Friday, October 18, 2013

Pantry staples

People know that I'm always on the look-out for free produce.  This summer I was the lucky recipient of tomatoes, bananas, a pumpkin, plums, corn, a friend's CSA share while her family was on vacation, quince (which have yet to become something), grape leaves, and probably a few other things I can't remember.

With a small household budget, I try to stretch every dollar as far as it'll go and I'm happy to accept these offerings.  They usually send me into a frenzy of preserving activity.

I was posting pictures to Facebook of something I'd made with some unexpected cast-offs when a friend queried: how to you have the things on-hand to make this stuff at a moment's notice?  I shrugged off her question and replied that I simply have a well-stocked pantry.

But her question has been in the back of my mind ever since.  What, exactly, does having a "well-stocked pantry" mean?

To me, it means always having on hand what I consider to be essentials.  When I'm running low - and by "low" I mean probably 10% of something remaining - I add it to my grocery or canning lists.  I never, ever run out of these items.  I could open my pantry right now and make nearly any baked good (unless it has unusual ingredients), a hearty soup, or a pasta dish.

  • Baking: white & whole wheat flours; granulated, confectioner's & brown sugars; leavening agents; spices & seasonings; vanilla; vegetable, olive, & spray oils; chocolate chips & cocoa powder; gelatin; corn syrup; powdered milk
  • Fresh produce: onions, garlic, potatoes, lemons, seasonal fruit & greens
  • Canning: vinegar, pickling salt, whole spices, lots of lids (bought 500 on ebay a few years ago)
  • Freezer: berries, small supply of various meats; butter; variety of vegetables
  • Home-canned items: chicken stock, tomatoes, tomato sauce, green beans, jams, salsa
  • Pantry: whole-wheat pasta, rice, refried beans, tuna fish
  • Herbs & spices: I pretty much walked up to the bulk spice section and said, "yes".
  • Dairy: milk, cheddar, eggs
  • Bread: sandwich bread, tortillas
What are your pantry essentials that I didn't list here?


  1. Maybe you should do a collaboration with 'The Perfect Pantry' She was doing really good until she finished up with the staples and hard to start reaching out into the weird recesses of the spice world.
    But she really does have some good uses for some of those one off pantry buys that you end up using too little of and have way too much left over after you're done.

    You just reminded me of that. lol.

  2. I would add parmesean cheese, black beans, honey and butter :)

  3. Better late than never! Dried beans, barley, brown rice, quinoa, wine, and pectin (for jam).