An interesting email popped up in my inbox recently on the topic of what I considered “pantry staples”. Those things we all keep in our kitchens because they’re either basics or things that are easy to grab and make into a meal on the fly. The gal who emailed me and I had an interesting email “chat” about the topic, which prompted me to think this would be an interesting idea to post about: what do you consider “pantry staples”? I wrote up a small list of my necessities; it pretty much just encompasses dry good items, although I threw in a few things that stay in the ‘fridge or freezer but are still things I always keep on hand!
- Canned tomatoes: diced are my preferred, since I can puree them even more to make spaghetti sauce or use in curry.
- Pasta: usually spaghetti noodles of some sort.
- Rice: white or brown; I use this not only as a side dish, but in soups and even our favorite turkey “meatloaf” recipe.
- Chicken and vegetable broth: I usually stock up on the large containers and freeze what I don’t use when I open them. Useful for everything from soups to using in place of oil when sauteing vegetables.
- Flour: all purpose white, whole wheat, bread flour and usually there is some cake flour somewhere as well.
- Dried and canned beans: various types of course!
- Oatmeal: more of a breakfast thing, but I occasionally make bread and such that requires it.
- Cornmeal: used for baking pizza, a few bread recipes, or cornbread!
- Cooking oils: good olive, canola and sesame oils.
- Vinegars: balsamic, good red wine, rice wine, and usually a good “basic” one like white or apple cider.
- Soy Sauce: sometimes a couple varieties, but most often just a basic soy sauce.
- Nuts: a few varieties of them; again great in just about anything.
- I also have a lot of the usual pantry accouterments like cornstarch, baking powder, sugar (white and brown), etc. on hand.
- Various condiments: chili-garlic paste, Dijon mustard, Sriracha, some sort of gourmet hot sauce, capers, wasabi. (Yes, we like our spicy foods!)
- Dairy items: eggs, milk, yogurt (good for all sorts of things–not just breakfast!)
- Fresh produce: garlic, basic yellow onions, carrots, green onions, limes, lemons, sweet potatoes, and usually some fruit (whatever is in season).
Although not a “pantry” item exactly, I also keep a variety of frozen vegetables in the freezer at all times. I can throw them into soups/stews, curries, stir fry or even pan saute them to use on things like burritos.
I also have a large spice cabinet. My dad is a great cook, and he really impressed on me the importance of having a hefty selection of spices. Even though most of my pantry basics aren’t terribly exciting, adding spices really can change things up. We eat a lot of curry, Italian and Asian dishes, so I tend to skew most towards spices from those regions. Plus they tend to be cheap!
That’s pretty much what I would call my basics list! The only things missing are the breakfast cereals we eat. Otherwise I find that most of the other things I have in there are items I bought for specific recipes and just sit and only are occasionally used. If I were stranded on a desert island and only could bring the basics, this is what I’d take! I usually try to do a “big” grocery shop every couple weeks, but the past month I’ve been unable to regularly except run to the store to get milk and yogurt (two other “basics” in my refrigerator!). So I’ve been having to pull things from the pantry and be creative with dressing up the basics. What do you consider your pantry basics?