Are your shelves looking woefully barren? You want to cook up healthy, tasty meals. But when you don’t have the right ingredients on hand, you can’t do that.
You’ll wander aimlessly around the kitchen for a while before giving up and ordering takeout. That’s no good for your waistline, and it can wreak havoc on your wallet as well.
So, what’s the solution? You need to stock up your pantry with the essentials of healthy home cooking. However, it can be difficult to know where to start when looking to stock an entire pantry. But never fear. We’re here to help. Read on to discover the 15 pantry staples everyone needs to have.
The Basics of Buying Pantry Staples
You need to think about several things when buying your pantry staples. You’ll need different staples to serve every need.
Every meal should begin with a base, so dried grains, beans, and potatoes are essential. The smart cook also has a variety of oils, vinegar, and broths on hand to whip up a flavorful meal in no time flat.
Having different spices, herbs, and condiments are a great way to add variety to each meal. To make it easier on yourself and give you more options, be sure to have canned and bottled goods as well.
Baking supplies are a must-have. You never know when you’ll want a home-cooked pie or savory dumpling. So, get flours, sugars, and other oven-friendly foods.
Nuts, seeds, and fruits should be included as well. They spice up many a meal and can make a great snack. Consider stocking up on additional snack foods, for when you’re tempted to head to the store and pick up a bag of potato chips for munching.
15 Pantry Staples Which Will Transform Your Life
Are you ready to get started? Let’s dive into the 15 pantry staples you need to begin your life as a home cook.
Pasta makes a great base for any meal, and there are many kinds to choose from. The traditional kinds of Italian pasta include spaghetti, orecchiette, orzo, penne, ravioli shells, macaroni, and more. Buy several different types, so you have a few different choices when it comes time to start cooking.
Don’t stop at Italian pasta, either. You could make a hearty soup with ramen noodles, or a delightful Pho with rice noodles. Soba noodles, bean thread noodles, Udon, Vermicelli, and other Asian noodles make for delightful stir-fries.
You’ll also want to have several varieties of rice to choose from. Different rice pairs well with different foods. Besides standard white rice, have some basmati for Indian cooking or arborio for risotto.
Black rice is chocked full of antioxidants, fiber, and vitamin E. Jasmine rice is fragrant and sticky-sweet, while brown rice is nutty, chewy, and full of nutrients. Wild rice is full of flavor and works well with fish or in a pilaf.
You’ll definitely want to have a few types of cereal on hand for when the breakfast cravings begin. A hot cereal like cream of wheat is good, and a whole-grain processed cereal (think Cheerios) will certainly give you a morning kickstart.
Bran cereals deliver a ton of fiber, and granola cereals are notoriously delicious. Oatmeal should also be a staple in every kitchen.
Potatoes have gotten a terrible reputation lately, but they are good for you — the skins have plenty of fiber and vitamin C. They’re an inexpensive way to stock up your pantry, and each variety has a different flavor.
Try purple potatoes for a boost of antioxidants. Don’t stop at garden-variety potatoes, either. Try sweet potatoes, which are full of beta-carotene. You can even get some drier, starchier yams to mix things up a bit. Don’t forget about Yuca root, either.
Beans should be plentiful in any healthy pantry. Make sure to get many different types. Black beans, pinto beans, lima beans, and kidney beans are all great bases for soups. Lentils and split peas work great in curries, and garbanzo beans can be turned into hummus or falafel in a pinch.
You’ll need a few different types of flour to add variety to your pantry. Traditional wheat flours (both white and whole grain) are great for whipping up all kinds of bread, biscuits, and cakes. You’ll need corn flour and corn meal for cornbread and for fry-batters on fish or hushpuppies.
Use semolina to make your own pasta, and choose barley or rye flour to make darker, denser pieces of bread. Have some almond flour on hand to lend flavor to recipes, or get some coconut flour for thickening.
