One thing anyone can do to start homesteading no matter where they live is cooking from scratch. It can help you eat healthier, save money, and reduce your dependence on the grocery store. However, it can be hard to make homemade meals all the time, especially if you don’t know what to keep on hand.
If you keep these simple ingredients stocked in your pantry, you’ll be much better prepared to cook all kinds of wholesome, simple meals with ease. Note: I included links to some brands I’ve tried myself, but for most of these, there are plenty of other great options.
Main Dish Basics
1. Brown Rice – It’s a healthy, hearty, and a quick cooking base for so many meals.
2. Pearled Barley – Barley is often overlooked but it’s a tasty filling grain when you’re in the mood for something a little different.
3. Whole Wheat Pasta – Unless you make all your own pasta, it’s handy to have a few boxes around especially for busy evenings. Just add a jar of homemade tomato sauce and you have a delicious homemade meal!
4. Potatoes – Potatoes pair well with so many recipes and store well as long as they’re kept in a cool, dry, and dark place.
5. Onions – A diced, fried onion is a great way to start almost any meal plus they’re cheap and store well.
6. Garlic – Like onions, fresh garlic is a good way to add tons of flavor without a lot of money or effort.
7. Dry Beans – Black beans, pinto beans, great northern beans are all tasty, protein-filled options to stretch your grocery budget. Plus they keep in the pantry almost indefinitely.
8. Chickpeas – Like beans, they last nearly forever and are a great, cheap way to add protein. Make hummus or throw them in soup or curry dishes.
9. Whole Wheat Flour – An essential in any kitchen, whole wheat flour is so much more filling and nutritious than white. If you want the freshest, tastiest flour purchase a flour mill and wheat berries to grind your own on demand.
10. White Flour – While not as healthy as whole wheat white flour is still important for thickening things like gravy and for those good-for-the-soul type recipes like chocolate chip cookies.
11. Cornmeal – Often overlooked in northern kitchens, cornmeal can be used for more than just corn bread. It’s excellent for coating pans to keep things like pizza dough or rolls from getting soggy on the bottom.
12. White Sugar – It’s hard to forget sugar as it’s used constantly for baked goods and in tea and coffee, but it’s also an important ingredient in preserving foods like jam and bread and butter pickles.
13. Brown Sugar – Brown sugar is indispensable in many dessert recipes. It can also be made at home by combining white sugar and molasses.
14. Rolled Oats – Oats are used in many desserts and can be added to bread for a more textured, hearty product. They’re also perfect when a complicated, from-scratch breakfast is out of the picture.
15. Baking Soda – This is a leavening agent (it makes things rise) and is important to many baked goods.
16. Baking Powder – This is also a leavening agent. As with baking soda, quite a few baked goods can’t be made without it.
17. Yeast – If you want to cook from-scratch bread, bagels, or pizza dough, you’ll need to purchase yeast. It can be stored for quite awhile in the refrigerator.
18. Cocoa Powder – It’s important to have around when skipping the store-bought cake mixes and can be also used for homemade hot cocoa/chocolate milk mix.
19. Flaxseeds Meal – Flaxseeds are full of healthy fats and omega-3s and are great additions to baked goods like crackers and bread.
20. Applesauce – It’s so much more than just a snack. It can replace eggs in many baked goods when the hens refuse to lay or your have vegan company.
21. Vanilla Extract – It’s a little pricey but worth it for the best flavored pancakes and desserts. You can also make your own by soaking vanilla beans in vodka for several months.
22. Chocolate Chips – These cannot be forgotten, especially if you have kids.
Oils, Vinegars, & Seasonings
24. Coconut Oil (or other fat that’s solid at room temperature) – It has a long shelf life and is perfect for making pie crusts, granola bars, and seasoning cast iron pans.
25. Soy Sauce – Soy sauce adds a warm, savory flavor to more than just asian cuisine.
27. Kosher Salt – Kosher or pickling salt is essential to home-canning vegetables.
Commonly used spices
Whatever you love and use the most keep on hand. Some ideas include basil, oregano, dill, chili powder, curry powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.
28. Boullion or Broth – A quick and cheap way to add tons of flavor.
29. White Vinegar – White vinegar is a basic ingredient in many pickle and dressing recipes. It also doubles as a natural cleaning product for kitchen surfaces.
31. Tahini – Tahini can be purchased or made at home using sesame seeds and olive oil. It doesn’t take much but it makes a huge difference in homemade hummus and stir fry.
32. Bread Crumbs – They’re excellent for thickening savory dishes and of course coating things to be fried or baked.
33. Nuts – Perfect for keeping hunger at bay while you’re busy in the kitchen or adding to baked goods for a more filling product. They’re also very good for your health.
35. PB & Jam – Thrown together with some homemade bread it’s the ultimate from-scratch fast food and can help you stay on track when you feel like there just isn’t enough time.
All of these ingredients are easy to find, easy to store at home, and affordable even on a tight budget. If you keep your pantry stocked, cooking from scratch is doable for any family and is absolutely worth it.