The most important part of being able to be a flexible home cook is having a loaded pantry. I, personally, tend to take this to an extreme..BUT in my defense I also have an arsenal at my disposable to create all kind of dishes at a moments notice, which is exactly how I prefer to cook. The other bonus to keeping a well stocked pantry is that the huge grocery shops are limited to two or three times a month, the rest of my stops are generally only for perishables like meat & produce and odds and ends. This makes me happy; I kind of hate shopping.
On the Shelves
- Canned Beans – garbanzo, black, cannelli, red kidney, great northern (I also have dried ones, but those are for project cooking)
- Pasta – whatever kind you like, I prefer the stabby varieties
- Rice – I usually have a few different kinds ~ long grain, brown, basmati or jasmine, arborio and cheap white (usually for sick dog diets, honestly)
- Random Other Grains/Starches – you will usually find in my cupboards at any given time an assortment of cous cous, Israeli cous cous, quinoa, orzo
- Canned Vegetables – not stuff like corn or green beans…ew. Artichoke hearts, olives, diced tomato, green chilis, sun dried tomato, roasted peppers, whole peeled tomatoes
- Panko Bread Crumbs
- Plain Bread Crumbs
- Oils – Extra virgin olive oil, a good vegetable oil
- Vinegars – red wine, cider, balsamic
- Boxed Stocks – chicken & vegetable – perfect for on the fly cooking. and NOT broths, always the stocks. The broths are usually reconstituted from bases.
- Basic Baking Stuff – flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, brown sugar, vanilla extract
- Not So Basic Baking Stuff – dark brown sugar, oatmeal (not quick cooking), chocolate chips (totally freezable), peanut butter, raisins, walnuts-pecans-almonds- (also freezable), shortening – I get the sticks, cocoa powder, powdered sugar
- Basic Savory Spices – in no particular order and by no means a complete list, my spice cabinet is ridiculous, these are just the ones I use most frequently: granulated garlic, dried thyme, ancho chili powder, dried mustard powder, herbes de provence, leaf oregano, black pepper corns, ground cumin, ground coriander, kosher salt, spanish paprika, smoked paprika, bay leaves, cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper flakes
- Basic Not So Savory Spices – same disclaimer as the savory spices: cinnamon – I prefer a Vietnamese one, ground ginger, whole nutmeg, allspice, cloves
- Perishable Dry Goods – potatoes, onions, bunches of garlic, shallots – these all store best in a cool dry place, not in your refrigerator & not in plastic.
In the Fridge
- Mustard – some would say I have a mustard problem but I always have dijon, whole grain and a spicy brown…as well as probably 5 other kinds.
- Hot Sauce – another area we have a hoarding issue, but this one is my husbands. Always though you will find Red Hot, Tobassco, Siraccha & a garlicy Mexican one
- Mayonnaise – olive oil mayo is in my fridge
- Ketchup – HEINZ as if there is any other flavor, right?
- Pickles – cornichons, sweet gherkins, pickle relish, dill, bread & butter…all useful
- Greek Yogurt – I keep a tub or 2 of plain around; lasts forever & terribly useful
- Butter – Not gonna lie – generally have upwards of 5# plus on hand at any given time and always 1# out on the counter in case the urge to bake strikes. I always have salted, occasionally unsalted but usually only if I’m working a bake-a-thon.
- Buttermilk – usually I have some, and I miss it when I dont. Wicked long shelf life.
- Milk – 1%. The things we do for our health…
- Cheese – I have rules about cheese. Not many, but they are still rules: 1) never buy shredded cheese. Its crap. Seriously. And shredded on a box grater really isnt all that hard or time consuming. And its So. Expensive! Really. Just dont. 2) Only buy REAL cheese. Velveeta? Not Cheese. If it says “pasteurized, processed, cheese food product” anywhere on the label step away.** 3) Cheese never comes in a can, nor should it be able to sit on a shelf for a ridiculous amount of time and still be ok. Im looking at you parmesan! Again – so easy to grate yourself and so much tastier. I promise. I usually have at the very least a sharp cheddar, provolone, feta, parmesan, asiago & goat in my cheese drawer.
- Bacon – always. Usually a pound of thick sliced for me to use & a pound of regular for breakfasts.
- Lemons, Limes
- An array of olives, sliced jalapenos, capers, whole anchovy filets
- Tubes (yes, tubes. they are perfect) tomato paste & anchovy paste
In the Deep Freeze
- The Ice Cube Maker. Seriously one of the best inventions ever.
- Frozen peas
- Frozen corn kernels
- I have a whole drawer dedicated to chocolate chips, nuts and random baking stuff.
- Ice Cream – I’m not saying its NECESSARY…but I know it’s presence makes me happy.
**I allow ONE exception to this cheese rule. Land O Lakes American. I KNOW its complete crap. That being said I still love it. I am at peace with this hypocrisy.
I dont cook with a lot of processed foods – or frozen as you can see, but this is a pretty honest snapshot of the guts of my kitchen. Sometimes I have more and the cupboards & fridge overflow…other times less, depends on the week, our schedules and where I did my shopping at.
Outside of these basic staples I also keep a pretty solid and steady supply of vegetables on hand, meats not so much. Things like broccoli, cauliflower, fresh green beans, zucchini, squash, whole mushrooms, carrots, celery…these all have a relatively long life if stored properly and bought whole. I also keep bananas, apples & pears around all the time, but I buy them in small quantities and leave them at room temp. This list blows up during farmers market season, but its supposed to!
Keeping the kitchen well stocked means most of my shopping trips involve a run to my local butcher for proteins. I am very lucky and have a great butcher nearby that will sell me pretty much whatever I want in whatever quantity I need – infinitely better than any grocery store meat counter & worth the separate trip for price & quality. Same goes for seafood, for that I stick to fish monger in The Strip when preparing it at home. I have always found it best to buy these kinds of food from people who know about them, not ones who are trained to deal with them. Big difference between the two.