“What am I going to make for dinner tonight???” It is the battle-cry of every work-weary, house-worn parent and chief household cook at one time or another. Likewise, “There’s nothing to eat in this house!” is an all-too-common sentiment echoed by teenagers around the globe (even if it’s not entirely true, but then few teenagers are apt to make an after-school snack out of kale and a can of tuna). A well-stocked pantry won’t eliminate problems of personal taste, pickiness or unwillingness to cook with imagination. However, a well-stocked, organized pantry filled with some basic staples WILL help you tackle other problems from feeding your family in the event of a zombie apocalypse to coming up with a quick dinner on-the-fly that is not only nutritious but also tasty and appealing to just about everyone.
We’ve compiled a list based on the advice of a number of experts, including chef Jamie Oliver and the many cooks from the Food Network, on what kinds of foods every pantry should be stocked with at all times. Since many dry and canned goods have extremely long shelf lives, once you fill up your pantry with these staples you will only need to replace things occasionally, either as you empty them or if they expire. Although every expert’s list differs slightly, they all contain a list of basics that, when kept on hand, can contribute to a quick meal. Here is our list, by category:
Cooking oil (vegetable, olive, canola, etc)
Vinegar (white or your favourite variety)
Salt & Pepper
Dried herbs – Keep whatever kinds you like, but definitely stock versatile ones like basil, oregano, garlic and onion powder, chili powder, cinnamon, dried parsley and other faves.
Fruit – stock your favourites, plus a diverse selection of other fruits. They’re great for snacks or as ingredients to be added to other dishes.
Vegetables – same idea as fruit. Keep your favourites on hand plus a variety of others.
Meat – Think canned tuna, salmon, chicken and ham.
Soup – It’s great on its own as a meal or side dish or as a base ingredient for casseroles. Tomato, cream of mushroom and cream of chicken are must-haves, along with your favourite varieties.
Condiments- Ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, jelly, horseradish, soy sauce or any other ones that you use a lot of.
Canned Milk – Always good to have in case you run out of regular milk.
Pastas – Macaroni and spaghetti are must-haves, but you can also stock your other favourite types if you like.
Peanut butter, almond butter, or WOW butter – Whatever your family prefers. These are an excellent source of protein and are great for both snacking or as ingredients in other dishes.
Snack foods – Rice cakes, crackers, tortilla chips and other similar foods are versatile foods that can be used in a variety of ways.
Flour – Wheat or a gluten-free flour if your family is gluten-intolerant, such as rice flour.
Your favourite mixes: It never hurts to stock mixes for pancakes, waffles, muffins or cakes, just in case you don’t have the time to bake from scratch.
Got pets? Make sure you stock a few items for them too in your pantry.
This list of basics is enough to help you come up with a last-minute meal or to feed a family in the case of an emergency. However, you are only limited by the amount of pantry space that you have. If you have the room, you can stock more of the items that are specific to your family’s taste and preferences, or you can add to your stock some “fun” foods like cookies, candy and potato chips.
Perhaps your current pantry is looking a little bit inadequate in light of preparing for a pending disaster, even if that disaster is not having anything to cook for dinner. Tailored Living can provide you with your dream pantry makeover, customizing it just for you and your family. We offer free in-home consultations. Make sure you ask about our Spring Specials!