If you've ever wanted to start cooking, having a proper pantry is one of the first steps you'll need to take! I cook pretty much every day and sometimes multiple times a day, mostly pulling from things I have on hand.
When you've got an awesomely stocked pantry, you really only need to worry about getting fresh meat, fish and produce to make a homemade meal. And sometimes you don't even have to do that! :D
Along with telling you how I stock my home pantry, I'll also link to some of my favorite recipes you can make from the ingredients listed. I've really only outlined the things I count as the ultimate basics, so I'm sure there are many more useful items to call out.
Have a favorite pantry staple? Tell us in the comments!
Step 1: Fridge Basics
∆ Butter / Butter Substitute
Salted and unsalted! Salted can be used for pretty much everything but baking.
I also keep Earth Balance in my fridge - it's super salty, so I don't use it in baking, but it's a good lactose free alternative for toast. :D
∆ Milk / Soy Milk / Nut Milk / Coconut Milk
Not only are these useful to have around if you're feeling lazy and just want to eat a bowl of cereal, they're also used in making many desserts and soups!
Eggs are a great protein to have on hand! Not only are they cheap and last for a long time, they're also useful in loads of ways. I use most of mine for desserts and breakfast.
∆ Bacon Fat
I store bacon fat in a mug in the fridge - something I learned from my mom! Great for adding a little extra flavor in potato salads or breakfast foods or sautéed onions. You can also make excellent pie crusts with it.
∆ Concentrated Tomato Paste
Amore tomato paste comes in a tube and it's concentrated. I love that it keeps longer and tastes better than the little cans. I've not bought a single can of tomato paste in years. :D
I can't eat too much of it these days, but I love it! I like to keep goat chèvre, feta and parmesan on hand nearly all the time. Cheeses are a nice way to add fat to salads so they're more filling.
∆ Stock Concentrate
I love the Better than Bullion brand - the roasted chicken and beef flavors are always in my fridge. They come in low-sodium varieties, too! Definitely way better than canned or boxed stock.
Step 2: Freezer Basics
∆ Frozen vegetables
I like to keep broccoli, peas and corn in the freezer. Frozen is often better than canned - they taste nicer and you avoid the large amounts of sodium.
∆ Frozen fruit
Good in pies and smoothies!
I prep all my ginger and pop it in the freezer for easy use! Check out this instructable for more info. I use loads of ginger and like to keep it on hand to help with upset stomachs.
∆ Pie crusts
∆ Puff Pastry
Magical stuff! You can make so many fancy and tasty things in very little time.
∆ Homemade Stocks
I like to make my own chicken stock and freeze it. You can thaw it in the microwave pretty easy!
Step 3: Baking Supplies
∆ Staples you should absolutely have:
- white sugar
- brown sugar (I normally go with dark)
- all purpose flour
- baking powder
- baking soda
- cocoa powder
- vanilla extract (My favorite is Nielsen-Massey - so good!)
- instant oats
These items will be the basis of all your doughs, cakes, cookies and pastries. You'll also be able to use these items to create sauces and breadings for deep fried foods. yummmmm.
If you're not a baker at all, just having sugar, flour and cornstarch on hand will be helpful.
I also like to keep honey, whole wheat flour and other types of flours around, but I don't use them as often.
Here are a few of my favorite baking recipes to get you started:
Step 4: Herbs, Spices and Seasonings
This depends entirely on what you'd like to cook! I've written up a larger instructable on this, so I suggest checking that out:
∆ Essential seasonings to have on hand
- salt (fine and coarse!)
- black peppercorns (I like telicherry)
- curry powder
- chili powder
- bay leaves
- crushed red pepper
- garlic powder
- onion powder
- coriander (ground)
- dried mustard/mustard seeds
With just the things listed above you can make some absolutely stellar food! I probably actually have four times the amount of stuff listed above these days. Every time I decide to cook something new I always seem to end up with a few new spices, too!
Plus, having these things on hand means you can make your own dry rubs and spice blends. Here are a couple to get you started:
Also, I LOVE spice and herb mixes. I am not afraid to admit it. We always have lemon pepper, seasoned salt, Tony's and others on hand.
Step 5: Canned & Jarred Goods
∆ Canned Tomatoes
I normally keep tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and whole tomatoes on hand. You can make all sorts of lovely things with tomatoes - pasta sauces, soups, chilis, etc.
Here are some of my favorite canned tomato recipes:
Chickpeas, black, pinto, etc. I normally have loads on hand, both canned and dried. You can use beans to make soups and stews more filling, or you can even make them the main protein in your dish to save a little money or help limit your meat consumption. (P.S. I am addicted to chickpeas)
Try these recipes to become a bean-protein believer:
∆ Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce
These are the best. They're the main ingredient in my chilaquiles recipe, which is the easiest and tastiest weeknight meal EVER.
∆ Coconut Milk
Canned coconut milk is a lovely thing. You can use it to make creamy popsicles, amazing curries and rice puddings. I always have a couple cans on hand just in case.
Here are a couple recipes for coconut milk:
Step 6: Grains and Pasta
Really just whatever you like, honestly! I try to keep 3-4 boxes on hand.
∆ Rice Noodles
These are super versatile and quick cooking! Great as a base for stir fries instead of rice. :)
∆ White & Brown Rice
Keeping both on hand is always a good idea. Brown rice makes great salads!
∆ Israeli Couscous
Great for all sorts of yummy salads. It's easy to cook and I love the texture. Try out my recipe for couscous salad and you'll always want to have it on hand. :)
Polenta is a great sub for pasta or rice, and it's pretty easy to make.
Here are a few polenta recipes to try out:
Step 7: Produce Basics
∆ Produce to store in the fridge:
- celery (to find out how to store celery so it lasts for weeks, click here!)
- fresh herbs like parsley and cilantro (learn how to store these here!)
- lemons & limes
Yeah, apples and oranges taste better at room temp, but they stay good forever in the fridge!
Apples are fantastic to have around - use them with baked pork chops, spiced apple cake, or apple muffins. Oranges add lovely zing to baked goods and also make super awesome orange porkchops. Lemons and limes are great in marinades, in sauces, or added to baked goods like my olive oil lemon cake.
∆ Produce to store in the pantry:
I store these items out of direct sunlight in paper bags using Canida's method, found here.
I try to keep a couple of red, onion and yellow onions around. As far as potatoes, I normally do sweet, russet, and red or gold skinned.
Step 8: Oils and Vinegars
- olive oil
- vegetable/canola oil
- coconut oil (I prefer unrefined)
Olive oil is what I used for most of my cooking, but I also always keep around vegetable or canola for when I need to fry something.
I use unrefined coconut oil as a substitute but butter in baking, or as a base in curries. Check out my dairy free oatmeal cookies for a good example of using coconut oil in baking.
- white vinegar
- red wine vinegar
- apple cider vinegar
I use white vinegar most often - it's sorta all purpose for me! I use red wine vinegar in salad dressings and steak sandwich marinades. Apple cider vinegar is milder and sweeter, so I'll use it in quick pickles and sauces.
Step 9: Sauces and Condiments
∆ Sauces and Condiments
- yellow mustard
- hot sauces (Tapatio, Sriracha, Franks, etc)
- BBQ sauce
- chili-garlic sauce
- soy sauce
- teriyaki sauce
- Worcestershire sauce
- jams & jellies
I constantly use hot sauces and chili sauces in Mexican and Indian cooking, too! Franks hot sauce is a major ingredient in my hot wings.
Soy sauce is a great way to add salt and flavor to most anything - I use it in soups, stews, marinades and sauces.