Rule #21: As Scar once said on the Lion King: “Be prepared!”
I love when I can integrate movie quotes into cooking. They just make me happy. I had a request on Instagram to do a post all about my pantry staples (I even threw in our freezer staples, too, as a little bonus). I like to have these ingredients on hand so that I can whip something together at a moment’s notice if needed. I try to plan ahead, but we all knows that life has other plans sometimes! I’ve also linked up some recipes that I make often using these pantry staples.
I like to keep whole, peeled tomatoes on-hand for pastas (like Vodka Pasta), soups, stews, roasts, etc. They’re so very versatile and last forever on the shelf. I also keep tomato sauce, green chiles, olives, and things like that just in case I forget to grab one at the store. I hate being halfway through a recipe and needing something silly like that!
We also keep our favorite marinara on hand. You can’t go wrong with marinara for pastas, pizzas, and even sandwiches. Rao’s is the best ever! Challenge me on that, I dare you. Here are some recipes I use marinara for: Spaghetti Squash Beef Parmesan | Cauliflower Parmesan | Italian Meatballs | Mozzarella Stuffed Chicken Meatballs | Light Eggplant Parmesan
Now, I may be a tomato-loving-freak in your eyes by now, and I get it. But! It’s great to have Rotel and diced tomatoes on hand for a ton of different recipes. Here are some of my favorites: Shrimp Creole | Chicken Piquante | Low Carb Cheesy Beef and Vegetable Bake | Easy Mexican Rice
Now we move on to the bean portion of our evening. I keep canned beans on hand for quick sides or dips. The dried beans I typically use for my favorite dish of all time: Red Beans and Rice. Here are some other beanie recipe faves: Taco Bell Beans | Marinated White Beans | Five Bean Bake | Mediterranean Chickpea Salad | Seven Layer Dip
Now on to the next wonderful category in Pantry Staples! PASTA! We don’t eat a ton of pasta, but boy when we do, it’s a treat. I keep Orzo pasta on hand for simple sides like Easy Orzo Pasta. We love the Banza brand of pasta because it’s made from chickpeas, so it’s lower in carbs and higher in protein than regular pastas. I use pasta in recipes like: Easy Pasta Salad | Vodka Pasta |Not Yo Mama’s Hamburger Helper | Cheesy Tuna Noodle Casserole | Chicken Sausage Pasta
Polenta might not be something you’re familiar with, but you oughtta get nice and familiarized with it! It’s an amazing pantry staple. It makes such a delicious side dish that’s thrown together in just minutes. You can use the whole tube or just part. Refrigerate the leftovers and use within a couple of weeks. Our favorite polenta side dish is Cheesy Polenta.
Pantry Staples: The Produce Section
Now, let’s move on to the Produce Section of our evening. These are staples we usually have in our pantry: tomatoes, lemons, limes, oranges, avocado, and sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes have a super long shelf life if you care for them the right way (lots of air and space).
I don’t know if you know this, so buckle up for some life changing information. Your onions, while great for cooking, are not so great for other produce! Do NOT… I mean it… promise me… do NOT store onions with anything else. Don’t store them with garlic or potatoes or your Halloween candy. Just don’t! They’ll make everything else go bad sooner. Keep them in their own little area in the pantry with lots of air. I try to have at least 3 onions on hand (yellow onions are my fave) at all times.
Next you’ll ask, “Okay, lady. So where do I keep my garlic if not with their oniony friends?” I vote a garlic keeper if you can get one! It allows for a dark, cool space with air circulating. It will keep your garlic ready-to-go for weeks.
Pantry Staples: The Oil and Vinegar Section
Despite what it may look like so far, I really try to have only the essentials on hand. For me, that means having oils and vinegars that I use in the majority of my recipes well stocked. Here are some major players: Apple Cider Vinegar, Olive Oil (no duh), and Sesame Oil. Some folks store their nut oils in the fridge, but I just have mine in a good ole cabinet. They haven’t done me wrong yet that way.
