Stocking Your Pantry for Success

One of the very first keys to successfully eating as a family and cooking meals on a regular basis is having a good base to start from in your pantry. Having food on hand and available makes this process less stressful and much less work.

Can you imagine if you had to purchase every spice and herb and tablespoon of ingredient in each and every recipe you make every time you make it? The task of shopping just to make one meal could feel a bit overwhelming, much less trying to plan a week’s worth of meals. This is just one reason why having a well-stocked pantry is so important.

Stocking your pantry…

  • helps you steer clear of prepackaged and processed foods.
  • saves you money by allowing you to stock when food items are on sale.
  • keeps food on hand in case of an emergency (remember all those snow days last winter?)
  • helps maintain a healthy diet full of real foods.

Photo by Shaina

What Should You Keep on Hand?

When deciding which items you should be stocking in your pantry, it’s always a good idea to first look at what you tend to cook most often. Stocking up on dried split peas, for example, will do you no good if you never cook them.

An easy way to do this is to write down your menu for two or three weeks or look back at what you made for that time period. Perhaps you often cook with whole grains, or maybe you eat at least one meal a week if not more that has red pepper flakes added in. Look at which ingredients you’re using most often; these are things you’ll want to be sure to have on hand all the time.

Next, consider your baking habits. Do you bake bread from scratch? Do you make cookies and cakes frequently for dessert? Do you make your own granola? These are also things to consider when building your pantry stash.

Finally, look at any specialty or ethnic ingredients you use on a regular basis. My family loves to cook with Asian ingredients like sesame oil and rice wine; therefore, these are things we keep stocked in our home. We also use capers, artichoke hearts and sundried tomatoes frequently. What specialty ingredients do you like having around?

Photo by Shaina
Here are some general categories and food items that could be staples in your home. Add or subtract items to fit your family’s lifestyle and eating habits.

Pantry Basics: A Place to Start

Flours – unbleached white, wheat, rice, cake, almond
Sugars – brown, cane or beet, powdered, turbinado or demerara
Dry Pastas – a few different shapes and sizes
Grains – couscous, rice, barley, quinoa, oats, flax, cornmeal
Oils – olive oil, canola oil, coconut oil, peanut oil, sesame oil
Vegetables – onions, potatoes, garlic
Canned/Jarred Tomatoes – sauce, diced, stewed, paste
Spreads – peanut, almond & hazelnut butters, jam, jelly
Natural Sweeteners – honey, maple syrup, agave
Vinegars – balsamic, white, red wine, apple cider, rice wine
Specialty Sauces – hot sauce, Tabasco, oyster sauce, mirin, rice wine, soy sauce
Nuts – almonds, walnuts, pecans, pine nuts, coconut
Dried Fruit – raisins, apricots, dates, cherries, cranberries
Dried or Canned Beans– black, navy, pinto, kidney
Canned fish/seafood – tuna, salmon, clams, sardines, anchovies
Specialty Items – artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, olives
Herbs and Spices – oregano, basil, parsley, rosemary, cumin, peppers and many more
Salts – kosher, sea salt, pickling salt, rock salt
Baking Ingredients – baking powder, baking soda, yeast, cream of tartar, chocolate
Extracts – vanilla, almond, lemon, peppermint
Beverages– coffee, tea, cocoa

More Great Pantry Resources:

What are “must-haves” in your kitchen pantry?

About Shaina

Shaina Olmanson is the home cook and photographer behind Food for My Family, where she shares recipes, tips, opinions and her philosophy on food as she wades through the process of feeding her family, her friends and anyone else who will let her. She strives to teach her four children how to eat well: seasonally, locally, organically, deliciously and balanced.

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  1. Christina says

    I’m convinced that a world without gravity would feel like a pantry without pasta, or at least rice! I try to keep some canned beans of some sort in there, too, so that between rice and legumes, my family will always have a full protein no matter how last minute the meal is.

  2. Here’s a whole other (though very relevant) topic to tackle: how to turn fresh foods into pantry foods (ie. canning, freezing, drying).
    .-= Jennifer Jo’s last blog: Together =-.

    • That would make a fantastic post, and I’m sure we’ll be tackling it around harvest time. I know I’m looking forward to using my vegetables and herbs from my garden to do just that. Thanks for the reminder!
      .-= Shaina’s last blog: Banana Berry Smoothies and Magic Bullet To-Go Giveaway Contest =-.

  3. Love this post. My pantry is stocked, maybe too stocked:) It is nice to know I can always make a tasty meal with what I have already!
    .-= Maria’s last blog: 2peas3-0 =-.

  4. My must haves in the pantry are: lentils, WW pastas, canned and dried beans, flours, and sugars. I really like the idea mentioned above about turning fresh food into pantry items.
    .-= Melissa’s last blog: GO TEXAN Grapefruit, Honey and Lavender Cupcakes =-.

  5. Love this comprehensive list. I always straddle the line between over-stocking and buying things I don’t end up using or not buying enough because I’m scared it will go to waste. This especially happens when I find an ingredient that I’ve been looking for forever. Suddenly once I buy it I can’t think of any recipes to use it. 🙂 So I definitely appreciate the idea of taking into account what you actually eat in a month not what you wish you would eat in the month.

  6. I was shocked when I took inventory in my pantry for the first time and found more than 200 items in there including herbs/spices, dry goods (pasta, beans, etc.), condiments in the fridge, frozen chicken breasts, etc. Now that number is higher, more than 250 ingredients. I joke that I could live for weeks on what’s in my pantry, but I believe it’s true.
    .-= Lydia (The Perfect Pantry)’s last blog: Ground beef (Recipe: Chinese "spaghetti and meat sauce") =-.

  7. olive oil, kosher salt, jasmine rice, whole cumin, coriander seed, ground new mexican red chile’, canned beans, tomato products, garlic, carrots, celery, onion, ginger and some seasonable greens

  8. This is such a great list. It really covers all the basics, and it’s nice to be able to look at the list and see things that are both essential and not needed in our own household. I can tell our eating habits have shifted because we used to stock lots of pasta and prepared sauces, now we’re all about the rice, beans, oils, and vinegars. I also always stock canned fruit, like peaches and pears.
    .-= Alissa’s last blog: Oreos =-.

  9. What, no butter?

  10. Great list – looks like I am pretty much in line with this list! Last summer I also wrote-up a list of things that is mostly in my pantry/freezers – we also keep all of our meat always on hand (except bacon, which we buy), it mostly has the novelty function, though, not exactly applicable to everyone:

    Curious facts – I figured that each year we go through about 100 lb of butter and 150 lb of flour, that’s in a whole year though. How does that compare?

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