A well-stocked pantry offers peace of mind. When you have all the basic cooking supplies on hand, you can be ready to prepare a meal on short notice and without the time and expense of running to the store for ingredients.
Every family is a little bit different in terms of their tastes and customers. Some families may not be able to live without hot sauce, for example, while others add soy sauce to everything. If you have a family member who is allergic to peanuts, then obviously you can scratch the peanut butter from your list.
Keeping those differences in mind, we have put together a rough checklist of 50 staple foods that should be in your kitchen. Feel free to take what works for your family and swap out what doesn’t.
The idea is to have enough seasonings, condiments, starches, proteins, and vegetables on hand to make practically anything. )For some of them, I included links to my favorite brands.)
We’ll start with foods for your pantry.
1. Baking Powder — A mixture of baking soda and cream of tartar, baking powder increases the volume and lightens the texture of baked items.
2. Baking Soda — Baking soda is a necessity for many baked goods and is useful for so many tasks around the house.
3. Beans, Canned — Both canned and dry beans can be a lifesaver when it comes to meal preparation. Try cannellini, navy, chickpeas, or black beans in soups, stews, salads, and more.
4. Bouillon Cubes — Beef or chicken bouillon cubes help make a starter base for many meals.
5. Bread Crumbs — Change up the way you cook meats, seafood, and veggies occasionally by having some regular or panko breadcrumbs at the ready.
6. Chicken Stock — Use canned or packaged stock as the base for many of your favorite soups, stews, and sauces.
7. Coffee — Yes, it helps get your day going, but coffee is also good to have on hand to offer guests. You may even use it to flavor certain dishes. Here is the world’s strongest coffee.
8. Crackers — Keeping crackers on hand means you can create quick appetizers, croutons, and breadcrumbs. Crackers also help turn a bowl of soup into a satisfying meal.
9. Dark Chocolate — Yes, chocolate made the list! Dark chocolate adds smooth richness and nutrition to many dishes, such as Mexican mole sauce. And it is good for you (in moderation, of course).
10. Flour — All-purpose, whole wheat, or pastry flour is essential for many cooking and baking tasks.
11. Fruit, Dried — Raisins, apricots, dates or cherries are nutritious on-the-go snacks, and they add a welcome sweetness and texture to muffins, breads, cakes, and cookies.
12. Garlic — Garlic is an easy way to add flavor and nutrition to just about any Mediterranean dish. And don’t forget garlic bread!
13. Grains — Stock your pantry with your favorite grain — bulgur, couscous, farro, or quinoa. With a supply of grains on hand, a nutritious, filling meal is at your fingertips.
14. Herbs de Provence — A good cook builds up a spice collection, but this one spice can make up for many you don’t have. It contains a blend of thyme, rosemary, basil, parsley, oregano, and tarragon.
15. Honey — Honey is the ultimate natural sweetener. You can use honey in place of sugar in many recipes and beverages. Just make sure it’s real honey and not artificial honey (like most of the “honey” on the grocery store shelves).
16. Jam or Jelly — Spread some fruit preserves on a piece of toast or a cracker for a light breakfast or as a snack. Or combine it with almond or peanut butter for a quick sandwich.
17. Lemon Juice — A squirt or two of lemon juice is an easy way to add zest to many meals and beverages.
18. Marinara Sauce — Making your own tomato sauce is great, but there are times when jarred sauce can be the best time saver. You can always add garlic, onion, and fresh veggies to make it shine.
19. Milk, Evaporated and Condensed — You will find many cooking and baking uses for these pantry staples. The difference lies primarily in their sweetness. Evaporated milk is canned milk that has about 60% of its water removed. Condensed milk usually contains added sugar.
20. Mustard — Hot and spicy, sweet and tangy, or plain old yellow — you’ll reach for mustard to flavor meats, sandwiches, and other foods, or to use to whip up a quick marinade.
21. Nuts — What’s your favorite nut? Almonds, walnuts, and pecans add crunch and flavor to a surprising number of dishes.
