9 Foods to Stock in Your Pantry

Every January, my pantry inevitably needs an in-depth examination. So I clear out the remnants of holiday foodstuffs that have collected – candy canes, cracker fragments, sprinkles and other cookie decorations – and take a good look at what is left.

A lot of my homemade jam and preserves have been given away as gifts; my stash of nuts, dried fruit and olives has dwindled (as it should over the entertaining season), and there is plenty of space for starting over.

With my intentional food-related goals for the new year at the forefront of my planning, I sit down to write a list of staples I need to stock. I take notice of low granola supplies, the absence of canned beans, and other clues that point to my need for a grocery haul.

The result is a list of basic staples that I think anyone striving to serve wholesome family food should stockpile and I’m sharing it here with you today.

If you’re serious about maintaining a diet of nourishing foods, one of the best things you can do is stock your pantry with quality ingredients. You’ll be inspired to try new recipes – and have the resources to follow through with them – and more inclined to steer clear of prepackaged and processed foods.

9 Foods to Stock in Your Pantry

1. Cereals (hot, not cold)

Easy to source, affordable and nutritious, hot cereals are an ideal breakfast choice. Oatmeal, steel-cut oats, cornmeal, and the all-Canadian Red River are just a few of these energy boosting options. We enjoy hot cereal most weekday mornings, either spooned up with a variety of toppings or prepared in one of these favorite recipes:

2. Canned Goods

Most legumes I cook from scratch, but I still like to have their canned versions on hand as well such as beans (black, pinto, and kidney), chickpeas, and even lentils. I buy the organic, low salt varieties, and find they come in handy for the occasional impromptu chili or burrito.

Other canned items I try to have around are coconut milk and diced  tomatoes, as well as a few winter pizza toppings such as artichokes and olives.

3. Lentils & Split Peas

They’re versatile, frugal, quick-cooking and healthy, but I’ve told you all that before. Go ahead, fill a few jars with lentils and their counterparts from the bulk section of your local organic store.

4. Good Fats

Because of the varied properties of fats, I like to stock several different fats for both cooked and uncooked dishes. When cooking, I reach for extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and duck or bacon fat. The duck fat I buy rendered and frozen from my local butcher; bacon fat I strain through a paper towel when still hot and store in a jar in the refrigerator. I’ll often finish an dish (vegetable, pasta, sauce, etc) with butter, and that is my preferred substance for baking as well.

For uncooked meals, olive, sesame and nut oils are amazing to have to help elevate salad dressings or drizzle over roasted vegetables.

Fat is a real, wholesome ingredient necessary for our good health; choose wisely when stocking your pantry.

5. Rice and Beans

I’m currently soaking a pot of navy beans to slow cook tomorrow with molasses, onion and a ham bone. One of the most frugal and healthy items you can keep on hand, beans come in a wide assortment, making them suitable for many types of cuisine and dishes.

Brown rice and wild rice do take a bit of cooking time, but their nutty flavors and versatility make the planning well worth the effort. I also store Arborio rice for risottos and sushi rice for when I get a craving.

6. Whole Grain Pastas

My kids are crazy about pasta, so you’ll find it in all shapes and forms in my pantry. Whole-wheat spaghetti is a must, as is orzo, and the occasional spelt fusilli or other fun shape.

7. Baking Supplies

Whole-wheat pastry flour and organic all-purpose flour lead the pack in this department and allow us to make everything from the essential Honey Pizza Dough to the Best Zucchini Bread Ever.

A lot of baking goes down in my kitchen, so I try to source the best quality ingredients possible. Natural sweeteners such as maple syrup, honey, agave and natural case sugar are always in stock, as are Scharffen Berger Semisweet Dark Chocolate Baking Chunks and plenty of nuts and seeds.

8. Quick Cooking Grains: Cous Cous, Quinoa, Millet & more

Don’t worry if none of those grains sound familiar to you, just introduce them to your repertoire one by one and then marvel at how you ever cooked without them! Perfect for wholesome winter salads or quick sides, these small grains are versatile and pair well with a host of flavors.

9. Flavor Enhancers

Varying in every cook’s repertoire, flavor enhancers can be spices, condiments, or other ingredients that pack a punch. Although yours may differ, some of my favorites include: sriracha sauce, soy sauce, mustards, rice wine vinegar, salts and peppers, quality spices, home grown herbs, and that is just the beginning!

