In a weird way, I have been preparing for this pandemic (or any shutdown/uncertainty) for my whole life. I've always been someone who keeps extra pantry staples and cleaning supplies on hand, mainly because I love a good deal, so when things are on sale I just buy double (or triple). About a month ago, my boyfriend gave me a hard time about our pantry being too full....but guess who's laughing now?
I do recognize that there is a certain degree of privilege involved in being able to have a well stocked pantry but I also want to emphasize that I didn't buy all of this food all at once. If something non-perishable is on sale, I'll buy 2 or 3 even though I only need one. Or if there's a value pack of chicken or beef that's on sale I'll take out what we're going to eat immediately and then freeze the rest. If you're on a budget, you can't build up a well stocked pantry overnight, it certainly takes time. But now I'm at a point where I'm just maintaining it so it doesn't really cost me anything extra to have this food on hand. If I use something up, it simply goes on the grocery list for next week. So I'm just incrementally replenishing my pantry every week.
If you're already quarantined this might not be super helpful right now, but I keep my pantry/freezer like this year round in case of snow, hurricanes, laziness, etc. So when the stores started getting wiped out (Harris Teeter literally looked like a bomb went off last week), we didn't need to stock up on much because we already have a lot of food at home. We did buy an extra bag of rice and a few bags of dried black beans, but that's really it.
As you know, I try to make things from scratch as much as possible, so I don't have a ton of already prepared foods on this list. However, we do usually have a can or two of soup, boxed mac n cheese, and a box of brownie mix for total emergencies.
As far as pantry organization goes, one of my favorite recent purchases are my Prokeeper Storage Containers*! I've been spilling flour and sugar and rice all over my pantry for years, so I'm not sure why I didn't invest in these sooner. Total game changer for my pantry! I also got these cute Chalkboard Labels* to put on them!
Below is a snapshot of the types of food I almost always have on hand at any given time. A couple items are Trader Joe's or Costco specific, but everything can be found at most grocery stores!
Pasta and Grains
- One of my go-to lazy meals is just a hash made out of whatever random vegetables we have in the fridge. A typical scramble contains diced sweet potato, kale, maybe some zucchini or black beans, quinoa, and a fried egg.
- Lentils (red and green)
- I use lentils in curries, soups, and mujadara.
- White rice
- We get a 20 lb bag of jasmine rice at Costco because that's how much rice we (aka Kyle) eat on a regular basis.
- Wild rice blend
- Pearled Barley
- Couscous or farro
- Great as a side dish or in a salad!
- A couple boxes of mac n cheese
- Annie's is my fave and TJ's is also good.
- Plain old pasta noodles
- Which I smother with my Homemade Pasta Sauce Three Ways.
- Rice noodles or ramen noodles
- I love making pad Thai or homemade ramen broth.
- Quick oats
- I don't really eat oatmeal but Kyle eats it like everyday so we always have some.
- A box or two of Jiffy cornbread mix
- I like to make homemade cornbread, but jiffy is super quick and easy. You can use a box of Jiffy and dress it up like in my Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread.
- Black beans
- We always have 5-10 cans of black beans because I use them in everything!
- Beans and Rice with Mojo Chicken
- Garbanzo beans
- I also use a ton of garbanzo beans!
- Creamy Chicken Chili
- San Marzano tomatoes
- Canned corn
- Kidney beans or pinto beans
- I always have enough canned beans on hand to make crockpot chili because it's the easiest weeknight meal.
- Coconut milk
I'm a baker so clearly this is a little more extensive that I would expect from most people. If I linked all of my recipes that use baking items....it would be half the website, so I'll spare you.
- All purpose flour
- I get a 25 lb bag of King Arthur Flour from Costco because it's way cheaper and I go through that much flour pretty quickly.
- Whole wheat flour
- Almond flour
- I love replacing part of my all purpose flour with almond flour in baked goods because it keeps them super moist and light!
- Other flours
- This is more variable but I often have bread flour, cake flour, or Italian flour on hand. Why? Different flours have a different percentage of protein which can affect your recipe. Lower protein content leads to light and fluffy baked goods (like cake flour or Italian flour). Whereas a high protein content leads to a chewier texture (which is why you use bread flour for bagels).
