You cannot cook if you do not have ingredients. It is essential to first equip yourself with the basic ingredients and begin getting comfortable with them learning how to use them best to create easy healthy meals. If you have to run to the store every time you are hungry or need to make a meal you won’t make it and will simply relay on what is easiest and available quickly.
Here is how to put together a well-rounded pantry. Know that every pantry is going to be different! There is no one-fits-all pantry list. However, in order to pull together amazing dishes you must have a few items from each of the main Pantry Essentials categories that fit your taste and diet needs. Below I will explain each group. Know that your needs and tastes may be different and that is ok just be sure you have a few options for each of the categories to get you started on a well rounded pantry.
There are 7 main categories that make up a well-rounded pantry:
- 3 shelf stable categories that include Gains/Legumes, Canned/Jarred, and Baking.
- 3 perishable categories: Dairy, Produce, and Protein as well as the final
- Ready to eat/Freezer items.
If you have a few things from each of theses categories I promise dinner can be on the table quickly.
7 Panty Essentials Categories
Grains/Legumes: These are great bases for meals providing fiber and protein. The key is to have a few quick cooking varieties like canned beans and couscous on hand at all times for quick additions to meals. Use the longer cooking varieties like wild rice by making them in large batches so you can use them a few different ways throughout the week with only cooking once like a warm wild rice side dish, soup and cold salad.
Canned /Jarred: This is the category with the widest variety and the most shelf-stable products. When you find a few of your favorites stock up on them when they are on sale for money saving benefits as well. When I think about canned items, I think where I can add them, for example to grains to add color, flavor, and texture that would help make a substantial meal. Canned vegetables and fruits, sauces, salsa, coconut milk, preserves, broth, breadcrumbs.
Baking: These items are not only to make basic cakes, cookies, and breads but they are also essential to general cooking for applications like adding sweetness or to thicken items. Flour, sugar, brown sugar, oils, salt, baking powder, baking soda and vanilla extract, chocolate, chocolate chips.
Fresh Pantry: These are all your perishable items so be aware of what you are eating so you don’t stock up too much and have it spoiling and going to waste. I have listed a few of my favorites that are longer lasting items that I always have on hand. To this list, I would add other items like fresh berries, mushrooms, eggplant, cottage cheese, sour cream, fresh meats and fish and rotate through for variety.
Dairy: Milk, eggs, butter, 1-2 hard cheese, cream cheese, yogurt.
Produce: Apples, lemons/citrus, carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic.
Protein: Sausage or cured meats, tofu are more shelf stable. Keep fresh and frozen meats in easy to prepare packaging.
Ready to eat items: Lastly these are your easy additions: items to eat out of hand like dried fruits and nuts as well as pre-made frozen dinner that can easily be put in the oven. Dry cereal, Variety of crackers, Nuts, Dried fruits and vegetables, Tortilla shells, Frozen fruits and vegetables.
Having a few soups, meats and make ahead meals in the freezer also helps pull together a great meal quickly.