Perfect Your Pantry Game
Stock your pantry with cooking essentials to make your weeknight dinners a breeze. Some of my favorite “faster than fast” dinners come from pantry ingredients: Penne with Rao’s, chicken thighs plucked from the freezer and cooked with a jar of salsa verde, roasted red pepper and tomato soup or my throwback fave: tuna salad!
These days, stocking your pantry has a whole new meaning. With cancelled school and vacations, less social interaction and more time spent at home, there’s also more of my favorite thing: HOME COOKING! So fear not, crank up the tunes and let’s cook through some essentials. Cooking can soothe your soul, relieve stress and nourish you and your family. Let’s do it!
Before we get started, give your pantry and freezer a good deep cleaning. Take everything out and clean the shelves. Vacuum the floor. Organize similar ingredients together, clean out bins and throw out anything that’s expired. Smell all your spices — if they smell dusty, toss them. If there’s something in good condition and unopened that you won’t use, donate it to a local food pantry.
Print this out. Cross out anything you already have or don’t need and add items that your family uses. Stay tuned for our next post, which will be a roundup of easy and delicious recipes to cook with your stockpiled ingredients!
I use Redmond Real Salt, Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt and Maldon sea salt. And yes, I have all three out on my counter when cooking. Pepper is good to have on hand, but I would also be totally fine without it. Salt? Not so much, it’s the top of my list!
Seasonings and Spices
The spices I use the most often are red pepper flakes, paprika, cumin, cayenne, bay leaves, garlic and onion powder. For baking, I always have cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla extract. Those are just the basics!
Hot sauce has a long shelf life and adds a punch of flavor to soups and tacos. Mayonnaise, ketchup, BBQ sauce and mustards are a good idea to keep on hand. Soy sauce, tamari, hoisin and sriracha can also be used to punch up the flavor in a ton of recipes. Look at what’s currently in your refrigerator and think about what you use most and stock up! I always have dried chilies, extra capers, olives and pickles in my pantry because I use them frequently.
Oils, Vinegar and Cooking Fats
Extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil are musts in my kitchen. I store extra Kerrygold unsalted butter in my freezer and transfer it to the fridge as needed, and nut oils like sesame or walnut go in my refrigerator since they spoil quickly. Stock your favorite vinegar for homemade super simple salad dressing, I always have apple cider, red wine, balsamic, sherry and rice vinegar. With that said, only buy what you use! I run a cooking school out of my home so we tend to be stocked to the gills.
Stock and Broth
Cartons of organic chicken stock line my pantry shelves; homemade chicken bone broth and beef stock are stored in Souper Cubes in my freezer. Stocks can be used for vegetable or minestrone soup and sauces.
I stock everything from organic refried beans to black beans, white beans, pinto beans and kidney beans. Add drained and rinsed beans to soups or chili, mash white beans with sautéd garlic as a side dish or add black beans to quesadillas or tacos. I also make dried beans in my Instant Pot, and they are delicious!
Rice & Grains
The rice I use most often is Cal Rose short grain white rice. I also stock basmati, jasmine and arborio. I keep a couple boxes of pre-made frozen brown and jasmine rice in my freezer for grab-and-go servings. Other grains I keep stocked for side dishes and soups are polenta, farro, barley, quinoa and oats.
Red lentils, yellow lentils, brown lentils, split peas for soup and canned chickpeas. I love legumes.
Dried pasta in all shapes and sizes! Whether you use gluten-free varieties, whole wheat or good old spaghetti, it doesn’t go bad and it’s a tried-and-true dinner option.
You can use these to make a quick tomato sauce, add to soup or use in stews or chili. Whole stewed tomatoes, fire-roasted tomatoes and tomato sauce can be used in thousands upon thousands of delicious dinners.
Meats & Seafood
In the pantry, stock line-caught canned tuna and salmon. I also like anchovy paste for a punch of flavor in salad dressings and pastas. In the freezer, I store ground beef in 1-pound servings, boneless chicken thighs, Teton Waters Ranch sausages, bacon and pancetta. You can also freeze stew meat, roasts or pork tenderloin. I have whole sides of wild salmon in my freezer, along with individual wild Alaskan cod and salmon.
Nut Butters, Jam, Honey and Maple Syrup
Peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter or whatever floats your boat, along with your favorite jam and honey. Maple syrup for frozen waffles and pancakes is a must!
