Having a functional and effective pantry can save you during those times when there’s not much in the fridge and, if the World ever ends or something, you’ll be more than prepared to take on that Zombie apocalypse.
While this list is simply a suggestion, these are some of the most commonly used items that I find myself utilizing over and over again.
1. Mixed Nuts: Buy nuts in bulk and store them in glass mason jars. Make sure to buy in smaller amounts to avoid food waste. I usually get 1/8-1/4lb and my favorite nuts to keep around are almonds, peanuts and pecans. Feel free to try others like cashews, pistachios or walnuts.
Nuts can be thrown on top of salads to add a nice crunch, serve as a great after work-out snack or be ground with fresh herbs, garlic and olive oil to make a tasty pesto. Give our Kale pesto a try!
2. Canned Beans: Beans beans the magical fruit the more you eat the more you toot because of the critters lurking in your intestine. Read more about it at Mental Floss. They’re high in protein and fiber which helps keep you full for longer periods of time. They also have at least a year shelf life so don’t be afraid to stock up if you ever see a sale! I always pick 2-3 types like black beans, garbanzo beans, white beans, or chili beans, buy at your preference.
Canned beans are great because they come cooked. I like to throw them in a pot of boiling water and drain before using them. Store them in a glass tupperware container and store it in the fridge for up to a week. Use it as a topping on salads or wraps like our Kale and Bean Wrap. It’s also great in soups or blended for a dip.
3. Canned Fish: Fish is high in Omega-3 oil that is a form of fat that our body can easily process and break down and aids in heart and blood vessel health. Canned fish is handy because it’s already cooked and serves as a quick and easy way to add healthy protein to a meal. Check out our Mediterranean Tuna Salad for a quick lunch or dinner!
I try to be conscious about what brands I’m buying when it comes to canned fish. Some companies might practice unsustainable fishing techniques or it may be farm-raised fish in unsanitary conditions. I tend to look for cans labled “BPA free” and try to find line to pole tuna, which is better for our environment. Rain Coast Trading and Safeway are just some of the great brands of canned fish I enjoy– you can find more at the Greenpeace website.
4. Dried Pasta: Pasta is so versatile and because it’s dried it can have a long shelf life in your pantry. Pasta can be used in soups, salads, casseroles or tossed in sauces and pestos. Cook a couple servings of pasta and serve with our Simple Tomato Sauce or toss with some fresh ingredients for a Tomato Avocado Salad.
Pastas come in all different shapes and sizes. Choosing 2 different shapes can prepare you for more options: thinner shapes like spaghetti or fettucine are great for soaking up delicate sauces while bigger shapes like penne or shells are for heartier dishes like soups or heartier toppings. I usually like to keep 2 bags of pasta handy, a lot of times you may find pasta specials at your local store for buy 1 get 1 free.
There’s also gluten free pastas for those with gluten allergies. Ancient Harvest is one that I use often.
5. Dried Ancient Grain: Some ancient grains are great alternatives for those who have gluten allergies and many have great nutritional content and cook relatively fast. Quinoa, millet, couscous and amaranth are some of the most common grains I store in our pantry. You can even buy puffed grain varieties like puffed millet which I like to add to my yogurt in the morning.
You can easily find ancient grains in the bulk section of your grocery store so you can buy only what you need. I usually like to eyeball a couple cups worth and store my grains in a glass mason jar in a cool dry place.
6. Flavored oils: Flavored oils can add a great finishing touch to a dish. Swap out butter for olive oil in dishes for a healthier alternative without sacrificing flavor. My two favorite oils are Olive Oil and Sesame Oil.
There are two different types of olive oil: light olive oil which is best for cooking and extra virgin olive oil which is better for salad dressings or drizzling over pastas and breads. Because EVOO has a low smoke point so burns easily, you want to avoid cooking with it as burned oils contain carcinogens. I buy really fun flavored olive oils through local vendors in my city, it’s a great way to support local businesses while finding some really interesting products. If you’re in Dallas, check out Texas Olive Ranch my favorite one is their Smoked Mesquite Olive Oil!
7. Kosher Salt and Black Pepper : This should honestly be the first pantry item on the list. In almost every dish I will use kosher salt and black pepper, it truly is a cooking necessity. Don’t be afraid to buy in larger amounts since this will be one of the most commonly used items in your pantry.
Investing in a pepper grinder is a good choice as freshly ground pepper really adds a great finishing flavor to any dish. Kosher salt is better for cooking because it’s easier to measure and can add texture to certain dishes like our Pan-seared steak!
8. Sugar : White sugar or brown sugar are great to keep around. They’re useful for baking, flavoring sauces, or making simple syrup for drinks. There’s also alternatives like raw sugar, sugar substitutes, or rock sugar which is more for Asian cooking.
9. Honey : Buy local when it comes to honey. It’s usually a guarantee that it comes from a reliable source and can be a great cure for people who struggle with allergies. Because of honey’s antiseptic qualities, it carries a long shelf life and can be kept at room temperature. Drizzle it over pancakes, add a little sweetness to your tea, or blend it in a smoothie. – check out our Strawbery Lassi recipe for a great example. It’s a healthy way to add sweetness naturally.
Texas Honeybee Guild in Dallas is awesome – their Blackland Prarie honey is a must try and they also sell other interesting products like whipped honey and bee pollen.
10. Vinegar : There are different types of vinegar but the two most common types I use is Apple Cider Vinegar and Rice Vinegar. Apple Cider Vinegar has a more potent “vinegar” flavor, which is great for pickling and jams while Rice Vinegar is more syrupy, and sweet which is great for sushi rice and dressings.