- Granulated sugar
- Brown sugar
- Powdered sugar
- Baking soda and baking powder
- Cocoa powder
- Chocolate chips and bars of baking chocolate
- Sprinkles and food coloring
- Walnuts, almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, etc.
- Parchment paper
- If you use a lot of parchment paper in your cooking, I highly recommend getting it from Costco!
My spice cabinet basically looks like I took the entire baking aisle home with me and I use all of it! I don't keep a ton of dried herbs on hand because I prefer fresh herbs (I'm so excited to get my herb garden replanted). However, if I had to pick just a few spices that I use all the time, it would be the following.
- Kosher salt
- Black pepper
- Adobo seasoning
- I put this sh*t in everything.
- Ground cayenne pepper
- Garlic powder
- Ground cinnamon
- TJ's everything but the bagel seasoning
- It's also super easy to make your own!
- Soy sauce
- Vanilla extract
- Almond extract
- Nutritional yeast
- This is a great cheese substitute! I put it on kale chips, in hash, etc.
- Olive oil
- Costco also has great extra virgin olive oil for a great price!
- Coconut oil
- Canola oil
- White balsamic vinegar
- Apple cider vinegar
- Individually wrapped chicken breasts
- I usually buy a pack of 6 or 8 because it's several dollars cheaper per pound. When I get home, I'll take out 2-3 based on what I'm cooking that day/week and then individually wrap and freeze the rest.
- We get a bundle of 4 packs at Costco, leave one out and freeze the rest.
- TJ's garlic naan
- A couple TJ's frozen meals in case of extreme laziness.
- Leftover soup/chili/etc
- If i make a big crockpot meal like chili, I'll put 2-3 servings in a container and freeze it.
- Pre-cooked ground beef and onions/peppers for chili
- A big pack of ground beef is cheaper per pound, so I'll cook up a bunch of beef, onions, jalapenos, and garlic. Use half to make chili, then freeze the other half. Since I always have beans, tomatoes, etc in the pantry, I can make chili whenever! (Have I mentioned that I like chili?)
- Sliced and wrapped bagels
- Kyle's mom taught me this tip and I'm forever grateful! It's always cheaper to buy a dozen bagels, but they go stale super quickly. So while they're still fresh, slice them in half, then individually wrap and freeze them. When you're craving a bagel, remove it from the freezer, let it thaw on the counter for about 10 minutes and then pop it in the toaster!
- Also, if you're in DC, Bullfrog bagels is the best!
- Frozen fruit for smoothies/protein shakes
- Frozen herbs
- I love preserving leftover fresh herbs so that I can have them anytime! Place chopped herbs in an ice cube tray and fill with some type of fat (olive oil, coconut oil, butter). Freeze and then pop out and store in a ziploc bag.
- Beef tenderloin
- We fancy, I know. Costco has gorgeous beef tenderloins for like $80 so we'll get one, Kyle will butcher it (see some behind the scenes in my post about my Zwilling Knives) and then we'll freeze individual cuts so that we can randomly have filet mignon on a Tuesday night. But the same method applies for any large cuts of meat!
Not all perishable items are created equal! There are a lot of foods that actually last quite a long time in the fridge that I like to stock up on.
Also, one of the best purchases I've ever made is a Blue Apple* for my produce drawer! It's a cute little plastic apple that's filled with activated charcoal to absorb ethylene gas. It keeps your produce fresh for up to 2-3 weeks!! Just make sure to refill them every 3 months or it won't work as well.
- Organic milk
- Organic milk is more expensive but it has a much longer shelf life so you won't ever waste milk.
- Cream cheese
- Typically has a pretty long expiration date and will last (unopened) for a couple months. I use cream cheese a lot in baking so I always have a few packages of it in the fridge just in case I need some Red Velvet Cupcakes.
- Bottled lemon and lime juice
- I prefer fresh but it's easier to keep a bottle of lemon juice on hand than actual lemons.
- Ginger paste
- I prefer fresh ginger but this is great to have on hand and will last a while!
- All the butter
- I always keep a couple pounds (yes, pounds) of both salted and unsalted butter in my fridge because I really do bake that much.
- Herbs in water
- You can keep herbs like parsley or cilantro in a jar of water in the fridge. They'll stay fresh for 2+ weeks!
- Onions or shallots
- Sweet potatoes
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