Pantry essentials: we don't always enjoy doing inventory or stocking and storing, but someone's got to do it! The fact of the matter is that stocking up on pantry essentials can make life much easier in the kitchen. Whether you are a novice at cooking or a seasoned pro, you can't escape this weekly (or monthly) task.
The logic behind having a well-stocked pantry or cupboard in your kitchen is that cooking becomes much simpler and quicker when you have all the ingredients. Being able to choose from various ingredients also allows you to expand on your cooking skills, venture out and try new recipes. It lets you explore the culinary world and your skills.
So, what does a well-stocked pantry look like? What are some readily available and easy-to-use pantry essentials that should be sitting pretty in your pantry?
Nothing is more frustrating than wanting to cook something after a long day and finding that you are low on pantry essentials and your kitchen needs restocking! Read on to discover our well-researched list of various pantry essentials ranging from freezer goods to fresh produce.
Your Basic Shopping List for Pantry Essentials
Certain pantry essential items are used in almost every recipe. These items usually have a long shelf life, so you can buy and store them for a long time. This means that you can purchase them in bulk too, and they should always be available in your pantry.
Long Shelf Life Essentials:
- Salt (fine, pink or Himalayan salt )
- Black pepper (whole peppercorns)
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Frying oil: You can choose from a range of different types: canola oil, peanut oil, vegetable oil, or your favorite frying oil. This is essential because it has a high smoke point and is best for high-heat cooking.
- Apple cider vinegar
- White vinegar
Spices & Herbs
Spices and herbs add a lot of flavor and depth to your cooking. Spices are subject to your own taste, and you can use less or more. Both spices and herbs can last a long time when stored properly in air-tight packaging. Here's a list of some spices and herbs you should always have on hand:
- Garlic powder
- Chicken stock powder
- Smoked paprika
- Ground coriander
- Ground ginger
- Chilli powder
- Chilli flakes
- Black pepper powder
- Bay leaf
- Garam masala
Dry Pantry Essentials
These consist of versatile and reliable goods that are used often in cooking. They form the pillar of any meal and should always be in your pantry, allowing you to whip up a solid home-cooked meal when needed. These items almost always have a long shelf life, making them easier to store.
- Pasta and noodles
- Grains and lentils (bulgar wheat, chickpeas, kidney beans, yellow lentils, semolina)
- Tea and coffee
- Nuts (almonds, peanuts, pine nuts, walnuts, cashew nuts)
- Dried fruit (raisins, apricots, dates)
- Rolled oats
- All-purpose flour
- Milk Powder
Tinned Food Staples
Tinned or canned food is a long-lasting and reliable food staple. These foods have a very long shelf life, and if stored properly in a cool and dark place, they can last for years. They are also a healthy option when cooking. Here's a list of tinned food for your pantry:
Beans: These are a great option to have around. Black-eyed beans, red kidney beans, or chickpeas can all be great in a salad, or add them to some spicy masala for a side dish. Dried beans are also very healthy and economical.
Tomatoes: Whether you keep tinned tomato paste or chunky tomatoes, they are handy for making a quick tomato-based pasta sauce or a tomato gravy or masala.
Tinned Fruit: This includes peaches, pineapple, cherries etc. They can be used for a quick dessert.
Condensed Milk: This is a versatile and long-lasting ingredient. It is used in lots of different desserts, so it's a great pantry essential.
Condiments and Sauces
Sauces or condiments are an excellent way to take the taste of your meal up a notch. They can add a satisfyingly sweet and tangy touch to any dish. Here are some you should always have:
- Mustard (yellow or Dijon): A great addition to many dishes: sauces, marinations for meat, sandwiches etc
- Mayonnaise: Makes the base of most sauces and salads.
- Ketchup: It can be used as a dipping sauce for almost anything!
- Hot sauce: Used to add some heat to marination, sauces, soups, etc
- Soy sauce: Forms the base of Chinese cooking and is added to the marinations of meats.
- BBQ Sauce
- Peanut butter
Are you an avid baker? Do you have unexpected guests coming over? The following pantry staple items are essential for home bakers:
- Baking soda – shelf life is six months from opening, essential for cakes, cookies, and pastries
- Baking powder – shelf life is six months from opening, essential for cakes, cookies, and other baked goods.
- Active dry yeast – once opened, store in the fridge (use within four months) or freeze (use within six months)
- Cream of tartar
- Vanilla extract
- Brown sugar
- White sugar
- Cocoa Powder
There are so many healthy and flavorful dishes you can make with dairy products. This is why you must always have certain key dairy produce in your kitchen. Most of these do not have a long shelf life, therefore, use them before their expiration date.
- Cheese – cheddar, mozzarella, cottage, your favorites.
- Plain yogurt or sour cream
Since fresh produce has a shorter lifespan, unlike pantry items with long shelf life, you should only buy what you need rather than buying in bulk and wasting food and money.
Here's a list of some pantry essential fresh products:
- Leafy greens (lettuce, spinach)
- Bell peppers
Freezer staples are items that can be stored for 3-6 months in your freezer. These are crucial so you can enjoy a delicious and healthy home-cooked meal. Since they last so long, frozen meats, vegetables, and even some breads can save you the hassle of running to your grocery store for a missing ingredient. This is an important part of your pantry essentials.
- Meat (beef, mutton, mince, sausages, and boneless and bone-in chicken): Store different cuts of meat to add to any meat-based dish you make.
- Bread: Freezing various types of bread can be very easy and convenient when serving it with some soup or making a sandwich. It can also prevent the bread from going bad.
- Frozen vegetables (frozen peas, frozen mixed vegetables, frozen corn)
- Frozen fruit (frozen berries, frozen peaches, frozen mangos): Some fruits and vegetables are freezer-friendly and can taste even better than fresh.
- Pizza dough or bases: Conveniently bake pizzas at home with store-bought frozen pizza base or dough. Great for a busy weeknight dinner.
- Vanilla ice cream: For a quick dessert craving or to add in a milkshake.
Here are some delicious recipes on our website, to help you use these pantry essentials!
Pro-Tips for Stocking Pantry Essentials
- Plastic or glass air-tight storage containers and labels can help keep your pantry more organized.
- For items without an expiration date, write the date you opened it on the package. This makes it easy to remember when it needs to be replaced.
- Keep a running grocery list on your fridge, and when you notice something getting low in the pantry, add it to your grocery list immediately so you don't run out.
- When restocking your pantry, rotate the items and move older items to the front so they get used first.
- If you live in a hot and humid place, stocking flour and lentils in your refrigerator is a good idea to prevent spoiling.
- When freezing items, especially meats, place them in zip-lock bags and write the date you bought them on it, so you know when to use them.
- Before going grocery shopping, empty your pantry or cupboard to get a thorough look at what you have and what you need to buy.
The kitchen is the heart of the home! It is a place that is always bustling with activity. Food is vital to a healthy life, therefore, a healthy and happy life is one where the kitchen shows signs of wear and tear! Remember that there will be days when your kitchen is full, the pantry is overstocked and haphazard, and you may feel overwhelmed in dealing with it all! There will also be days when everything will be in order, all your utensils will be in their place, and pots and pans will be clean: your kitchen will be immaculate!
This is life! It's always changing. To keep up with this change, you must stay one step ahead and take charge of your kitchen and pantry essentials.
Keep a notepad and pen always on your kitchen counter or cabinet drawer to make lists of things you need. Keep an eye on essential items on sale at your local grocery store and buy them in bulk. Make a note of the ingredients in your family's favorite dish so you never run out. And, to make life easier, always have some cooked meat or veggies in your freezer for a busy weeknight when you are too tired to cook.