Whether you need to whip up a good meal after a long day at work or can’t get to the supermarket in bad weather or an emergency, it’s always a good idea to keep your pantry stocked with ingredients that lend themselves to a variety of creative dishes. Check out our list of must-have pantry essentials to keep on hand at all times.
Click to download our printable Pantry Staples Shopping List.
Flour is a wonderful source of dietary fiber and includes essential nutrients like magnesium, sodium, phosphorus and potassium. It can also serve as one of the most diverse items in your pantry. All-purpose or whole wheat flour can be used to make bread, pie crusts, tortillas, pizza dough, pancakes, biscuits and more. You can even mix a dash of flour with a little butter to make a roux for thickening gravy, soups and sauces.
Beans are known for packing a sizable punch of protein in a small package. Like rice, there are tens of thousands of types in the world. But even keeping the basics like black, pinto, cannellini and kidney beans on hand can add a wealth of nutrition and flavor to your meals. Use them for hearty Mexican meals, add them to a simmering stovetop chili, scoop them into enchiladas or get creative with protein bowls or vegetable and bean soups. You can even puree them to make bean hummus or spread them onto sandwiches.
Brown and white rice are two of the more common varieties found in American pantries. But with more than 40,000 types in the world, it’s well worth the effort to keep other kinds on hand to diversify your meals. Wild rice, basmati, jasmine and arborio all make excellent pantry staples. You can easily prepare a large batch of rice at the beginning of the week and use it in protein bowls, soups, enchiladas and casseroles for days.
A fan favorite among young and old alike, pasta is one of the best vehicles for calories and carbohydrates. Add rice noodles to some vegetables and peanut sauce to make pad Thai, use egg noodles for homemade stroganoff, layer a large dish with lasagna noodles for a quick and easy dinner or use the more popular varieties like spaghetti, angel hair and penne to create “everything-but-the-kitchen-sink pasta” using whatever vegetables, herbs and meat you have on hand.
Tomatoes are full of the antioxidant lycopene, which has been known to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. They also contain healthy doses of potassium, folate and vitamins C and K. While they taste delicious fresh from the vine, it’s good to keep your pantry full of tomatoes in the form of salsas, tomato soups, marinara sauce and diced, peeled or canned with chilies. This diverse ingredient can be paired with grilled cheese, tossed with pasta, or included in a number of soups, stews and chilis.
Did you know potatoes support heart health? Full of goodies like potassium, fiber, and vitamins C and B6, these root vegetables can be turned into everything from hash browns and mashed potatoes to roasted potato wedges and french fries. You can even chop them into cubes, toss them with salt and vinegar and roast them in the oven for a tasty snack or side dish. Consider keeping varieties like Russet, Yukon, fingerling and even sweet potatoes on hand to make sure you have access to a multitude of healthy carbs.
Onion and garlic
Yes, this technically qualifies as two separate ingredients, but we can all agree that onion and garlic are a match made in heaven. You can use these two essential pantry staples in quiches, soups, pastas, stocks, casseroles and much more. They add a delicious punch of flavor and vitamins to so many types of savory dishes.
Peanut butter, or almond butter if you have a peanut allergy, is a wonderful addition to any pantry. While you can easily use it to make a quick sandwich full of healthy fats and protein, you can also use nut butters to create sauces for pasta, on crackers for a snack, or as a topping for waffles and pancakes. You can even blend a spoonful into a smoothie, spread it on toast or add it to your morning oatmeal.
While you could probably get by without oil in a pinch, the kitchen is a lot more fun and creative when you have good oils on hand. Olive oil is extremely versatile and can be used as a marinade or base for homemade dressings. But don’t make the mistake of only keeping one type of oil on hand. Coconut, peanut, sesame and avocado oils all have different smoke points and flavors. Understanding how to use various types of oils can enhance your meals more than you may realize.
Fridge & Freezer Items:
You may not consider eggs a pantry staple since they have a shorter lifespan, but you may be surprised to learn that with proper storage, eggs can last in the fridge for as long as five weeks. Some even say you can store egg whites and beaten whole eggs in the freezer for up to a year. In addition to providing a considerable amount of protein, eggs can be used to make everything from waffles and pancakes to quiches and pies.
There are more kinds of cheese than we can cover in a single article, but many hard cheeses can last for weeks in the fridge when properly stored. Many people even store shredded cheese in the freezer with success. A wonderful source of calcium and protein, cheese is great for virtually anything and everything. Sprinkle some on scrambled eggs or pasta, use it to make a cheesy potato soup, or grate some over enchiladas and casseroles before baking.
If you won’t be able to get to the grocery store for the foreseeable future (or winter is around the corner), frozen vegetables could be your best friend when fresh ones aren’t readily available. Even if you can’t find any pre-bagged frozen options at your local store, you can stock up on fresh vegetables from local producers, markets or grocery stores and freeze them yourself.
From ground beef and turkey to chicken and pork, it’s wise to keep enough meat in the freezer to feed your family for at least two weeks – or more when you know you’ll be home for longer than usual. You can even divide your meat into meal-sized packages to freeze, making it easy and convenient to thaw exactly what you need when you need it.
Click to download our printable Pantry Staples Shopping List.