Saturday, November 6, 2010

Stocking the Kitchen

A couple of weeks ago, I received an e-mail from my friend E noting that I had made several remarks about how much easier it was to create home-cooked, seasonal meals with a well-stocked pantry, and she wondered what a well-stocked pantry might consist of. As a fellow future ordained minister and current student and wife, E and I both try to live balanced and healthy lives, knowing full well that if we don’t take good care of ourselves mentally, physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually, then we can’t take very good care of others.

While other websites and blogs have tackled this genre of post with great aplomb (see Cheap Healthy Good’s post on Pantry of the Gods), I thought I would post about what works for me and allows me to cook and bake the kinds of foods that work for a busy, semi-meatless couple on a budget. In some ways, this is an ideal list based on a good day. It’s also incomplete, based on my must-haves rather than on absolutely everything that’s in my pantry. You can adapt it to your own personal preferences based on whether you can’t stand spicy food or never want to make Asian cuisine. It’s simply what works for me!



  • Canned Goods - tomatoes (whole, diced, crushed), coconut milk, broth or Better Than Bullion, pumpkin
  • Legumes – canned or dried beans (kidney, black, white), lentils
  • Grains – brown rice, barley, oats, whole wheat couscous, quinoa, whole wheat pasta (short & long shapes), risotto, grits, cornmeal, flour (all-purpose, bread, whole wheat)
  • Baking – baking powder, baking soda, white sugar, brown sugar, chocolate (chips, unsweetened, bittersweet), coconut flakes, vanilla extract
  • Spices – cumin, chili, curry, garam masala, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, paprika, crushed red pepper, oregano, blends (Cajun, pizza, Mexican, Trader Joe’s everyday seasoning), garlic
  • Nuts and Seeds – almonds, pecans, peanuts, pistachios, peanut butter, ground flax
  • Oils – olive oil, canola
  • Vinegars – white, apple cider, red wine, rice wine
  • Sauces – fish sauce, soy, hoisin, hot sauce (Buffalo, Tabasco, Sriracha), salsa, tomato, Worcestershire
  • Crackers, tortilla chips
  • Fruits and Vegetables (seasonally dependent) – bananas, apples, sweet potatoes, winter squash, clementines, lemons, limes
  • Tea and coffee


  • Vegetables – onion, carrots, celery, something green & leafy (spinach or romaine)
  • Staples – eggs, soy milk, butter, Greek yogurt
  • Condiments – jam/jelly, mayonnaise, mustard (brown and Dijon)
  • Bread – tortillas, Sandwich Thins
  • Cheese – cheddar, feta
  • Tofu


  • Vegetables – peas, corn, edamame
  • Frozen fruit – cranberries, strawberries, blueberries, mixed berry, overripe bananas
  • Yeast
  • Proteins – seafood (mahi mahi, tilapia, tuna, shrimp)
  • Planning ahead – homemade stock, homemade dough (pizza, pita bread)

Confession: For most of my every day cooking, I use refrigerated minced garlic. I know it doesn’t taste the same, but I loathe peeling those thin, papery skins off of oddly-sized garlic cloves and having my hands smell like garlic all day.

Also, since our discovery of decent boxed wine, we keep a box of white in the fridge and a box of red on our liquor cart (that’s a whole other post). It keeps forever and serves as a great table wine and makes it easy to cook with, plus it’s more environmentally friendly than glass bottles. Try the Bota Box Pinot Grigio or the J.P. Chenet Cabernet-Syrah for brands we like.