I also like to have white wine vinegar, rice vinegar, red wine vinegar, and Marsala wine on hand. Recipes using these vinegars include: Chicken Marsala | Tangy Herb Coleslaw | Asian Chicken Meatballs | Spicy Asian Noodles with Chicken
And to finish our little oil and vinegar section, a few things that are neither oil nor vinegar. Ha! I like to keep you on your toes. I use Trader Joe’s Balsamic glaze on salads and appetizers like La Duni Salad and Caprese Bites. We use the agave as a sweetener (lower glycemic than others) in dishes and cocktails alike: Green Curry Pork Tenderloin | Lemony Boiled Shrimp with Homemade Honey Mustard Sauce | Adobo Chicken | Margaritas | The Back Porch Swing. The Balsamic Vinegar is another great staple.
I use chicken and beef stock in too many dishes to even list here! I prefer stock to broth because it’s a bit heartier and has a little more flavor. We also keep cream of chicken and cream of mushroom soup on hand as well for easy recipes like Chicken with Cream of Mushroom | Easy Pork Chops in the Crock Pot | Lazy Pot Roast
Pantry Staples: The Condiment Section
Next up: condiments. We keep these on hand to add flavor to our dishes whenever they need ’em. I’ll tell you my dirty little secret that really proves how nerdy I am… ready? So, when I pull a jar or bottle from the shelf, I immediately add that condiment to the grocery list. That way, I always have a spare in the pantry just in case I need it. There’s nothing worse than running out of ketchup or mayo when you’re in the middle of lunch duty!
I love to use beef and chicken bouillon cubes to flavor roasts, soups, and stews.
I am a huge Trader Joe’s fan (not sure if you’ve noticed), and this enchilada sauce is no different. I use it for an easy sauce for enchiladas like these Red Chile Turkey Enchiladas.
We love us some soy sauce, too. We opt for the lower sodium because the regular stuff is just a bit too much! And bonus: they make a ton of gluten-free soy sauces, too.
We use Dijon mustard in a ton of dishes besides just our regular sandwiches and lettuce wraps for lunch. Here are a few of those: Chicken in Mustard Sauce | Crispy Dijon Chicken | Roasted Beets with Dijon Vinaigrette | Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad | Swedish Meatballs
Plain breadcrumbs are a great pantry staple that act as a binder for a ton of different recipes like meatballs and meatloaf. I would vote for plain over flavored breadcrumbs any day because you can season them yourself.
This pork gravy mix and Lipton’s Onion Soup Mix are great to have on hand for Lazy Pot Roast.
Okay, okay, okay. Before you judge me for this picture… please know… I have even more in a cupboard in the kitchen! Ha! I’m a spice FREAK, and I let my flag flyyyyyy high! I love my spice rack in this little (eh hem) drawer. I go through spices pretty frequently, but my faves are: salt, pepper, cumin, garlic powder, dried mustard, dried thyme, dried rosemary, and celery seed.
Pantry Staples: The Freezer Section
Okay, can we still call the freezer part of the pantry family? I mean think about it. The stuff in there lasts a long time, too. Let them be part of this party, I beg you! Part of my Freezer Staples include a ton of frozen veggies both for the kids and for us. When it comes to busy weeknights, I need an easy grab-and-heat situation for our sides. I don’t normally hoard this many frozen veggies, I promise. They were on a good sale, so I stocked up!
Another staple in our freezer is a variety of meat: chicken breast, beef chuck roast, pork tenderloin, ground sirloin, bacon, and pork chops. I like to buy in bulk, wrap each individual item in foil, then seal in a Ziploc.
If you know me, you know I could never write a post about the freezer and not talk about my love affair with Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Gnocchi. We use it as a side with Italian Meatballs, with a simple bolognese (ground sirloin + marinara), or in Parmesan Spring Pasta. I’ve posted a How-To describing how to cook TJ’s Cauliflower Gnocchi on the stove and an Instagram highlight that explains how to cook it in the air fryer (my preferred method).
And to finish this ridiculously long post that most likely left you thinking, “This girl is cray!” I give you my favorite frozen meals: Swedish Meatballs, Red Beans and Rice, Chicken and Sausage Gumbo, and Italian Meatballs. I make big batches of each and freeze the leftovers for an easy dinner later on in the month. Work smarter, not harder, my friends.
Whew! That rounds out my list of Pantry Staples that make our Culinary World go ’round. I hope this list helps you get organized and stay well stocked for all of your yummy meals ahead!