If you really think about what meals we all prepare, the pantry needs these simple items so your meal preparations can be as straightforward as possible. I want to make this really easy for anyone wanting to know how to get started with food storage and learn to cook from scratch. I’ve updated this particular post before because I know how important it is to stock our pantries for short-term meal prep needs, long-term storage, and in case of emergency.
I’ll bet most of the suggested pantry items discussed below are in your pantry already. You may even have some you consider pantry staples that I don’t have in my pantry. When I shop I tend to buy enough canned food for a family of eight even though there are only two of us living here right now. LOL
A Good Pantry Plan is Critical
I decided to update this one because I’m seeing some pretty bare shelves in the grocery stores lately, are you? Please stock up, we must be diligent these days with supply chain issues, changing weather patterns, and labor challenges in many industries.
I was raised by a mother who made sure we always had extra food for anyone who might stop by to visit our family. There’s always food for one more, right? Please remember that you don’t have to buy #10 cans to fill the pantry. Buy what you tend to eat, and then eat what you buy while it’s still good. Don’t be afraid to start small and build up your inventory. I’ve always said, you can make food storage work by getting one can at a time. My new favorite cookbook: A Cabin Full of Food
I read an article the other day that stated the average American family wastes approximately 40% of what they buy. Don’t be one of those families. Plan well when it comes to food shopping, and meal prep, and then execute the plan.
Simple Pantry Needs:
You can buy dried beans in a bag or purchase ready-to-use canned beans. You can make soups, hummus, side dishes, or chili and you have great protein at the same time. I can make a meal with beans and my favorite spices then add some tortillas and salsa.
You may have a preference regarding the beans you store, but consider trying pinto beans, black beans, white beans, and kidney beans.
White rice has a longer shelf life than brown rice so I store very little brown rice. I can use rice to stretch so many frugal meals, and love it! Rice is fairly inexpensive, even in smaller bags. I like to buy white rice in #10 cans, the shelf life is 30 years (unopened) because it is commercially packed compared to the bagged rice from supermarkets.
I prefer not to use mylar bags. I only want to buy storage items once with zero waste. Brown rice lasts about 6 months from the grocery store because it has a higher fat content than white rice. You can store brown rice in the refrigerator for 2-3 months longer if kept in an airtight container.
Some other bean varieties to consider are black rice, wild rice, Basmati rice, Jasmine rice, and Arborio rice.
Some people make their own creamed soup from scratch. I buy Campbell’s cream of chicken by the case. We like almost all “creamed” soups. We made a turkey pot pie this week and used creamed potato soup as one of the ingredients. It was delicious!
I can make just about any casserole, stew, or soup with creamed soups. Please watch for the case lot sales in the fall for soups, canned fruit, canned meat like beef and chicken, and canned veggies. Buy by the case and save tons. Be sure and check the expiration dates and rotate as needed.
White Bread Flour:
Try making muffins, pancakes, waffles, cookies, cakes and so much more with flour of any kind. You often see “all-purpose flour,” but I prefer baking flour for most of my bread-related recipes.
My favorite brand is SAF Yeast for my bread and biscuits. Period. I haven’t had good luck with other yeast brands. I store in the refrigerator the amount of yeast I’ll use for the month. The key is to have fresh ingredients if you want good baking results, and that includes the yeast.
The rest of the packages I store in my freezer. They have lasted five years for me in the freezer, if unopened. If you can’t find the yeast where you live, you can buy it online: Saf Instant Yeast, 1 Pound Pouch
Need I say more? Crackers are great with chili, and soups, and topped with your favorite chicken salad made with mayonnaise. Please practice making hardtack, my recipe link is shown below. It’s a great type of cracker that can be stored for years if made as indicated in the recipe. Add it to your bowls of soup to fill the belly when needed. Hardtack Recipe
Sometimes my husband and I have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. I make homemade whole wheat bread which is a bonus for my budget. Mark likes his bread toasted before he spreads the peanut butter and jelly. We also like to use honey with our peanut butter.