22. Oatmeal — Keep old-fashioned rolled oats and oatmeal in your pantry for breakfast and for baking.
23. Olive Oil, Extra Virgin — You can use olive oil for sautéing, stir-frying, browning, deep-frying, as a condiment, or as an ingredient in marinades and sauces.
24. Onions — They store for a long time, and they add texture, flavor, and nutrition both in raw form and cooked or sautéed.
25. Parmesan — In its fresh or jarred form, this pantry staple livens up meats, pastas, and salads.
26. Pasta — Keep a supply of your favorite pasta on hand in wheat, whole grain, rice, or egg varieties. They can serve as an entrée, a side dish, or as an add-in for soups and stews.
27. Peanut Butter — You can have instant protein on a cracker or a piece of bread with a handy jar of peanut butter. If you or someone you love has peanut allergies, try delicious almond butter as an alternative.
28. Peppercorns — Grind your own black pepper to add hearty flavor to just about anything.
30. Potatoes — You can have them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. You can serve them baked, mashed, broiled, fried or boiled. Potatoes are a cook’s best friend for ease and versatility.
31. Rice — White, brown, basmati, or arborio – pick your favorites. Rice is a kitchen superstar because it is equally at home as a side dish or as part of the main course.
32. Salt, Kosher — Often recommended by chefs for its pure, salty taste and larger crystals, Kosher salt is great for seasoning many foods.
33. Soy Sauce — Add soy sauce for a sweet and salty Asian-inspired flavor to veggies and meats. Or simply use it as a dipping sauce.
34. Sriracha — Bring on the heat with hot sauce for egg dishes, tacos, and burritos – or just about anything that needs a little kick.
35. Sugar — You’ll find zillions of uses for granulated sugar, powdered sugar, and brown sugar as you cook and bake.
36. Tea — A comforting cup of tea is the perfect nerve calmer, especially chamomile tea. Keep a variety of your favorites in the pantry.
37. Tomato Paste — Add this rich paste to homemade tomato sauces, stews, and other hearty recipes for smoothness and texture.
38. Tomatoes, Canned — Stir a can of whole or diced tomatoes into soups, stews, and sauces for ease and convenience.
39. Tuna, Canned — You can make pastas, casseroles, salads, sandwiches, and pastas with this traditional pantry standby.
40. Vanilla Extract — An excellent addition to many baked goods. Also, give almond extract a try.
41. Vegetable Oil — For cooking, frying, and baking, vegetable oil is a must-have for your pantry.
And now, here are some basics to keep in the refrigerator and freezer.
43. Bread, Frozen — Breads, rolls, and muffins freeze and defrost surprisingly well. You don’t have to sacrifice taste for convenience.
44. Butter — Easy to store in the freezer until needed, butter is an essential item for any chef.
45. Eggs — Eggs are an affordable and easy source of protein, and they are an ingredient in many baked goods.
46. Ground Meat — Don’t know what to make for dinner? Defrost some frozen ground beef, turkey, pork, or Italian sausage for tacos, burritos, sloppy joes, or pasta sauce.
47. Milk — In addition to serving as a beverage, milk adds texture to many sauces and baked items. Try adding almond milk, goat’s milk, or soy milk to your repertoire.
48. Shrimp, Frozen — Having a bag of frozen shrimp in your freezer can mean an elegant meal for drop-in guests is just minutes away.
49. Vegetables, Frozen — Whether they are your own harvested veggies or the bagged supermarket variety, frozen mixed veggies pop right into soups and stews.
50. Yogurt — Plain yogurt works well as a smoothie base and as a substitute for many higher-calorie, higher-fat dairy ingredients in sauces.
You will find that having a well-stocked pantry saves you time, money, and stress. Be sure to keep track of what you use, replacing these items as needed.
If there are other foods that your family consider staples, add them to the list. Keep in mind that you may be able to make some of them — such as barbecue sauce and salad dressings — with the items on your list.