What fun is it having an organized pantry if you have nothing to put in it? Here’s a list of essential pantry staples you may like to keep on hand (and of course some tips)!
Store these toward the bottom so that if they spill, you’re not soaking everything beneath them!
- Oils – I use olive oil for almost all of my cooking, but I also love sesame oil! Lots of you use coconut oil, but I’m not a fan of the taste. Whichever oil you use, have it in your pantry!
- Vinegars – White vinegar is the most basic, and can be used for cooking, cleaning, and science experiments! I also keep rice vinegar on hand for Asian-inspired meals. Balsamic is sweet and tangy and great on roasted veggies!
- Broth – Vegetable, chicken, or beef. Opt for low sodium options. Base of soups, or cook your noodles or rice in it to give them some more flavor! (PS – The difference between stock and broth? Stock is made with bones, giving the liquid extra flavor and nutrients.)
This section always makes me think of baking. Mmmm, cupcakes… Oh, but there are totally other things you can do with them in cooking. But, I mean, cupcakes…
- Flour – Try getting away from all-purpose flour and branch out! Whole wheat, almond, rice, there are a ton of other flours out there. Opt for flours made from whole grains. Use to coat food for a crispy outer layer, or to thicken a sauce.
- Sugar – I know, I know. Added sugars are a no-no, but isn’t it great when you are in control of how much sugar is added? Just a pinch here and there won’t kill you, especially if it’s the difference between yummy coffee and no coffee! (AKA life or death). I always have brown sugar on hand, too, for sweet chilis, salmon, pork, chicken, collard greens, baked beans….okay, I’ll put brown sugar on almost anything. A little bit goes a long way and totally transforms a dish. I love it!
- Baking soda – sodium bicarbonate! It’s good for cooking and cleaning. When baking, it requires an acid to do it’s thing (which is make dough rise). ALSO keep this on hand in case of a grease fire! Baking soda will smother the fire – NEVER use water on a grease fire!
- Baking powder – Like it’s friend baking soda, but already contains the acid – just add water to bubble up and help dough rise! Most recipes I’ve seen call for a little of both to get the right amount of bubbles at the right time. It’s science!
- Cocoa powder – Unsweetened, to make smoothies even better!
- Pasta – Fun fact: there are a million billion types of pasta and they all have fun names. Also fun fact: It only matters what kind you get if you’re serving your Italian grandma. Otherwise, opt for any fun shape or name! (I’m fond of rotini and farfalle – so cute!) Also, grab the whole grain box over the regular, more processed stuff.
- Brown rice – It’s a whole grain! I can’t even tell you how versatile brown rice is. Awesome. But we also keep jasmine rice in the house – they make brown jasmine rice, which I only just learned after I bought a huge bag of white! Grrr…. Anyway, there are a ton of different rices out there. Shorter grains will stick to each other more, whereas long grains won’t!
- Lentils – super nutrient dense, these guys make an awesome side dish or soup.
- Dry beans – for those of you who are more patient than I am!
- Oats – Overnight oats are the newest craze! They are full of fiber and protein and a super great way to start your day. (If gluten-free, make sure you’re checking that the container specifies! Oats get cross-contaminated with gluten)
- Bread – I heard it comes sliced now! OOohoohohhhhhh or you could make your own in a bread maker! There is something so amazingly wonderful about your house smelling like fresh baked bread. Then you pull it out and it’s so warm. And then you slice it (with a bread knife!) and it’s literally the best tasting thing you’ve ever had. Okay, go buy a bread maker! I’ll wait.
- Not bread – English muffins, bagels, naan, pita, tortilla whatever floats your boat. We do wraps often and have tortillas all the time. But full disclosure – something about whole wheat tortillas skeeve me out. They smell so awful they make me gag. So I buy white flour tortillas…don’t tell my other readers!
No, I don’t mean potato chips!
- Nuts and seeds – great by the handful or sprinkled on salads. We like to keep almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds (okay maybe don’t eat sesame seeds by the handful though)
- Popcorn – Buy yourself an air popper and never be more than a few minutes away from the perfect movie snack! (PS, popcorn is a whole grain!)
- Crackers – snack like a kid again! Choose whole grain crackers. (Unless there are Cheez-its, then you are powerless.)
- Cat treats – because if you don’t have a cat, you should get one, and give it treats.
I don’t opt for many canned goods, myself, but there are some things that are just too convenient for me to turn my nose at. Plus, it’s so easy to just dump something into a pot and heat it up, or into the crockpot and heat it up, or into a bowl and put it in the microwave to heat it up. Haha!
- Canned tomatoes – diced, crushed, sauce, pick your favorite. I use these in chilis and sauces.
- Canned beans – cannelini, kidney, black, pinto, garbanzo, blahblahblah. While dried beans are a more cost-efficient purchase, I don’t always plan far enough ahead to soak beans. Canned is a nice, still cheap way to eat them in chili, burrito bowls, or on salads.
- Tuna – pack your lunches with a protein punch!
- Canned veggies – an option to save you time on prep, or get you items that are hard to find or maybe not in season.
- Canned soup – when you don’t have the time to make your own soup, this is a fine option! You’ll taste the difference, but it’ll do every now and again. Choose low-sodium options.
- Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce – is its own category because, I mean, holy cow will this stuff change your life it’s so delicious.
Easier than making your own! Alternatively, make your own! 🙂 Well, where possible…
- Jams and Jellies – Spread ’em allllll over that toast. Oh yeah!
- Nut butters – peanut, almond, cashew, sunflower seed. Spread ’em, blop ’em in your smoothie or oatmeal, or eat ’em right off the spoon.
- Olives – a great healthy fat, but high in sodium.
- Pickles – almost calorie-free, but high in sodium.
- Tea bags – if you drink tea!
- Coffee – so your life is good!
- Spices – to keep life interesting!
- Other sweeteners – like honey and real maple syrup!
- Condiments – some of you can’t get by without ketchup on everything. You’re wrong, but I’ll let it slide. 😉 Ketchup, mustard, dill relish (sweet relish lovers are also wrong), tabasco, BBQ, soy sauce, sriracha….You get the idea. Just remember, ketchup and bbq sauce especially are high in added sugars, so moderation is key!
Obviously, there are a lot of things I left out. Maybe I think they’re a specialty item or I never use them. But I’d say this is pretty comprehensive, and you can build off of it to tailor to your own pantry!
Keep in mind any items that may need to be refrigerated after opening.
Oh, hey, you may have noticed I didn’t put any fresh produce on here like onions, garlic, or potatoes. That’s because I plan on coming out with a fresh produce list soon, and I’d rather stick ’em in there. I’ll make a note to store those in the pantry, since they need to be in a cool, dark place!
And now that you’re pantry is super stocked up, if you haven’t already – get it organized!