When you’re hungry and time-crunched, having a properly stocked pantry is a godsend. After all, ensuring the basics are close at hand means you can prepare meals — and quality ones at that — in a pinch. From essential seasonings that spice up meals to shelf-stable standbys, our guide reveals you the goods you simply have to have. Pair them with fresh ingredients from the produce, meat and seafood departments and you’re golden.
Spices, Vinegar and Oil
One thing is for sure: you need salt and pepper — preferably kosher and fresh-cracked, respectively. Otherwise, your flavors will surely fall flat. However, there’s more to a tasty dinner than just those requisites. Having some standard spices and spice blends within arm’s reach can turn even the simplest preparations into something special. As for the basics, the pros at Food Network recommend extra virgin olive oil and vegetable oil as musts, along with red wine, apple cider, balsamic, sherry and unseasoned rice vinegars. Given its pleasantly sweet edge, Spectrum Naturals® Organic Refined Coconut Oil and Spectrum Naturals® Unrefined Organic Virgin Coconut Oil come in handy for baking, stir-fry dishes and slow-simmered, spice-spiked stews.
Meanwhile, essential, dried herbs and spices include bay leaves, cayenne, curry powder, crushed red pepper, rosemary, thyme and oregano as well as whole or ground nutmeg and ground cinnamon, cloves, cumin and ginger. Sweet and smoked paprika, sesame seeds, fennel and dill are pantry go-tos, too.
What good is food without garnishment? That’s where condiments like the ones offered by Westbrae Natural® come in. Be sure you have staples that include ketchup and yellow, stone-ground and Dijon-style mustards. Build from there with mayo, honey and barbecue, soy, fish and Worcestershire sauces. Then, add in a variety of hot sauces — ranging from Thai-style to Cajun and Mexican-inspired — for good measure. Sweet and savory jams and jellies? Paired with cheese and crackers they make a quick and easy appetizer. Nut butters are also great to keep on hand, whip up a pb&j or add them to a sauce, nut butters, such as those from MaraNatha® brand, provide tasty sustenance.
Consider canned foods the workhorses of your pantry. Invest in the right ones, and you’ll reap a satisfying, hearty reward. Organic stocks and broths, such as chicken, vegetable and beef options from Imagine Natural® stocks and broths, are a great place to start. Low-sodium versions allow you to control the sodium content in your recipes. Grab yourself some nutritious canned beans, too. Westbrae Natural® keeps things interesting, offering 11 varieties, including kidney, Great Northern and garbanzo beans. Veggie-wise, canned corn is all-out yum, whether used for a salad or served as a simple side. Briny olives, capers and pickled jalapenos prove helpful, too. Meanwhile, chipotles en adobo can lend tingling heat and a wisp of smoke to chili and roasts. Ree Drummond — a.k.a. The Pioneer Woman — adds canned tomatoes, tomato paste and roasted red peppers to the list, along with items such as canned artichokes and pepperoncini. Tuna, preferably packed in oil, is another absolute.
Soups, Simmer Sauces and Gravy
There’s no shame in dedicating shelf space to soup — especially when it’s all-natural and made from fresh-plucked ingredients. Imagine Natural® Creations’ creamy and chunky soups range from butternut squash to tomato, silky Portobello and Italian-style wedding soups. Looking for something a bit more exotic? Go for spinach-specked Moroccan chickpea and carrot soup. Following suit, simmer sauces like mushroom gravy or curry turn standard veggies and protein into a pitch-perfect weeknight meal. Likewise, gravy can elevate an otherwise basic cut of meat.
Rice and Pasta
Of course, no pantry — make that no meal — is complete without an appropriate starch, whether it’s fragrant jasmine rice or vitamin and mineral-rich DeBoles® Organic Pasta. Whether you prefer its traditional pasta made from a durum semolina-Jerusalem artichoke flour blend, gluten-free rice pasta, organic whole wheat or specialty flavors, such as spinach, it helps to have a few lying around.
Grains & Baking Basics
There’s no shame in having a sweet tooth, as long as you indulge in moderation. So, it makes sense to have a few baking mixes on hand for a quick fix. If you choose gluten-free finds from Arrowhead Mills®, you’ll feel downright virtuous for doing so. From there, build your selection with its range of grains and seeds; hot and cold cereals; and flour, be it organic tapioca, spelt, white rice, brown rice, millet or coconut-based. Then — since snacks are a necessity— stock up on wholesome alternatives like Garden of Eatin’ tortilla chips.
It’s also wise to have an assortment of shelf-stable, non-dairy beverages on hand, such as Rice Dream or Almond Dream. Use them to pour into cereal or drink by the glass. You can also include them in your favorite baked goods in place of milk.
If you keep your pantry stocked with a solid assortment of the items recommended above you’ll be well prepared for everything from an unexpected dinner guest to a craving for a baked sweet.