Are you adding any new ingredients to your pantry this year? What are a few of your staples?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. I’m don’t eat grains, legumes or lentils, as I’m mostly primal in my way of eating, but I need to go through what I have (I actually believe I have two year old nuts hanging around somewhere..!). And I also need to step it up a bit, to make sure I have what I need when I should need it. That list for me includes nuts of various sorts, seeds of various sorts, dried berries and fruits, coconut shavings, herbs and spices. Thanks for the reminder!! 🙂

  2. One of my resolutions this year is to actually get my spice rack/pantry/kitchen in order so I’m bookmarking this post for future reference! I’ve started cooking beans from scratch just a little while ago and I like their texture so much more than the canned ones. Also, oatmeal of any kind=love!

    • Yeah, another oatmeal fan! All the best with organizing the pantry – it will be well worth the effort.

      • I love oatmeal too, and trying to turn our eating around this year by cutting out processed foods (our diet WAS based on processed foods!). I love that I can still have oatmeal, but I need to learn how to sweeten and flavor it differently as my favorite way of eating it is with sugar, butter and milk. Need to find an acceptable replacement for the sugar, and also try some of your recipes for adding fruit, etc to help reduce the need for sweeteners.

        • I put a couple teaspoons of natural peanut butter in my oatmeal. I make my oatmeal on the dry side, throw in the peanut butter, then add some milk and mush it up. YUM 🙂

  3. Great list. On pastas, I wanted to bring up something that even a lot of dietitians and nutritionists don’t know. You can purchase quinoa pasta. I have found it so far in the form of spaghetti and elbow noodles. It is very nutritious and easier to eat for some people who have allergy or esophagus problems. I have found it in the natural foods section of your store, look for it near the quinoa. Even my husband who is not so concerned about “healthy” loves it and told me not to buy the other stuff anymore.

    • Thank you for sharing this! I have cut wheat out of our diet as we believe my husband has sensitivities to it. I know I can buy gluten-free, but this seems like an even healthier alternative. I am going to the store later today and will see if I can find, otherwise I will order some online!

    • I found quinoa penne at Costco this last week- hooray! We just cut gluten out of my diet two weeks ago, it’s been a big adjustment 🙂 The pasta tastes great- a bit grassy, but once you add sauce you can’t really taste the difference. It does seem to slump, though- all my penne was flat by the time I finished dinner 🙂

  4. Melissa @ Baking For The Boys says

    Staples found in my pantry are oatmeal, canned tomatoes, black & red beans, brown rice, lentils & of course various baking ingredients. The newest item in my pantry this year is coconut oil.

    Btw, the honey oat cookies w/ candy coated sunflower seeds are awesome. My co-workers LOVED them!

  5. I love this list! I just taught a small group of ladies at my church last week about cooking from pantry staples. I think this is a list everyone needs!

  6. Great recommendations, especially enjoy the inclusion of duck fat. One of my personal favorites!

  7. Great list! I’ve got a couple of cupboards that need to be completely cleaned out and organized. This post has gotten me motivated!

  8. A pantry clean-out is definitely in order; we had an impromptu reorganization yesterday afternoon when Baguette finally realized that it was a door she could open, and started pulling out spice jars (fortunately she dropped them on a towel, so there was no breakage).

    The problem I have is the way I want to cook vs. the way I do/can cook. I’d love to prepare a hot breakfast in the morning, but I get up at 5:30, empty the dishwasher, feed the dog, get ready for work, wake up Baguette and dress her for day care, and am out the door by 6:45. Later than that and I miss my bus. So she and I both eat at our destinations–although since I often have to stand on the bus, what I can bring is limited by what I can carry for an hour during the commute.

  9. What an awesomely comprehensive list! I definitely second the recommendation for duck and bacon fat… oh, duck fat potatoes, I could marry you.

    • I know, right? At one catering job I worked we cooked small, peeled potatoes confit in duck fat. A heart attack waiting to happen, but so amazing.

  10. I’ve never thought of straining and saving bacon fat. What do you use it for?

  11. You are a woman after my own heart! I have two quart jars and plastic containers filled with dried beans, rice, oatmeal, and quinoa and it makes me smile every time I look in the pantry and see them in all their pure glory.

    Yes, I am a dork.

