How to stock your pantry with staples for easy, family friendly weeknight meals.
Friends, I try to make as much from scratch as I can BUT let’s be honest. It’s not always realistic. Some days we literally run from place to place, as I’m sure many of you do. And some days I’m just plain old tired.
It happens, right?
So to keep things moving in the real world, I supplement with pre-made foods like chicken nuggets, frozen pizza, or the occasional cream of something soup. I mean, I can’t imagine green bean casserole without “that” soup.
The way I look at it, keeping grab and cook options at the ready keep me from completely melting down in the kitchen.
Some days, you just need a mental health day or you’re gonna throw in the towel. And on those kinds of days, you better believe I stand 100% behind my meal making methods, including “helpers”.
But on the other, good (or better) days, I cook.
And you probably do too, which is why you’re here. Or maybe, you want to cook more but need easy to make meal ideas.
My friends, you’re in the right place. We are in this together!
What Every Pantry Should Have
Canned tomatoes – I like to keep tomatoes of all kinds on hand. We’re talking sauce, paste, crushed, diced, and diced with green chilis (Ro-Tel) and fire roasted tomatoes on hand. I usually opt for plain varieties so I can add seasonings and transform them into whatever themed flavors I’d like.
Tip: Need Tex Mex or Mexican vibes? Add a bit of cumin and lime. Italian? Add some basil, oregano and garlic to infuse flavors into your dish.
4 ounce cans of green chilis – these are great for Tex Mex inspired recipes, and also to add flavor to cornbread, chilis, and scrambled eggs.
Jarred Spaghetti Sauce – I have a basic marinara sauce I like to use, but I also reach for the jarred stuff. I like to seek out brands with minimal sugar added.
It’s amazing to see how much sugar is added to our food when you look for it!
Canned beans are an easy, low cost protein, fiber source and meal stretcher. With four hungry kiddos, I even add black beans to our taco meat to stretch a pound of ground beef because teenagers can put away some serious tacos! Black, kidney, white, chickpeas and pinto are my favorites.
Pastas – At minimum, spaghetti and macaroni noodles, athough I also like to keep orzo, lasagna and bow ties or penne on hand.
Breadcrumbs – I keep plain breadcrumbs to transform into Italian style crumbs with a teaspoon or two of Italian seasoning. Panko is a Japanese type of breadcrumb that yields a more delicate, fluffy crust. Top homemade macaroni and cheese, casseroles, or use either kind of crumb for breading.
Oils & Vinegars – The two I use most are olive oil and vegetable oil.
Also, I keep a variety of vinegars. Red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar (the ones with labeled “with the mother” are best, in my opinion) and plain old white vinegar are always in my pantry.
By the way, white vinegar and water are what I use to clean our hardwood floors!
Rice – White and/or brown rice plus boil in bag, frozen steamable or minute rice. Whichever of these suits you is great!
Salsas – have I ever mentioned how much I love tacos and tex-mex food? Oh right, I’m sure I have! We always have a few varieties on hand ranging from roasted garlic to traditional and green salsa!
Syrup – I usually use real maple syrup though our kiddos probably prefer the other, less expensive kind. Use what you like! I also keep corn syrup on hand though I don’t use it very often except in some desserts.
Jarred Pesto – My daughter would probably say this is her favorite on the list. Pesto is so versatile, it can be an addition to a quick weeknight pasta, or for pizzas and sandwiches, like my Turkey Provolone Pesto Panini.
Baking Pantry Essentials
Baking helpers – cornstarch or arrowroot powder, flour, baking powder and baking soda, Vanilla and almond extract, and of course, chocolate chips
Sweeteners – My pantry has honey, sugars – brown, granulated and powdered at a minimum.
Misc. Pantry Ingredients
Nut Butter – peanut butter and/or almond butter depending on your preferences and tastes.
Dried Fruit – Dried cherries, cranberries, raisins are awesome for adding to oatmeal, homemade granola, salads and ice cream!
Broths or stocks – I like to have chicken, vegetable and beef on hand. I also really like Better than Bouillon for an easy flavor booster in soups that haven’t cooked all day.
Oats – Old fashioned oats are my go-to.
Chips – We pack our lunches so you’ll usually find potato chips plus always, always, tortilla chips in our pantry.
Ghiradelli Brownie Mix – I’m serious, this is a must have on my list. I cannot even TELL you how many times these have bailed me out when our kids need last minute treats for school. I’m not going to say who forgot….
What do you have on your well stocked pantry list?