes, oranges. The zest is as valuable as the juice. Organic fruit is recommended when you use a lot of zest.
- Granulated sugar
- Brown sugar
- Confectioner’s sugar
- Pure maple syrup
- Unsweetened cocoa powder, natural and/or Dutch-processed
- Bittersweet chocolate, semisweet chocolate chips
Canned Goods & Bottled Items
- Canned tomatoes (diced, whole and crushed), tomato paste
- Reduced-sodium chicken broth, beef broth and/or vegetable broth
- Clam juice
- “Lite” coconut milk for Asian curries and soups
- Canned beans: cannellini beans, great northern beans, chickpeas, black beans, red kidney beans
- Canned lentils
- Chunk light tuna and salmon- I prefer solid white albacore
Grains & Legumes
- Whole-wheat flour and whole-wheat pastry flour (Store opened packages in the refrigerator or freezer.)
- All-purpose flour
- Assorted whole-wheat pastas
- Brown rice and instant brown rice
- Pearl barley, quick-cooking barley
- Rolled oats
- Whole-wheat couscous
- Dried lentils
- Yellow cornmeal
- Plain dry breadcrumbs
Nuts, Seeds & Fruits
- Dry-roasted unsalted peanuts
- Pine nuts
- Sesame seeds
- Natural Peanut Butter
- Assorted dried fruits, such as apricots, prunes, cherries, cranberries, dates, figs, raisins (Store opened packages of nuts and seeds in the refrigerator or freezer.)
- Low-fat or nonfat plain yogurt and/or vanilla yogurt
- sour cream
- Good-quality Parmesan cheese and/or Romano cheese
- Sharp Cheddar cheese
- Eggs (large). Keep them on hand for fast omelets and frittatas.
- Orange juice
- Dry white wine. If you wish, substitute nonalcoholic wine.
- Fruit-juice concentrates (orange, apple, pineapple)
- Frozen vegetables: edamame soy beans, peas, spinach, broccoli, bell pepper and onion mix, corn, chopped onions, small whole onions, uncooked hash browns
- Frozen berries
- Italian turkey sausage and sliced prosciutto to flavor fast pasta sauces
- Low-fat vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt for impromptu dessert
This list is very similar to one offered by Eating Well magazine. There were some ingredients that I use often that were not on that list. There were also other items that I don’t think were necessary to the average home kitchen. What would you add?