Keeping a well-stocked pantry ensures you can pull together a quality meal on a moment’s notice or when unexpected circumstances keep you from making it to the store. In many homes, the pantry is filled with mismatched odds and ends that may not fit together, but you can shop smart to gather basic ingredients you need for a wide range of recipes.
Spices: A robust spice rack lets you customize all the other ingredients for dishes as simple or complex as you like. As you’re building a spice collection, start with basics like salt, pepper and garlic powder. Also add some of your favorite dried herbs like basil, thyme and ginger then build the rest of your supply around your favorite foods so you can easily create familiar dishes with what you have on hand.
Protein: You may be surprised by how many protein options can be stored in your pantry. Aside from nuts, beans and peanut butter, keeping a selection of canned seafood can allow you to create well-balanced, protein-rich dishes whether you’re topping a salad, adding the finishing touch to your favorite pasta, filling a wrap or more. For example, wild-caught canned tuna or salmon can be the foundation for a multitude of recipes.
Oils: When used in moderation, oils are an essential cooking ingredient that add flavor and depth. Extra-virgin olive oil can be used for everything from sauteing proteins and drizzling over veggies to creating dips and dressings. Many home cooks also favor canola oil as a neutral cooking oil that can be used in a wide range of preparations.
Grains and Pastas: Most pastas have a long shelf-life, making them a great addition to a well-stocked pantry. Pasta and grains can be the foundation of a meal when paired with sauce and protein or veggies, or as an easy side dish. Include your favorite styles of regular pasta along with options like couscous, quinoa and rice.
Canned Vegetables: You can pack in plenty of healthy nutrients without a trip to the farmer’s market or produce section. Put your personal touch on canned veggies to enhance their flavor, like adding some onion (or onion powder or flakes), salt and pepper to cut green beans. Be sure to keep plenty of choices on hand for vegetables you enjoy eating on their own and ones you might use as ingredients.
Broth or Stock: Whether you use it as the base for a delicious soup or to add flavor in countless other recipes, broth and stock can be found with both meat and vegetable bases so you can easily create sauces and more.
Condiments: These sauces and accompaniments help perk up your favorite foods. There’s no standard list of right and wrong, but staples like ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, barbecue, soy and hot sauce top many people’s must-have lists.