Pantry Essentials Checklist – What Do You Need?
The one day of the week that most people dread has finally come. No, not Monday.
It’s grocery day, the day we are all forced to trudge up and down the aisles of the local supermarket trying to find something to cook for dinner that night. We’ve got all of these ideas running around in our heads, but nothing at home to cook with.
We need items in our pantry that will allow us to cook from home at any time (because let’s face it, no one likes a last minute trip to the supermarket for something that should already be in our pantry). But how do you know which items you should have in your pantry at all times? Do we need to worry about expiration dates and food going bad? Expiration dates scare most people, but it’s really just a matter of proper planning.
If you buy something that has a long shelf life and forget about it, you will try to use it immediately when the time comes that it’s close to date without knowing that you could have cooked with it when you first bought it and made something delicious!
You don’t even have to have a real pantry to fill up your kitchen with must haves and go to items that will allow you to cook like a chef with things you already have on hand. Filling drawer and cabinet space with the right ingredients will give you the confidence to run to your pantry after a long day at work and cook up something amazing.
A well-organized and well-stocked pantry can give you the makings for an amazing dinner any night of the week. It can also help you to make meals to put in the freezer for later, which means one less trip to the grocery store!
And who doesn’t want that?
There are four categories for staple pantry items: perishables, baking goods, oils, and herbs. As long as you have items in these categories, you have the makings for an awesome meal. Most of these items have a long shelf life or they are something that you will go through quickly enough that you will not have to worry about any expiration dates.
Some others will have short expiration dates, and it will be important to remember them and keep track so that you don’t let them expire before using them. That’s just money down the drain and a missed chance at a good meal.
These are the items with the shortest shelf life and should be stored and used accordingly. Your basics in this group are onions, lemons, eggs, fresh garlic, salted butter and unsalted butter. Unsalted butter is great for baking and cooking, especially when you want to be able to control the salt content in the food.
You definitely want to have the fresh garlic on hand, which gives an entirely different flavor than dried garlic or garlic salt/seasoning. Lemons are great for fish dishes and they also brighten any freshly brewed tea or hot beverage. Eggs are your most versatile perishable item, as they can be used in both cooking and baking, and are great by themselves in a standalone egg dish for breakfast.
It’s always important to have as much baking supplies on hand as possible. Because let’s face it, one-day little Jimmy is going to come home and need 100 cupcakes by the next day and you won’t have a plan. But if the baking goods section of your pantry is well stocked, then you won’t bat an eye at 100 cupcakes. Your basics in this group are brown sugar, all-purpose flour, granulated sugar, powdered sugar (confectioners’ sugar), baking soda, baking powder, honey, and vanilla extract.
Just off this list, you are more than halfway to cupcakes. Your all-purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder, and sugar are the makings of your dry batter for cupcakes. Vanilla extract adds great flavor to any cake, cookies, or cake icing. Powdered sugar, or as it’s also known, confectioners’ sugar, is great as a topping for cookies or cakes. It also makes a great glaze when combined with water.
This category includes oils, sauces, and wines. You have the world at your feet when you add good sauces to your dishes. Your obvious sauces are mustard, ketchup, chicken stock, vegetable oil, and extra virgin olive oil. All of these items are probably already in your pantry. Chicken stock is super versatile in usage.
It’s great for soups, stews, and rice dishes. This category gets a little tricky when it comes to the next ingredients because there are so many brands and styles to choose from. But the most important thing to remember is to choose the one you are most comfortable with and will use the most. You have sesame oil, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, soy sauce, marinara sauce, diced canned tomato, and wine (preferably both red and white).
Even though diced fresh tomatoes have a fresher taste, it’s always best to have the canned diced tomatoes on hand for quick and easy stews and chili. Soy sauce is great for rice dishes, while marinara sauce can be used for almost anything. Just remember to choose based on your own preferences.
Dried herbs can be the most complicated category when first shopping to stock your pantry. There are so many varieties, brands, and styles that it can be overwhelming for someone who is just starting to pick out their pantry essentials. There are many different kinds of herbs, but there are a few that are absolutely essential when it comes to keeping your pantry stocked. You’ve got garlic powder, cumin, basil, rosemary, thyme, smoked paprika, dried oregano, fresh nutmeg, curry, red pepper flakes, cinnamon, kosher salt, sea salt and fresh ground black pepper.
The basil, rosemary, and thyme can also be purchased fresh if it is something that you use a lot of and you know the fresh leaves won’t go bad. Your nutmeg should also be fresh as it has a better flavor than the dried nutmeg that you can buy in a jar. It’s always better to grind your own black pepper instead of using pre-ground pepper because you maintain the freshness of the pepper better by doing a little extra work and grinding it fresh yourself.
All in all, once you have the hang of shopping for your pantry essentials, using them to cook with will be a breeze. Keeping them on hand will also become second nature to you once you see how much and how often you will be using them.