7. Broth & Soups
Have some broth and stock on hand in a bottle, a can, or in a carton. You can use this not only to make soup but flavorful sauces and gravies as well. It’s also a good idea to have some bullion cubes or powder, so they can act as a quick flavoring device.
Having a variety of oils in your pantry is paramount to success as a healthy cook. Choose something like coconut oil for high-heat cooking and frying, because it’s resistant to heat and doesn’t oxidize quickly.
Use extra-virgin olive oil for salad dressings, dips, and cooking which doesn’t require a lot of heat. Sesame oil and peanut oil are full of flavor and can be used to add depth to dishes on medium-heat.
Vinegar adds tang and spiciness to food. Get a basic balsamic vinegar for dressing salads and adding to marinades. Red and white wine vinegar are best used for seasoning meat, while rice vinegar is essential for many Asian dishes.
Apple cider vinegar is good for flavoring or drinking alone. It provides many health benefits, including its ability to lower blood sugar and combat diabetes. Make sure to also have some distilled white vinegar for cooking.
10. Spices & Condiments
Which spices you choose to stock your pantry with depends on which flavors you can’t get enough of. However, be sure to include basic Italian seasoning, onion powder, garlic powder, ginger powder, thyme, dill, turmeric, curry, whole peppercorns, and salt.
If you like food with a bit of spiciness, pick up some chili powder and cayenne. Be sure to have Tabasco or another hot sauce of your choice. Mustard, horseradish, syrup, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and any other sauce you love are good to have as condiment staples.
Every pantry should include nuts like cashews, almonds, peanuts, and pine nuts. You can have as many (or as few) nut varieties as you want, but these four all play a special role.
The cashew is perfect for adding crunch to salads and other dishes with its neutral flavor. Almonds may be toasted and used to top cakes, while the earthy flavor of peanuts makes them perfect for earthy, grounding soups. Pine nuts may be pureed to make any number of sauces. And of course, you can always just munch on them.
There are many types of dried fruit which are healthy, tasty, and good for baking. Use raisins and dates to spice up Middle Eastern dishes or plain white rice. Apricots are great for munching, as are dried apples and peaches.
Eat prunes for a laxative effect, or lychees to get your daily dose of vitamin C. Figs are full of essential minerals like manganese, calcium, and magnesium. Use dried tomatoes in salads, on top of pizzas, and in quiches for a robust, tangy flavor.
13. Canned Goods
It’s always good to have canned foods on hand. Veggies like peas, carrots, corn, mushrooms, and spinach can work well when you’re cooking on a time crunch. You can add some canned beans like black-eyed peas, black beans, or pinto beans as well.
Don’t forget the evaporated milk and condensed milk for desserts and sweet beverages. Meats like tuna, oysters, sardines, and liverwurst come in cans as well. These are great for a protein fix, but make sure to read the ingredients list — while you can get organic, additive-free brands, many have harmful chemicals and preservatives.
Onions and garlic are pantry staples you don’t want to do without. These healthy treats fight heart disease, cancer, and various infections. Sauté them in oil for a fragrant stir-fry starter, or use them for pretty much any dish. You can’t go wrong with onions and garlic.
Bulbs are also said to improve skin, hair, and nails through their various antioxidants. Other bulbs which will do you some good in the pantry include scallions, leeks, and Florence fennel.
15. Baking Essentials
Be sure to get some baking supplies, so you can go to town with the oven whenever the mood strikes you. Baking soda and baking powder are leavening agents you won’t be able to live without if you’re into baking. You should also have yeast if you plan on making bread the natural way.
Brown sugar, white sugar, and powdered sugar are must-haves, as are baking chocolate squares and chips. You should also consider getting some vanilla or almond extract to add flavor to cookies or cakes. For a healthy alternative to sugar, have honey on hand.
These Pantry Staples Will Get You Cooking, ASAP
Now that you’re on your way to stocking up on these pantry staples, you’ll be cooking with gas in no time flat. So, what are you waiting for? Fire up the stove and let your creative juices flow.
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