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How To Stock Your Pantry

Aug 17, 2008
If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone lament having a full pantry and nothing to eat... We've all learned from experience that the difference between a full pantry and a well-stocked pantry is the difference between a delicious home-made meal and... well, takeout. Again. A truly well-stocked pantry has the utility food items that transform a few fresh ingredients into a full meal. The most important pantry items tend to be used in lots of different ways and enable your fresh meats and vegetable to become lots of different dishes.

Key items--like beans, rice and pasta--are the makings of great side dishes while sauces, soups, dressings and marinades are all a snap if your pantry includes broth, good vinegar, and good oils. Good quality olive oil is a must, as is your favorite cooking oil, but peanut oil is also good for frying and high heat cooking as is the versatile and healthful grapeseed oil. Try the broths in resealable cartons and experiment with different pastas. Always get couscous and other grains in plain varieties to jazz up according to your mood. Quantities of all will be dictated by your families tastes and appetites, but start with these:

Oils: Olive Oil, Canola Oil, Sesame Oil, Peanut Oil

Vinegar: Balsamic, Apple Cider, Red Wine, White Wine, Rice Vinegar

Broth: Vegetable, Chicken, Beef

Beans/Canned: Red Beans, Kidney Beans, Black Beans, Chickpeas, Tomatoes

Pasta: Spaghetti, Bowties, Penne, Orzo, Couscous

Rice: Long Grain White, Brown, Arborio, Basmati, Jasmine

Another key group of pantry essentials are the dry ingredients, including baking ingredients, seasoning and dry herbs. All purpose flour is very important, as is kosher or sea salt, fresh black peppercorns. While fresh herbs are always best, often dried herbs will do...just don't use the herbs that came with your spice rack! Fresh, dried herbs and spices can be purchased by weight in small batches in the bulk foods section of reputable markets. Here is a list to get you started:

Dry Goods: All-Purpose Flour, Cornmeal, Baking Powder, Baking Soda, Bread Crumbs

Herbs/Spices: Oregano, Basil, Chili Powder, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Paprika

Seasonings: Kosher/Sea Salt, Black Peppercorns, Cayenne Pepper

Rounding out your pantry are condiments, dry beans and dry storage. The most important condiments to have on hand for cooking are Worcestershire sauce and Dijon mustard. I like to have both a smooth Dijon with white wine and and coarse grained country mustard on hand. Dry beans and lentils are hearty, full of fiber and last forever in the pantry, so stock up on all your favorite varieties. Keep a 10-bean mix on hand for soups and stews. Your dry storage drawer or bin should contain your favorite varieties of potatoes (I like red skinned or Yukon Gold), onions, shallots, and garlic. These items should be kept in a cool, dry, dark space and used or disposed of before they sprout or become soft and yielding to the touch.

Here's a good list to start with:

Dry storage: Potatoes, Onions, Shallots, Garlic

Condiments: Dijon Mustard, Worcestershire Sauce, Soy Sauce

Dry Beans: Red Beans, Black Beans, Navy Beans, 10-bean mix, Lentils

Once you have your basic pantry items, you'll want to fine tune your list a bit to your favorite kinds of cuisine. Here are some great items on have on hand, organized by cuisine type to enable what ever kind of food your family likes best.

Italian: Anchovy Paste, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, black olives (canned or in jars), Rosemary (dried), Basil (Dried), Cannelloni Beans, Thyme (Dried), Oregano (dried), Roasted Red Bell Peppers, Sun Dried Tomatoes, Capers, Tomato Paste, White Wine, Red Wine, Cornmeal or polenta, Pine Nuts

Mexican: Tomato Sauce, Chili Powder, Cumin, Coriander, Oregano,Black Beans, Pinto Beans

Thai: Coconut Milk, Red Curry, Green Curry, Garam Masala, Fish Sauce

Asian: Soy Sauce, Sesame Oil, Hot Chili Oil, Rice Vinegar, Rice Wine, Sesame Seeds, Five Spice Powder, Ground Dried Ginger, Hoisin Sauce

Creole: Cajun Seasoning, Cayenne Pepper, Tabasco sauce, Red Beans
About the Author
Toni Tanner-Scott Personal Chef and Cooking Coach http://www.dinnermadesimple.com
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