As a home cook, having a well-stocked pantry is like having a secret weapon at your disposal. It's the foundation of culinary creativity, allowing you to whip up delicious meals even on the busiest of days. While fresh ingredients are crucial, a thoughtfully curated pantry can save you time, money, and stress. Whether you're a novice in the kitchen or a seasoned pro, these top 8 ingredients should always have a place in your pantry. Most of them have a long expiration date so they have a long shelf life and will keep for a long time, and are also great survival foods to keep in case of natural disaster!
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Olive oil is the backbone of many dishes, from sautéed vegetables to salad dressings. It adds depth and richness to your cooking while being a healthier alternative to some other cooking oils. Look for extra virgin olive oil, known for its intense flavor and versatility. It's not just for cooking – drizzle it over finished dishes to enhance flavors.
Rice is a versatile staple that can be the base for countless dishes. From creamy risottos to hearty stir-fries, having rice on hand is a lifesaver for quick meals. Consider stocking both white rice and brown rice to suit different dishes and dietary preferences.
Canned tomatoes are like a burst of summer in a can. They form the foundation of many sauces, stews, and soups so keeping a healthy stock of them is a good idea. Opt for whole peeled tomatoes or crushed tomatoes to have the flexibility to create different textures in your dishes. From pasta sauces to chili, canned tomatoes are your kitchen's best friend.
Pasta is a quick and easy meal solution that's also endlessly customizable. Keep a variety of pasta shapes in your pantry, from spaghetti to penne. Whole wheat or gluten-free options are great for those with dietary restrictions. Pair pasta with those canned tomatoes and some olive oil, and you have a simple yet satisfying dinner.
Herbs and Spices
A well-stocked pantry wouldn't be complete without an array of herbs and spices. Basics like salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder are essential. But consider expanding your collection with versatile options like paprika, cumin, oregano, and thyme. These seasonings can transform a dish from ordinary to extraordinary with just a pinch. If you are storing your spices long term consider storing them in mylar bags.
Canned legumes, such as beans and lentils, are protein-packed ingredients that can add substance to a wide range of dishes. They're excellent for soups, salads, and vegetarian dishes. Chickpeas, black beans, and lentils are some popular options to keep in your pantry. They're not only nutritious but also incredibly convenient.
Stock or Broth
Stock or broth is the building block of many savory recipes. Whether it's chicken, beef, vegetable, or even mushroom stock, having a few cartons or cubes in your pantry can elevate your cooking. It's the key to creating flavorful soups, stews, and sauces without spending hours simmering ingredients.
Flour and Baking Essentials
For those moments when you're in the mood for baking, having flour and baking essentials on hand is essential. All-purpose flour is a versatile choice, and you can consider keeping whole wheat or alternative flours if you're into healthier options. Baking powder, baking soda, and vanilla extract are also crucial for whipping up cookies, cakes, and muffins.
Bonus: Sweeteners and Condiments
While not part of the core eight, sweeteners like sugar and honey, along with condiments like soy sauce, vinegar, and mustard, are essential for adding depth and complexity to your dishes. They can transform a simple recipe into something spectacular.
Why we keep our pantry stocked
We store our store cupboard ingredients in glass jars at room temperature so it is easy to see what is inside and they look great in the pantry. However you choose to store your items it is important that they are kept cool, away from direct sunlight and in an airtight container. We like to keep enough food to last all family members for a couple of weeks and are privileged to be able to do so, not everyone has the space or financial capacity to overbuy that much food. Our pantry is also a working pantry as I am constantly cooking for our family and for recipes for this blog so I like to have things ready to go in case I need them. When we start to run low on something I add it to our Alexa shopping list or I write it down on a list we keep on the fridge.
A prepper pantry
I also vividly remember my grandmother keeping a cupboard full of food (just in case). My mum said it was a consequence of the war - people were forced to ration and store food away. I feel like we went through a bit of this during Covid and this is another good reason to also keep well stocked prepper pantries. We have our own prepper pantry - a back up storage space that we use to replenish the main pantry. These store cupboard ingredients listed above are a great way of getting a well-stocked prepper pantry started and prepper pantries are easy ways of storing food for long periods of time. I also like that by keeping a prepper pantry I can take advantage of multi-buy deals or take advantage of cheaper wholesale prices from stores such as Costco.
Create a prepper pantry in a place suitable for long-term storage, with the right conditions and make sure it is a dry place. Ideally your long-term pantry will be in a place that isn't affected by power outages and away from a water supply in case of leaks. You don't need much space, just space to store enough food and staples to get you through any food shortages. If you have special dietary needs it is worth paying particular attention to products that you would struggle without and stock up on them. For example, during Covid we were careful to keep enough oat milk for our milk intolerant son.
How to store foods and keep their nutritional value.
If you are planning on some really long-term food storage you will want to look into food preservation. Mylar bags are a great idea for storing dry goods in a prepper food pantry such as rice, dry beans, spices etc. They are sealable foil bags which come with oxygen absorbers so they will preserve dry food for over 2 years - great for long term storage.
Where to stock your pantry
I have included Amazon links for many of the products that you might want to buy, as this is often the most convenient way of shopping for some people. I would however urge you to use your local grocery stores as much as you can, especially if you have a zero waste store. Our local zero waste store offers free delivery so it's just as convenient as shopping on Amazon anyway and we are supporting a small business and helping the environment.
A well-stocked pantry doesn't just save you time; it empowers you to experiment with new recipes and flavors. Having these essential ingredients at your fingertips means you can create impressive dishes even when you're short on fresh groceries. Plus, you'll be better prepared to handle unexpected events, like unexpected dinner guests or a busy workweek or even an emergency situation.
In conclusion, a well-stocked pantry is a home cook's best friend. With these top 8 ingredients always on hand, you can confidently tackle any culinary challenge that comes your way. From oils and staples to flavor enhancers and baking essentials, these ingredients form the foundation of delicious meals that will impress family and friends alike. So, go ahead and give your pantry the love and attention it deserves – it's your secret to successful cooking, every time.