Sugar and Flour
Anxiety baking must go on… I have all-purpose flour and Cup4Cup gluten-free flour, as well as brown sugar, coconut sugar and organic cane sugar. I also have a basket of alternative flours, such as almond flour, corn flour, coconut flour and arrowroot flour. If you get stuck at home for a period of time, I would suggest grabbing a carton of pasteurized egg whites because they will last in your refrigerator for a month or more. Did someone say chocolate chip cookies?
Nuts and Seeds
I store nuts in the freezer to extend their shelf life. I always have a stock of almonds, cashews, pine nuts and peanuts. Store smoothie mix-ins in the same place: Hemp hearts, flax and chia can go bad quickly, so it’s best to store them in your freezer.
Organic berries, pineapple, mango and bananas are fabulous sources of nutrients and fiber and can be added to morning smoothies.
My favorite frozen veggies to keep on hand are broccoli, riced cauliflower, spinach and edamame and peas (even though the last two are technically legumes). Frozen stir-fry mix is a great way to pack in a large serving of veggies!
Frozen Convenience Foods
Stock up on a few frozen cauliflower crust pizza (or whatever floats your boat), tortellini, tamales, taquitos, dumplings or other favorite “easy” items.
Sparkling water (I’m addicted to the bubbles), chocolate (again, addicted), coffee (again!), tea and juice. Of course, this list doesn’t include household essentials, like cleaning supplies, paper products and medicine, but I’m here for all the food!
How to Stock Your Pantry & Freezer
- Finely ground salt (Himalayan or Redmond Real Salt)
- Kosher Salt (Diamond Crystal)
- Maldon Sea Salt or other flakey “finishing salt”
Oils and Cooking Fats
- Avocado oil
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Sesame oil
- Butter unsalted
- Black pepper
- red pepper flakes
- bay leaves
- chili powder
- garlic powder
- onion powder
- whole nutmeg
- vanilla extract
- apple cider vinegar
- red wine vinegar
- balsamic vinegar
- champagne or white wine vinegar
- sherry vinegar
- rice vinegar
- Chicken Stock store-bought and/or frozen homemade
- Vegetable stock
- Beef stock
- BBQ sauce
- Soy Sauce or Tamari
- Hot Sauce
- Strawberry or raspberry jam
- Maple syrup
- Canned black beans, or dried
- Canned pinto beans, or dried
- Canned white beans, or dried
- Canned refried beans
Rice & Grains
- Short grain white
- Basmati rice
- Brown rice
- Garbanzo beans, canned or dried
- Green or brown lentils
- Red or yellow lentils
- Split peas
- Spaghetti, penne, fusilli Gluten-free, whole wheat or traditional
- Whole stewed tomatoes
- Fire-roasted tomatoes
- Tomato sauce unseasoned, for chili and stews
Pantry Meat & Seafood
- Canned tuna and salmon
- Anchovy paste
Freezer Meat & Seafood
- Chicken thighs or breasts
- Ground meat beef, turkey, lamb, pork or chicken
- Stew meat beef or lamb
- Whole roasting chicken
- Pork tenderloin or pork roast
- Sausages/Italian Sausage and Brauts
- Wild salmon or cod
Sugar, Flour and Baking Supplies
- Cane sugar (or regular white sugar)
- Brown sugar
- All-purpose flour
- Almond flour
- Gluten-free flour
- Baking Powder
- Baking Soda
- Arrowroot powder and/or cornstarch
Nut Butters, Nuts and Seeds
- Almond butter
- Peanut butter
- Almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans, pistachios and pine nuts store in the freezer
- Flax, hemp, chia store in the freezer
Frozen Fruit and Veggies
- Frozen strawberries
- Frozen pineapple
- Frozen Bananas peeled and sliced for smoothies
- Frozen mixed berries
- Frozen blueberries
- Frozen peas
- Frozen edamame
- Frozen broccoli
- Frozen spinach
- Frozen pearl onions
- Frozen stir-fry mix
Frozen Convenience Foods (for those nights you need a break!)
- Tortellini cheese and/or spinach
- Pizza cauliflower crust or regular
- Sparkling water
- Microwave popcorn or popcorn kernels
- Boxed mac & cheese
- Boxed brownies