50 Must-Haves for a Well-Stocked Pantry

There is no greater contentment than a well-stocked pantry. Every pantry is different too. If you’re not a cook your pantry staples will be very much different from a gourmet. Age, income, and even gender can come into play.

When Greg and I lived 300 miles apart, I was appalled at the crap, um…stuff he had in his pantry. All of it was purely convenience food, no raw ingredients. He worked 12 hour days and didn’t want to spend his free time cooking. It was either convenience food or carryout.

The important take-away is that regardless of your lifestyle, your pantry should be well stocked according to your needs. You never know when a storm, sickness, or a broken car will strand you at home.

I’ve reached a point in my life where I much prefer to eat my own cooking than eat restaurant food. Mine is simply better. The knife in the back is that I still dislike cooking. LOL! It’s one of my least favorite activities, probably because I get no love for my effort, but it’s cheaper than eating out, so there I am.  Ces’t la vie.

I’d like to share with you my personal pantry. While I keep more than these ingredients, these are the things I need for every day cooking. Notice too, that I will use some prepackaged ingredients like sausage gravy.

So help me, I’ve never been able to make a nice, thick (non-lumpy) gravy. It’s the one luxury I afford myself because I’m too impatient to make a decent gravy. Baking bread and making gravy. There you have it. My two Achilles’ heels when it comes to cooking.

• Flour
• Sugar, brown and white
• Baking powder
• Yeast
• Corn starch
• Sweetened condensed milk
• Honey
• Vanilla
• Oils, canola and olive oil
• Shortening
• Milk (dry)
• Beans, variety of white, red, and pinto (canned and dry)
• Rice, variety of  Jasmine, long grain white, and sushi rice
• Canned corn
• Broth, I freeze the broth I make myself, but I also buy canned and dehydrated bouillon cubes.
• Pasta, variety of shapes
• Onions
• Potatoes, fresh, dry, and canned
• Canned tomatoes, sauce, whole, and crushed
• Mushrooms, canned and dried
• Soy sauce
• Olives
• Vinegars, white, apple cider, and red wine vinegar
• Mustard, yellow and Chinese mustard
• Ketchup
• Mayonnaise
• Hot sauce
• Sausage gravy
• Pickled peppers
• Sardines
• Canned salmon and crab
• Canned chicken
• Wine, red and white
• Hoisan sauce
• Hot chili-garlic paste

• Salt
• Pepper
• Cumin
• Garlic powder
• Chili pepper
• Fish sauce
• Oyster sauce
• Lemon juice
• Ginger
• Basil
• Oregano
• Rosemary
• Thyme
• Coriander
• Turmeric
In the interest of full disclosure, I grow most of my own herbs, but I use dry when fresh isn’t available

This list isn’t inclusive, but if you’re starting housekeeping in a new place and you’re a fairly good cook, these are the must-haves for a working kitchen.

Even though I cook most meals from scratch, I will use convenience foods as long as they taste good and are fast. For instance, I’ll always have a box of cookie or muffin mix in the pantry in case of drop-in company. They are super fast and I can add things like nuts and dried fruit into the mixture to make it tastier.

Soup is another convenience food. I’ll be honest, after eating my homemade soups, I really detest the canned stuff, but if I’m the one that’s sick and I need soup, the canned stuff is there in a pinch.

Anything special in your pantry? Is there any food that you can’t make well? Go on and tell me. I confessed my sins. It’s your turn. 🙂


This post may contain affiliate links. Clicking on these links cost you nothing, but they do help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting MariaZanniniHome. I appreciate you!

All original content copyrighted by Maria Zannini 2016 - 2018.


  1. Things that I don’t/can’t make well? The list is way too long. 🙂

    I love my pantry space, but I know I’m not making the best use of it. It’s got those wire shelves that I don’t care for, and I’m still trying to figure out the best way to organize everything.