    Do you have any sources to site for the health benefits of coconut oil? While I haven’t done extensive research my Googling has pretty much shown blogs talking about how great it is or “official” sites sponsored by the coconut industry. I buy that it’s probably a healthy fat in it’s natural form but I have a hard time paying the high price for something shipped from the tropics when I can buy a pound of hormone free Wisconsin butter for $2.49. Of course, I buy plenty of olive oil from Italy and Spain.

    Anyway, I would appreciate some reading suggestions. Thanks!

  12. It’s a waste of money to cook with extra virgin olive oil. You should use plain olive oil for that and reserve your extra virgin for raw applications like finishing and dressings. The heat from cooking degrades the oil and by the time you’re done cooking with it it’s no longer extra virgin.

  13. Great list, Aimee!

  14. I’m surprised to read all this great information and not see any barley!

    Pearl barley is delicious, healthy and cheap. It is mild in flavour and has a lovely al-dente texture, making it very flexible for use in recipes or as a side dish. I often use barley instead of pasta in classic meals, and even my small children don’t object to the swap.

    Because barley takes a while to cook, I cook an entire package at once in two large pots. Then I rinse it and freeze it in useful portions, making it one of my ultimate convenience foods. It’s important not to overcook barley — I think that’s why many people don’t like it as a soup ingredient.

  15. Great list! Healthy and inspiring. Just wanted to add that cous cous is not a grain, but in fact pasta! I love it, but I haven’t seen any whole grain options.

  16. Such a comprehensive & beautiful list of not only true staples to keep around but foods that make for a very inspiring & most beautiful pantry!

  17. I absolutely love your list! I have most of these things in my pantry as well, or at least I did before the holiday season…time to re-stock! 🙂

  18. I finally tossed out my many-years-old spices (cumin, chili powder, cinnamon) and bought some new ones, in smaller sizes. I was amazed at the difference in flavor!

  19. Hi Aimee- Thanks for this great piece- I’ve been working on incorporating more dried goods into our pantry staples. I feel the need to point out though that cous cous is actually a type a pasta not a grain- lots of people don’t know that- even my dietician thought cous cous was a whole grain! Thanks again for this fantastic list! Best wishes!

  20. My big thing this year is that I want to start making my own pasta. We aren’t crazy fans of whole grain pasta because the texture is a little different, but I don’t want to give my family the processed stuff either, so I decided I’m going to make it.

    I keep all of my beans and rices in jars also, tho, I don’t buy them like that. I’ll have to go down to the natural food store to see if they sell it loose like that. We have these annoying little grain moths and I can’t seem to get rid of them, thus everything goes into jars.

    We don’t buy cold cereals because I hate how processed they are. Instead, I cook huge pots of oatmeal (also stored in large jars) and then put it into pint jars and into the refrigerator. When the kids get up, I just take 2 jars out of the frig, put them in the microwave and heat them up. I put a little butter and honey into each jar and stir it up and serve it right in the jars. When the kids are done, they just put the jars into the dishwasher and all is well.

    • We had those moths as well. We purchased a pantry moth trap from home depot and it worked wonderfully. We also killed any we saw. I put down bay leaves all over our pantry because they are supposed to repel pest and we have not had a problem in about a year. We also threw out or froze all the food in the pantry while we got rid of the moths. Good luck!!

  21. Emily @ Random Recycling says

    Wonderful list!
    I’ve been refreshing my spices by filling up from the Whole Foods bulk bins so I don’t have to buy any additional plastic jars. Someday I’ll have glass!

    I got a pressure cooker for Christmas and I’m motivated to test out more bean recipes since I can get it done so fast.

  22. Love this list, Aimee. Cleaning out the pantry is on my to-do list for this weekend – so this came at the perfect time!

  23. Angel Collins says

    That is a nice list and I think that I can suggest to stock herbs in the pantry like rosemary, oregano etc. I like to put herbs especially when I cook pasta because it leaves a unique taste when eating. Thanks for sharing and I hope to be able to stock at least 4 items on your list or all of it. 🙂

  24. Good to know that I have my pantry stocked appropriately 😀

  25. Just clicked through to your site from FoodGawker and I love it!! Definitely content that’s right up my alley. Adding you to my reader now.

  26. I need to hit the shops and fill in some of the missing pieces in my pantry! Thanks for this great article!

  27. i couldn’t live without nuts and dried fruit for making homemade trail mix!

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