Oils, Vinegars and Condiments
Oils, vinegars and condiments form the basis of numerous recipes. You will need them whether you are making a marinade, salad dressing, sauce and more. You will also find that a range of oils are necessary. Some oils, such as olive oil, are needed for uncooked dishes while others, such as canola oil, are necessary for cooking in.
At the very least, you should try to keep the following in your pantry:
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Canola or grapeseed oil
- Unsalted butter
- White, red-wine, white-wine and cider vinegars
- Sriracha hot sauce
- Dijon mustard
There are a huge range of spices available today, some of which you will find you use very regularly, such as cumin and coriander, while others you may find that you use about once every year at most. While it is nice to have a large selection, you don’t necessarily need one. In this category we also include food that make up the base of many recipes, the ingredients that you add first with the oil to start the cooking process, such as garlic and onions.
The basic ingredients you should try to keep in your pantry are:
- Salt – Kosher salt, coarse sea salt and fine salt
- Black peppercorns
- Fresh garlic
- Dried herbs – bay leaves, dried thyme leaves, dried oregano, Italian seasoning blend
- Spices – chili powder, ground cinnamon, ground cumin, curry powder, dry mustard, paprika, cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper, turmeric, garlic powder
- Citrus – lemons, limes, oranges. The zest is as useful as the juice.
- Granulated sugar
- Brown sugar
Canned and Bottled Goods
Many people believe that canned goods should be avoided and only fresh ingredients used. However, this is simply not true. For example, canned tomatoes are perfectly healthy and extremely versatile (soups, stews, one-pot pastas, etc.). Using dried beans takes a great deal of time and effort, and while it may be preferable, canned beans are a far more convenient option for most of us.
As such, you should try to keep the following in your pantry:
- Canned tomatoes, tomato paste
- No-salt-added diced tomatoes
- Reduced-sodium chicken broth, beef broth and/or vegetable broth
- Canned beans – cannellini beans, great northern beans, chickpeas, black beans, red kidney beans.
Grains and Legumes
You can add beans, rice, whole grains and lentils to numerous dishes to introduce protein and make them more filling. Furthermore, they are also easy to store, so you can keep them for a long time, and they can be used in recipes suitable for every season, from stews in winter to light side dishes in spring.
Try to keep the following in your pantry at all times:
- Whole-wheat flour and whole-wheat pastry flour
- All-purpose flour
- Assorted whole-wheat pastas
- Brown rice and instant brown rice
- Rolled oats
- Whole-wheat breadcrumbs
- Whole-wheat panko breadcrumbs
Nuts, Seeds and Fruits
Many people view these as snack foods rather than recipe ingredients. However, those who are interested in healthy eating will regularly include them in salads, muffins, breads, and more. Most fresh seeds and nuts should be kept in the fridge or freezer to prevent their oils from turning bad.
If possible, try to keep the following in your pantry:
- Dry-roasted unsalted peanuts
- Natural peanut butter
In the Fridge
The term ‘pantry’ doesn’t only refer to the cupboard space in your kitchen (or pantry room if you are lucky). There are some basic ingredients that you should keep on hand in your fridge at all times as you will need them very often. For example, yoghurt is not only a good snack, but it can also be used as a dipping sauce or turned into a dressing.
Try to keep the following in your fridge:
- Milk or soymilk
- Unsweetened coconut or oat milk
- Low-fat or non-fat plain or Greek yogurt
- Reduced-fat sour cream
- Good-quality Parmesan cheese and/or Romano cheese
- Sharp Cheddar cheese
In the Freezer
Just as you should always have some basics in the fridge, there are some things that should always be on hand in your freezer. Things kept in the freezer will last a long time, so you do not have to worry about them going off. For example, if you have plenty of frozen vegetables, then you know that you will always have healthy side dish options. You can also stock up on cheap summer berries to last you through the winter.
Try to keep the following in your freezer:
- Frozen vegetables – edamame soybeans, peas, spinach, broccoli, bell pepper and onion mix, corn, chopped onions, small whole onions, uncooked hash browns
- Frozen berries
- Italian turkey sausage
- Fish fillets
- Whole-wheat pizza dough
You don’t need to spend a fortune keeping your pantry well stocked, most of the items listed above are relatively cheap. Furthermore, you do not need to buy them all at once. Start with the basics and gradually build up. Before you know it, you’ll have a well-stocked pantry and plenty of ideas about how to use the ingredients.