No time to run to the store? No problem! Use my FREE Pantry Staples List to stock your pantry so you can whip up quick, easy meals.
Friends, I try to make as much from scratch as I can BUT let’s be honest. It’s not always realistic.
Between planting and harvest, softball season, 4-H, or and my own work, there are only so many hours in the day. And let's be honest, we live in the country. Or at least, I do!
It's not like I can swing by Costco on my way through town to grab a quick meal.
Sometimes, when I'm really, really, tired, I fantasize about that, though.
It's the little things.
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Why have pantry staples on hand
To keep things moving in the real world, I've been known to supplement a meal plan 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. Sanity is important to me.
Some days, you just need a mental health break or you're gonna throw in the towel altogether. 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 friend, you’re in the right place.
To make easy pantry meals, first you need a well stocked pantry!
Pantry Staples Checklist
What Every Pantry Should Have
Let's talk about the pantry ingredients that will get you by in a pinch, as well as those you should have on hand in your pantry to make everyday life a little easier.
I'm breaking them all down for you here and you can print out the pantry staples list to get shopping and maintain.
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.
Dried Beans of these same varieties work, too. Dried beans will last for at least two to three years in airtight containers away from moisture, heat, and sunlight.
Farm girl tip: Keep in mind that the longer dried beans are stored, the longer they will need to be soaked before they are cooked.
Pastas – At minimum, spaghetti and macaroni noodles, although I also like to keep orzo, lasagna and bow ties or penne on hand. Have macaroni noodles? Try making homemade beefaroni!
We also love protein pasta. It's full of protein - obviously - so when our 7 year old lives off of mac and cheese it's a bit more nutritious and I have less mom guilt.
Uncooked, dry pasta also lasts for years as long as it is kept sealed in a cool, dry place.
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! Random fact I felt compelled to share right there, folks!
Rice – White and/or brown rice plus boil in bag, frozen steamable or minute rice. Whichever of these suits you is great!
Dry rice will last indefinitely as long as it stays sealed and dry. Basmati, jasmine, and white rice have the longest shelf lives of all rices.
However, brown rice only lasts up to six months in a regular pantry, so don't go too crazy stocking up on big portions of it!
Salsa – 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!
If you're short on pantry space this salsa mix is great and goes with fresh or canned tomatoes, too.
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
Different flours can actually last for different amounts of time past their expiration date.
Whole wheat and self-rising flour have the shortest shelf life at six months past use date. Rice flour, potato flour, and white flour can be used up to eight months past the use by date.
Corn flour is good for a year after; and corn meal has the longest shelf life after use date at two years.
Just like other dry goods, flour needs to be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.
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.
Unopened peanut butter can stay good for about two years. It can also be used for up to four months after being opened.
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 but I love quick cooking oats for protein bites.
Chips - We pack our lunches so you’ll usually find potato chips plus always, always, tortilla chips in our pantry.
Nuts - Nuts and seeds are not known for having very long shelf lives. They will only last about six months unopened, and a year if frozen.
Spices - Sealed, dried spices can last up to four years in your pantry. Due to the strong smells that spices have, it is very important to keep them in well sealed containers.
Keeping them dry and cool will be important for their longevity as well.
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 staples list?
Here's the printable for my Pantry Staples List!
Other checklist and organizational help in the kitchen:
Ultimate Guide to Easy Sandwiches for Lunch
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