    • Madeline: I dislike wire shelving too. Give me good old fashioned board shelves (well anchored) any day. It’s really not too expensive either.

      re: organizing
      If it were me, I’d pull everything out of the pantry (install proper shelves) and then start stocking the pantry according to type.

      For example, the back wall (the narrowest side) is dedicated to baking ingredients. Another side is for canned goods, subdivided by category. Tomato products in one group, broths and soups in another group, beans and corn in its own group.

      The heavier the object, the lower it is on the shelf grid. The more I use a particular ingredient, the closer to eye level I keep it. Rice, pasta, oils and vinegar are within easy reach. Lightweight things and things I use rarely go on top shelves.

      When I first set up my current pantry, I walked in and stuck my hand out. Wherever my hand touched first was my dominant wall which now holds all my most used items.

    • I leave tea and coffee for Greg to keep replenished since he’s the only one who drinks it. As for marmalade, I’ve often thought to make my own, but I have a friend who brings me a dozen jars of fruit marmalade every year.

  2. Maria you do get “love” for your effort. I bet you, Greg and guests who come visit enjoy the meals you create.

    Plus even when putting forth maximum effort for minimum amount to time it takes to eat what you have prepared means a tastier meal, as you yourself pointed out so it is a win win to me for you.

    You have a very nice mixture of items stocking that list up top, and as far as fresh bread and a thick non-lumpy sausage gravy without cheating that is no biggie compared to the culinary efforts you have accomplished just in the few years you have shared items you can cook in your posts here and there. I personally have no clue how to correctly use baking yeast to make bread or rolls either one and my inability to master many other cooking feats is too long to catalogue. However, I do not consider that a great failing because what cannot cook can usually find somewhere to sample those foods if we wish to be more adventurous eaters.

    • Jackie: When I was a newlywed, especially when we moved to Texas and I was stranded all day without a car, I spent many hours trying out new recipes from the only cookbook in my possession. It was all trial and error, but bless Greg for not complaining when my efforts crashed and burned. 🙂

  3. You have a great extensive list! I don’t really bake so we don’t have flour or sugar here; just buy the smallest amount if we need it for something. I don’t make much things well; I can follow a recipe but I’m not creative to come up with my own ideas or do the spicing. But I can get a meal on a table, so its a good thing. (right?)


    • Betty: I think selecting the right spices for a dish is the hardest thing of all. I still haven’t got it down, especially for Asian inspired dishes. This is why I stick to a recipe.

      I’ve tried the premixed sauces and spices but it’s a poor imitation of the real stuff.

  4. Like you I stock different types of rice: primarily brown, wild, jasmine and valencia, but also some blends and red rice if I can get my euro family to bring me a sack from France. I have backup mixes for every type of gravy, too. Also, when I can’t get fresh chives I’ll use the freeze-dried type, which aren’t bad.

    I cannot fry chicken. I can burn it, serve it partially raw, or turn it into mummy chicken, but fry the delicious stuff my mother makes? Nope. I’ve sacrificed too many chickens trying to do it; now I just stick to rotisserie from the market, which is healthier anyway.

    I made your sausage and peppers tonight for the boys, and they loved it — thanks for the recipe. 🙂

    • Lynn: I’ve never tried red rice. Now you have me curious on what it tastes like.

      re: fried chicken
      My chicken is tasty, but getting it to fry evenly can be frustrating. I’ve found if you let it get to room temperature for at least 30 minutes, it seems to fry more evenly. I know it’s true of beef. Putting cold meat into a hot skillet plunges the temperature and you lose all the crispiness on the chicken skin or the crust on a good steak.

      Most of the time I’m rushed for time which means I cook the meat before it’s had a chance to reach room temperature, but if I can plan ahead, I try to take out the meat an hour or two before meal time, then I pat it down so it’s completely dry.

      re: sausage and peppers
      Glad to hear it was a hit. Greg loves it when I make that dish. It’s fast and very easy to make.

Say a few words for our audience.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.