For baking only, it’s nice to have a can of powdered eggs in the pantry if you run out of fresh eggs. I’ve never cared for powdered eggs prepared like you would regular eggs. I don’t enjoy the flavor or texture. That’s why I say, “for baking only.” Of course, fresh eggs are better, but if you have an ice storm you can still make cookies and stay off the icy roads if your egg cartons are empty. My favorite brand is OvaEasy Eggs
This is a bonus for every family. I store my opened #10 can of instant milk in the refrigerator so it’s ready in a flash if I run out of milk. It’s good for two years after opening. Check the date on the milk you buy because every manufacturer is different.
When our kids were little we fixed instant milk for them, and us, to drink. They grew up on it and really didn’t mind a slightly different flavor. Now I use it for baking needs and use the liquid milk for cereal, in drinks, and to make smoothies.
Popcorn is a great tummy filler and comfort food in a bad storm. Add some melted butter to popped corn with a smidge of salt and you have a great treat for everyone! You can add other spices as well and flavor the popcorn to your preference.
Personally, I rarely buy fresh onions, except maybe in the summer if my garden hasn’t produced enough yet. I love knowing I can add a scoop of dehydrated onions to taco meat, soups, chili, casseroles, and omelets and not have to peel, cut, or chop them. A bonus is that they taste as good as fresh ones. Love it!
I do buy lemon juice for the refrigerator, but I also buy these packets I use every day and for emergencies: True Lemon Bulk Pack, 500-count
Can you smell the chocolate cake baking, or relish the taste of hot chocolate right now? Man, I can’t wait to make some hot cocoa from scratch from cocoa powder this fall and winter. Mark just came back from a bike ride and said he’d love a cup. Guess it was pretty cool outside late this afternoon. Here’s my recipe:
Grandma’s Hot Chocolate
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup Dutch cocoa, or any dry cocoa
2/3 cup water
4 cups milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
whipped cream (optional)
peppermint bark (optional), place a small piece in the bottom of each cup then pour warm hot chocolate over the peppermint bark if desired.
Place the sugar and cocoa in a saucepan and blend the mixture. Add the water and stir until blended.
Bring the mixture to a boil and stir constantly for two minutes. Add the milk slowly and heat thoroughly, but don’t boil. Serve with whipped cream, if desired.
Dutch cocoa or any dry unsweetened cocoa
- whipped cream (optional)
- peppermint bark (optional: place a small piece in the bottom of each cup and pour the hot chocolate over the peppermint bark, if desired)
Place the sugar and cocoa in a saucepan and blend the mixture. Add the water and stir until blended. Bring the mixture to a boil and stir constantly for two minutes. Add the milk slowly and heat thoroughly, but do not boil. Serve with whipped cream, if desired.
Instant Milk Alternative
Please note*** If you want to make a dry mix: My Thrive Instant Milk Can states: 1 cup water + 2 tablespoons dry milk = 1 cup milk. It also says (to make it easy) 4 cups water + 2/3 to 1 cup dry milk = 4 cups milk. My recipe calls for 4 cups milk so I would add 1 cup dry milk to the recipe with a note to add 4 cups water when making this recipe with the 1 cup Instant Dry Milk.
You can buy a HUGE jar like my daughter, Heidi, and store it in the refrigerator. Buy some fresh garlic, as I do from North Bay Trading Company. It’s air-dried minced garlic and it is so awesome! I love that I can store garlic powder in my pantry, no refrigeration is necessary.
These are great for snacks, muffins, bread pudding, etc. Raisins tend to add a unique flavor to so many recipes. Mark’s mom put them in just about every cookie recipe she had.
Be sure and keep your pantry full with your favorite spices. I can’t get by without vanilla, chili powder, and cinnamon. You know the ones you need based on the meals and related recipes you use.
Some spices to consider are cumin, thyme, paprika, oregano, onion powder, red pepper, sweet basil, mustard, nutmeg, curry, dill weed, and cayenne pepper.
I can make my own tortillas with the stuff on this list, except my corn tortillas. Keep a few tortillas on your pantry shelves (check the expiration dates) and a few in the freezer. If you feel so inclined, learn to make tortillas. They taste yummy and fresh!
If I have some leftovers from cooking a chicken, I will freeze it, but I prefer to use: Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base 8 ozOf course, you’ll need water. If I see a good buy on canned or boxed chicken broth I’ll pick up a few for the pantry.
Olive oil/Coconut Oil/Shortening:
I just added it to the list because we know we need various oils as key ingredients in a number of recipes. I like extra virgin olive oil. Consider also having some sesame oil on hand.
