Having a well-stocked pantry doesn’t mean owning an actual pantry, which is a realization that most people have around 2nd grade, but only came to me in apartment #5,233. Instead, it means:
- Always having a few basic, inexpensive, long-lasting goods that will provide the foundation of millions of meals to come,
- Saving precious dough by buying necessities on sale,
- No last-minute runs to the supermarket because you’ve run out of sugar (again),
- Never saying, “There’s nothing to eat at home, dagnammit.”
- Impressing the hell out of your parents, who will thank the good lord that they’ve raised such a prepared, forward-thinking child.
- Food Network has a bare-bones compilation.
- Like the magazine itself, the Real Simple pantry is geared toward middle-class couples with kids, but they’re the undisputed high priests of organization, so it’s worth a look.
- AZCentral’s list is a way long, but still fairly realistic.
- AllRecipes doesn’t just have a basic American pantry, but Chinese, Italian, and Japanese ones, as well. Sweet.
- Reluctant Gourmet has a good example of a list that’s crazy thorough, but maybe a bit too expansive/expensive for the average bear. I’m not sure how many folks need to keep clam juice and dried currants in the house. If you do, more power to you.
The following appeared at least three times, which means it’s probably a good idea to have them available:
Beans: White, Black, Kidney
Broths & Stocks
Canned Tomatoes (whole peeled)
Herbs & Spices: Basil, Red Pepper, Chili Powder, Paprika, Oregano, Black Pepper
Lentils and/or Split Peas
If you’re going for an even better-stocked pantry, each of the following appeared in two lists:
Herbs & Spices: Bay Leaves, Cinnamon, Rosemary, Thyme
Sugar: Brown, White
Personally, I would switch sugar, flour, cinnamon, garlic, and OH MY GOD SALT with lentils, dried mushrooms, dried fruits, Worcestershire sauce, and chiles, while banishing mayonnaise to an unmarked galaxy. If you use honey during teatime or hot sauce on everything, go ahead and stick those up in List #1, too. It’s all about personal preference, baby.
When stocking your new, fabulous pantry with all this new, fabulous stuff, there are three things (some would say “tips”) to keep in mind:
- Though most (me) use the word “pantry” to refer to dry goods, lots of people/publications expand it to include key frozen foods and vital refrigerator items, as well. Eggs, milk, unsalted butter, frozen meat, and frozen fruit are always a plus to have around, and make for colossally healthy meals.
- Don’t be afraid of stocking oils, pestos, and other higher-fat items. Used in moderation, they can lend flavor and substance to food without making it a triple bypass bomb.
- When you see any pantry items on sale, it’s always a good idea to stock up, especially if you use something freakishly often. When penne’s priced at two-for-a-dollar, I buy enough to last until I retire.