A well stocked pantry is something that makes cooking less daunting on an everyday basis. I always keep my pantry full of non-perishable items so I can whip up a meal even if the fridge is looking bare. When the stay at home orders were put in place I took a quick inventory of our pantry and made a list of things to add and have on hand.
One of my girlfriends asked me for a list of my recommended items to help stock her pantry. I started putting it together and thought perhaps it would be useful for others as well! The chart below includes all of my favorite things and those to replenish as they are used up. Obviously, not every item is necessary, these are suggestions and things I personally use often. Use this as a reference and decide what things your family likes and tailor your list of pantry staples to best fit your needs. Also, side note – hoarding is not necessary, if you have a good variety of items you do not need stockpiles of anything.
Katy’s Cookin Pantry Staples Chart
Reference this list when making a plan of items to buy to build a well stocked pantry.
Grocery shopping during this pandemic
I think everyone is trying to grocery shop less frequently during this pandemic and keeping a well stocked pantry makes that so much easier. For each grocery order, I replace perishables like produce, dairy and meat but only need a few pantry items each time. If you’re ordering groceries online and having them delivered create a master shopping list and save it in your app. Every 10 days or so I start with my saved master shopping list, add in special additions and any pantry staples that are running low. OH, and snacks… because my kids are plowing through the snack stash at an alarmingly insane rate.
Organizing your pantry
So often I hear from friends that they don’t like to cook because it is stressful. Just like anything else in life, when you start disorganized you will feel disorganized. When you can see everything in the pantry and fridge you can quickly make a decision about what to make based on what ingredients you have.
I keep my pantry organized very similarly to the order of this chart. There is a sections for oils, vinegars and ready to use sauces; a drawer with canned goods and jarred salsas; a drawer with all of the nut butters, jams, honey, cereal, oatmeal, crackers and salad starters; a shelf with all the rice, pasta and grains; a section for tomato products; a place for ready to use sauces; a section for coconut milk, stock and broth; a shelf with all of my oils and vinegars and bins for all the kids snacks.
Baking supplies are in a separate drawer. Because there are so many items in that section I didn’t include any of that in my “pantry staples”. A good quick list would be: AP flour, white sugar, brown sugar, confectioners (powdered) sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cocoa powder, semi-sweet chocolate chips, vanilla extract and active dry yeast.
Coconut milk is one of my most used pantry items. I use it in curry, like this delicious Veggie Coconut Curry. You can also substitute coconut milk for cream or milk in most recipes to make them dairy-free. I love this Dairy-Free Tomato Basil Soup made with coconut milk instead of heavy cream. The Coconut Rice in this Garlic Beef with Coconut Rice recipe is a go-to, we make it at least once a week.
Crushed tomatoes and tomato paste are pantry gold for whipping up pasta dishes, curries, pizza sauce, soups, etc. It’s a good idea to keep a variety of sizes when it comes to canned tomato products to minimize waste. I don’t use a lot of canned vegetables but if you do, keep 2-3 of your most used items stocked. I have canned black beans and refried beans in my pantry to make quick quesadillas. Canned diced green chili’s and chipotles in adobo sauce are two pantry items you can add to dishes to add serious flavor.
Pasta, Grains and Rice:
Carbs are king, sorry-not-sorry! Pasta, grains and rice have a very long shelf life if stored properly. I always know we have ingredients for a quick meal when this section is stocked. They’re also cheap and help you stretch your grocery budget. If you are gluten/grain free don’t skip this section all together. There are some great gluten and grain free pasta options these days. Ancient Harvest is my favorite brand for GF products. I always have a couple boxes of their corn and quinoa pastas in my pantry.
My favorite types of dried pastas are spaghetti, angel hair, bucatini, farfalle, orzo and gemelli. Rice noodles, some veggies, a protein and a bottle of ready to use Asian sauce make an easy, quick meal. I also love No Yolk egg noodles that are perfect for Chicken Noodle Soup or Stroganoff. While not actually a rice – arborio rice is a pasta that is great to keep on hand for making Risotto.
I usually have 4-5 rice varieties on hand. My go-to’s are jasmine, sushi, brown, wild and basmati. Grains like couscous, quinoa, oats and farro can be used in unlimited applications. Add the pastas, grains and rice varieties you use most for a well stocked pantry.
Stock bread crumbs, Panko (Japanese style bread crumbs) and crushed corn flakes for making chicken fingers, eggplant or chicken parmesan, crab cakes, or anything else breaded.
Nut butters, jams, maple syrup and honey last for years. Keep these in your pantry and you can feed toddlers and young kids for weeks on end. Mix them into oatmeal, spread on any bread, stir them into Plain Greek Yogurt, the options are endless. Roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, olives and capers, are all perfect additions to pasta dishes, salads or panini’s. Mole paste is one of my favorite jarred sauces. Heat it in a sauce pan with some chicken stock and you have a quick, delicious sauce for Mole Chicken Zucchini “Enchiladas” or simple roasted chicken.
Big bowl salads are always on our menu rotation. Dried fruit and a variety of nuts make easy and fulfilling salad toppings. Add them on top of a couple handfuls to greens, parmesan, feta or goat cheese plus a good vinaigrette and dinner is ready in a flash. Speaking of good vinaigrette’s – homemade salad dressings are far superior to anything you can buy from a grocery store. Keep a variety of oil and vinegar in the pantry and whisk together your favorite vinaigrette in no time. When I do, I usually make enough vinaigrette for a couple of meals and store the remainder in the fridge.
So many veggies can be pickled with a little bit of vinegar. If I have more carrots, cucumbers, garlic, beets or onions than I will use before they go bad I turn them into quick pickles. Chop them up, cover them in a good vinegar, a bit of sugar and put them in an airtight container in the fridge. Use them on top of salads, in lettuce wraps, and on sandwiches. To stretch the life of fresh herbs you can use olive oil to make quick Herb Infused Oils that you store in the fridge.
Dried beans stay good forever if stored in a cool, dry place. They are a great source of protein and a cheap way to bulk up a meal. Use them as a side, in chili, stews and soups. The Instant Pot really has helped me increase the amount of dried beans I cook at home. In less than an hour you can have flavor packed, perfectly cooked beans.
Sauces like ketchup, mustard, BBQ have very long shelf lives. Jars of salsa are always in my pantry. I make Instant Pot shredded chicken almost every week with onions, garlic, a jar of salsa, a carton of chicken stock and chicken breasts or thighs. It’s so easy and can be used in endless recipes. Toss it on a salad, use it to fill tacos, quesadillas and enchiladas. Soy sauce is something I always have and use all the time. Quick Veggie Fried Rice is a go to for my kids. It’s a great way to use up leftover rice and any bits of veggies.
Tip: To save space in your pantry, remove all items like crackers, cereal, from their boxes and store them in just the inner bag. Use chip clips or GripStic‘s (one of my favorite finds) to seal the bags and keep them fresh. The outer boxes take up extra space and often times the product doesn’t get properly sealed if the bag is thrown back into the box.
Tip: Storage bins, baskets, Lazy Susans and expandable shelving help organize similar products into sections while keeping the pantry from becoming a cluttered mess. These items can be pricey so shop around, there are great budget friendly finds at the dollar store. I use side by side locking file containers that I found at my local dollar store to organize individually packaged kids snacks.
Let me know some of your favorite pantry items in the comments below!