Dehydrated or Fresh Potatoes:
We can mash, fry, or bake potatoes. I love dehydrated potatoes to add to soups and chowders. No peeling, chopping, or dicing. We can add them right from the can to our soups.
Who loves spaghetti? Oh, and mac and cheese. Everyone needs pasta in their pantry. Pasta comes in many sizes, shapes, and flavors. If you haven’t already, try out spaghetti, Penne Rigate, Fusilli, Orecchiette, and Rigatoni the next time you plan an Italian meal.
If you’re having pasta or rice, don’t forget to also store some sauces like fish sauce, oyster sauce, Hoisin sauce, soy sauce, Mirin or sweet rice wine sauce, palm sugar, and hot pepper sauce.
Tomatoes, Tomato Paste, or Flakes:
You can make soups, spaghetti, chili, stews, etc. Make sure you have some of each variety of tomatoes, it really expands your meal prep options.
It’s all about flavor. I know we are told to “hold the salt,” but every diet needs some salt, just use it sparingly and enjoy the flavor in every bite.
I have to have sugar to make my bread, cookies, cakes and to put on certain cereals. Try to store your sugar in an airtight container, it will help keep it from going as hard.
For those who are trying to cut down on sugar, consider some other sweeteners like honey, bananas, rice malt syrup, maple syrup, nut butter, dates, and other dried fruit varieties.
You can make bread with honey, peanut butter with honey sandwiches, cookies, and all kinds of other baked goods. I only buy honey from Cox’s Honeybecause it’s pure, raw honey. Honey is a natural food and is so good for you. Give it a try in place of sugar next time.
I need it for baking muffins, cookies, etc.
I need it for baking, muffins, biscuits, etc.
Cream of Tartar:
I know this is a spice, but I need to make my biscuits and play dough for the kids.
Jackie reminded me about Cheese Whiz and Velveeta! They are great for making mac and cheese and many soups!
If you can your own meat, that’s awesome! I bought mine at Costco. My preferences are chicken and tuna with water. I stock up big time when they go on sale. We like to make chicken and tuna salad sandwiches. Mark likes to toast his sandwich on the grill. I like the soft bread with mine.
If you can grind wheat and make bread, you are one in a million. We’ve been grinding wheat for years. I love to make homemade bread, and when you use your wheat it is all the more satisfying. You can also make hot cereal with just wheat and water to make a wholesome meal.
Hot Whole Wheat Cereal:
1 cup washed whole wheat berries
3 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
Place all the ingredients in a slow cooker at night for 12 hours and you will have hot cereal in the morning. Drain off excess water and store unused wheat in the refrigerator.
Add a little milk and honey when serving, if desired. You can double or triple the recipe if your slow cooker will hold it. You can add the cooked wheat to many meals like you do rice or quinoa.
Three Ways To Cook It
SLOW COOKER: cook all the ingredients listed above for 8-9 hours on low in a slow cooker.
STOVE TOP: add the rinsed wheat and salt to three cups of boiling water and cook uncovered on the stove for one hour or until tender.
PRESSURE COOKER: add all of the ingredients above into your electric pressure cooker and cook on high for 30 minutes. You will use “natural release,” to let the pressure come down naturally.
Dehydrated Carrots and Celery:
These are always in my pantry. I can throw them in soups and stews. The great thing about dehydrated foods, they last a pretty long time and take up so much less space.
Salsa and Green Chilies:
I can eat these on everything, just saying.
We can always use this, right? It’s great for thickening or making your own creamed soups.
Store as much as your budget allows. We need water to survive and to make most meals out of our pantry stash. You’ll probably store your water outside of the pantry due to space limitations. Just remember, water is a critical necessity for survival, and that includes meal preparation.
Nuts are great for treats, but also to add to desserts and other offerings. Why not store some almonds, pecans, walnuts, peanuts, cashews, and pistachios?
Please tell me your pantry needs that I should add to my list. Thanks so much! Please keep prepping, we must be vigilant. May God bless this world, Linda
Copyright Images: Hot Chocolate AdobeStock_119042680 By Ruslan Mitin, Baking Background Depositphotos_45076773_S by Karaidelka, Wheat Porridge AdobeStock_507346595 by By murziknata, Bread Dough Composition AdobeStock_458628249 by By Pixel-Shot