Stocking the Pantry
(This post originally appeared on a short-lived blog called The Lone Gastronome.)
One thing that holds a lot of people back from cooking regularly is not having the necessary ingredients on hand. A well-stocked pantry is something that has to be built over time: You shouldn’t feel any need to rush out and buy everything you could possibly need at all once. I’ve come up with this list of pantry staples. I’ve broken it out into a few separate lists: things that are the basic building blocks of all meals, things that are nice to have on hand, spices that are used most often, and things for baking. Having a well-stocked pantry makes cooking easier, and over time, you’ll figure out which things you can’t do without.
First, these are things I always, always have, and that are the building blocks of almost every meal.
- Kosher salt
- Peppercorns and a grinder
- Olive oil
- Vegetable oil
- Unsalted butter
- Lemons and limes
- Vinegars of different types: I use red wine vinegar and apple cider vinegar most often
- Onions and garlic
These things are nice to have on hand and can make throwing together a last minute dinner much easier.
- Brown rice or wild rice
- Dried pasta
- Other grains and seeds: millet, bulgar, spelt, wheat berries, quinoa. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
- Canned tomatoes
- Canned and dried beans: black beans, cannellini beans, garbanzo beans, and whatever else looks interesting
- Canned tuna (I prefer the kind packed in oil)
- Hot sauce
- Whole milk plain yogurt
- Nuts and dried fruit
- Potatoes (both sweet potatoes and red or russet potatoes)
As far as spices go, I have a pretty well-stocked spice rack, but I don’t advocate going out and buying a ton of spices at once (unless you’re ordering online, when it makes sense to order more at once). Just buy what you need as you need it, and your spice rack will grow over time. I use these spices on a regular basis.
- Chili powder
- Dried oregano
- Lemon pepper
- Curry powder
- Aleppo pepper or crushed red pepper flakes
- Smoked paprika
- Dried thyme
I bake a lot, and I think once you get used to it, baking your own bread is easy and much cheaper and healthier than buying bread from the supermarket. If you’re into baking or think you might want to experiment, it’s nice to have these things on hand.
- All-purpose flour
- Bread flour
- Whole wheat flour
- Sugar, both granulated and brown sugar
- Yeast (I like instant yeast)
- Vanilla extract
- Baking powder
- Baking soda
Your pantry should reflect what you like to eat and cook, and over time, as you learn and develop, you’ll have a running list in your head of what you have on hand and what you need. What are some of the things that are always in your pantry?