A while back I promised my friend Alex a pantry post, and it’s been sitting half completed in my drafts folder for weeks. She reminded me about it this weekend, so I finished it up for you.
A large chunk of my pantry is stocked from the bulk section at my grocery store. I always have a few kinds of dried beans and grains, plus nutritional yeast in glass jars.
Right now, I have green lentils, snowcap beans, and Christmas lima beans on hand. For grains I have brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, and wheat berries. All of these are stable for a long time, and when I empty a jar, I’ll refill it with something new from the bulk section. I also always have polenta and nutritional yeast on hand. I use nutritional yeast in tons of dishes, including my favorite mushroom gravy and black bean soup. I like the taste, and it’s a great source of vegetarian protein and B vitamins.
In the metal bucket I keep onions, garlic, and potatoes. They’re also shelf stable for at least a few weeks, and I use onions and garlic most nights in whatever I’m cooking. The potatoes also make for a quick dinner. A sweet potato with black beans and nutritional yeast is easy and requires almost no hands on time, and scrambled eggs and roasted potatoes is one of my favorite quick dinners.
I also always have canned beans, coconut milk, pasta, marinara sauce, canned tomatoes, and macaroni cheese on hand. I like cooking beans from scratch, but on busy nights that just isn’t feasible.
I buy my spices in bulk too, usually in very small amounts. I always have cumin, cayenne pepper, chili powder, rosemary, oregano, thyme, cinnamon and nutmeg on hand.
I always have olive oil and safflower oil on hand, plus balsamic vinegar and apple cider vinegar, and soy sauce and mirin. These let me make most salad dressing or simple sauces easily.
Other things I always have on hand are cheddar cheese and parmesan cheese, and lemons or limes. When I do the weekly grocery shopping, I mostly pick up produce, milk, yogurt, eggs or tofu, plus anything we’ve run low on.
Off the top of my head, here are just a few things I could make with these pantry staples:
- pasta with marinara sauce
- black bean soup
- multiple permutations of rice and beans
- baked sweet potato with black beans
- scrambled eggs and roasted potatoes
- poached eggs in tomato sauce
- polenta with marinara
- quinoa with coconut milk
- pasta e fagioli
- fried rice
- three bean salad
- cannellini beans baked in tomato sauce
- macaroni and cheese
Add some greens to the mix, and you can easily triple the list of possible dinners. Some combination of grains, greens and beans is in my regular dinner rotation.
I’ll also often make a soup by sautéing onion and garlic in olive oil, adding dried beans and stock, and either cooking some grains in the soup, or else wilting in some spinach or chard or kale at the last minute. I’ll season it with whatever spices I have on hand.
I keep everything pretty well stocked because I like to have lots of options. I think we all have a small list of groceries that we always need to have on hand, though. For J, that’s pasta, marinara sauce, parmesan cheese, tortillas, refried beans, extra sharp cheddar, and jalapenos. For me, it’s potatoes, eggs, black beans, macaroni and cheese, broccoli, extra sharp cheddar, and sourdough bread.
What ingredients do you always keep on hand?