14 Essential Pantry Staples

My pantry is well stopantrycked because it’s a 30 minute drive to the nearest grocery store. You can hear me scream like a banshee if I ever run out of something.

Not only do I keep my cupboards full, I always make sure I have a backup package in reserve. Efficiency should be my middle name.

Unless you have special dietary needs I think you can get by on fourteen items to make pretty decent meals without leaving the house.

• canned tomatoes
Whether they’re whole, crushed, frozen, dried, or canned, tomatoes are useful in a wide variety of recipes.

• broth (chicken, beef, and vegetable)
I use broth a lot. Every time I boil chicken for the dogs I save the broth and freeze it for future meals. Great for soups, casseroles, gravies, and sauces. Making your own broth is far tastier than the high sodium store bought variety.

• beans
There are so many varieties and packaged in many different ways. Since I cook a lot of Mexican inspired meals, I like to pick up refried beans when they’re on sale. I could make them from scratch, but this is one convenience food that saves me a lot of time.

• pasta
This one is probably a given. We use both wheat and rice based pasta for a variety of dishes from spaghetti to stir-fry.

• rice
Another no brainer. I try to mix it up between basmati and sushi rice. I keep plain white rice too. It was our staple for years but Greg has gotten snooty about rice and now asks for variety. Neither of us like brown rice so we don’t keep that in stock.

• onions/garlic
Unless you can’t stand the taste of onion or garlic, you should always keep some handy. It’s a healthy way to flavor food. Thankfully, both of us are lovers of garlic and onions. It was a match made in heaven.

• potatoes
I always try to keep fresh potatoes handy, but just in case I run out, I also stock canned and dehydrated potatoes. They’re not as tasty as fresh, but in a pinch, they serve well.

• vinegars
I stock wine, cider, and white vinegar. I use the wine vinegar specifically for when I make salad dressings, the cider vinegar for marinating meat, and white vinegar for canning. Sometimes I buy other vinegars like sushi and malt vinegar, but they’re not essential.

• canned tuna or other meats
In a pinch, a can of tuna or chicken makes a quick meal with very little effort. Tuna fish salad sandwiches are regular meals at my house.

• oils
I stock canola, olive, and sesame oil. I rarely use the sesame oil but since I dabble in Asian cuisine, it’s often required in the recipe.

• jelly or fruit preserves
These are handy to have whether it’s for a jelly sandwich or filling for a puff pastry.

• cheese
Cheese is a staple in our house. Cheddar and cream cheese is always on hand. You never know when we’ll have a hankering for a grilled cheese sandwich or a bagel shmear. We buy other cheeses too, but these two are staples.

• milk
We don’t drink milk, but I use it a lot for baking and cooking. I buy dry milk in the big box and ‘can’ it with my FoodSaver. Canning sucks all the air out of the container and it lasts for a very long time. I never know when I’ll need milk, but this way, I never have to make a special trip for milk.

• bread/tortillas
I envy those of you who bake bread. I just don’t have the knack for it. Greg makes a decent Italian loaf, but I leave all the other bread families to the grocery store. It’s the one thing I always buy regularly from the store.

Tortillas on the other hand are ridiculously easy to make, but I’m lazy and refuse to make them while there is a nearby store that has its own tortillaria. I buy them whenever they go on sale and freeze them.

That’s my list. These are the fourteen items I will always keep stocked in my pantry.

How about you? Is there one must-have ingredient you keep in your pantry?



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    • Stacy: That’s a drawback to living out in the boonies. When we first moved here trying to get the house in order we were making 3 and 4 trips out to the next town. We were sick of it and I wondered if we didn’t make a mistake. In the end things settled down and we try to limit our shopping trips.

  1. We used to have a skinny cabinet for a pantry in our old house. This one is a nice size, but I haven’t set it up very well. I kind of group things, and I can see what I need at a glance, but organizing it and fixing it up – I hate those wire racks! – are on our To Do list.

    • Judy: I ‘can’ the milk in canning jars and use the FoodSaver’s canning feature. It’s been a real convenience for me since we’re not milk drinkers. I just reconstitute what I need.

      To be fair, whole milk tastes richer in recipes but I’ve never had any complaints.

  2. I don’t have a pantry. Just cupboards. Pantry type items here are mostly for baking – baker’s cocoa, shredded coconut, etc. I also keep cans of mushrooms handy and cans of sliced black olives. And Ramen noodles. I’m totally with you on the tuna and canned chicken. I keep rice and pasta around.

    One other thing… canned soups. Tomato and Cream of Mushroom are must haves here.

    • BE: Some cans of tuna or chicken with pasta or rice and you can make a lot of different combinations.

      re: soups
      I make a lot of my own soups now, but I keep a stock of cream soups in the pantry for things like pot roast or casseroles. Much quicker than making my own.

  3. You have a great stocked pantry. Wonderful suggestions to to list for us to keep in ours. I know there is a variety of canned goods in ours, hubby likes to eat soup on the weekends so there are cans of soup in there. I know we need to stock up more than we have, but we are close to the grocery store (about a mile away) and I do meal plan weekly and make sure I have what we need for recipes, but it is good to have on handy in case of that “rainy day.”


  4. Betty: It’s not so bad now that hubby lives with me again, but I remember once before I got set up here, I came down with the flu really bad. Granted I wasn’t very hungry, but I needed drugs and I had to drag myself to the pharmacy while I was at death’s door. Oy.

  5. “Is there one must-have” in your pantry.” Duh, salt. And dried English mustard. And teabags. Lots of teabags. Strong breakfast tea. Seriously though, I’m intrigued by your milk situation. Lactose intolerant or problems getting it?

    • Mike: Salt! It’s so a necessity I didn’t even think to include it.

      re: milk
      Some lactose intolerance on Greg’s part but for me, I just don’t like the taste.

      …remind me to stock up on tea if you ever visit me.

  6. My pantry looks similar to yours. I always have flour – plain and wholemeal – on hand since I make bread and like to bake when the inspiration arises. Baking supplies like dried fruit, coconut, icing sugar etc also come in handy. Canned tomatoes are so handy!!

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