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20 Pantry Essentials That Make Cooking Easier


Regardless of how often you cook, you may find yourself going through certain ingredients more often than others. Typically, these basic ingredients can be thrown together for a quick weeknight dinner or a snack when you just don’t feel like cooking much. 

A well-stocked pantry can make cooking and enjoying your food much easier and quicker, particularly if you’re in a time crunch. No need to make a quick trip to the grocery store or order it delivered. Having common pantry staples on hand can reduce the stress of weekly meal planning and cooking. 

No matter your budget or how much space you have to store these essentials in your pantry, having a few -- or more -- staples on hand is unique to you. Here we share some tips as you go about stocking your pantry as well as 20 of the top pantry essentials for stress-free cooking. 

Tips for Stocking Your Pantry 

You know those ingredients that you always seem to be scribbling down on your shopping list. Those may be great things to keep a stock of in your pantry. While perishables and ingredients that should be kept in the refrigerator won’t work in this method, you can still be equipped for mealtime with these helpful tips in stocking your pantry. 

Only Get What You Actually Like 

When you’re deciding which pantry items make sense for you to stock up on, keep your and your family’s dietary preferences in mind. While some ingredients may be great stocking up ideas, if you won’t eat them, having it on hand won’t be all that helpful. Customize your essentials list to what you enjoy cooking and making. Opt for almond butter instead of peanut butter if that’s what you prefer or choose the hot sauce that’s right at your heat tolerance level. 

Having these pantry essentials on hand can help make cooking easier, not more frustrating as you ask yourself, “now what could I do with this?” Get to know your mealtime habits and craft a shopping list around that. 

Buy in Bulk or When on Sale

Usually, pantry essentials last much longer than salad in the fridge or an avocado on your counter. Their long shelf lives make it easy and convenient to do your pantry stocking in various stages. Purchase ingredients when they are on sale (bonus if you can use a coupon!) or you have the option to buy them in bulk at a lower price per item. Being strategic about when you stock your pantry can help you keep your grocery budget in check while enjoying the dishes you love.  

Opt for Healthy Options

Stocking up on pantry essentials can also be very helpful when pursuing healthy options in the kitchen. Having a go-to list of ingredients makes it easier to opt for healthy snacks and meals rather than splurging with a spontaneous trip to the grocery store. Choose whole wheat flour over white. Get the tomato sauce with no added sugars. Pick the boxes of whole wheat or bean-based pastas. Stocking your pantry with good-for-you-foods can make your decision to eat healthy easier later on. 

Stay Organized 

Don’t forget about that can of salsa you’ve kept at the way back on a shelf in your pantry. By keeping your pantry clean and organized, you can easily see what you may need to restock on and which ingredients you’re set on. No matter how much storage space you have or on how many shelves your pantry extends, you can be intentional about stocking up on pantry essentials that make cooking easy and convenient.

20 Pantry Essentials for Stress-Free Cooking 

Choosing those essentials that are helpful to have on hand is unique to you. By factoring in your grocery budget, storage space and palette preferences, you can create your own pantry essentials list. To help get you started in being equipped for stress-free cooking, here we share a list of 20 common pantry essentials that have helped home cooks be ready when dinnertime rolls around. Use this list as a starting guide as you craft your own stocking up list. 

1. Kosher Salt

From baked goods to stir-frys to making that guacamole taste just right, salt is a universal ingredient in the kitchen. While there are certainly a variety of types of salt to choose from, make sure you have this on hand when you start cooking. 

2. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Be ready for that marinade or pan of sautéing veggies with a bottle of your favorite extra virgin olive oil. With infused oils, you can also add an extra level of flavor and life to your cooking. With single varietal oils, you can bring about the natural flavor of the oil to create a rich and savory culinary experience. Since it can be so difficult to decide which flavor to choose, it helps to have some different bottles so you can get the right taste you’re looking for. 

3. Balsamic Vinegar 

Like extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar is another versatile and helpful ingredient to have on hand. Whether flavor-infused or traditional, these vinegars have the potential to transform your dish while maintaining some very needed health benefits, especially when combined with EVOO. Other vinegars like apple cider vinegar also are helpful to have in your pantry. 

4. Flour 

It’s not just for baking cookies. You’ll need this staple for breading chicken, thickening sauces and rolling out homemade pizza dough. Typically, all-purpose flour is a common go-to flour, but you may want to opt for whole wheat or almond flour as well. 

5. Baking Powder and Soda 

They aren’t the same, so it’s helpful to have both. Baking soda requires both acid and liquid to be activated while baking powder just needs liquid. Both help to make baked goods rise. 

6. Rice

Also include other rice-related products like quinoa, bulgur and other grains. These versatile grains can serve as a foundation for the rest of your meal components or transform into a quick and easy dinner. 

7. Pasta

With their wide variety in size, color, shape and even what they’re made of, noodles can be a very quick and easy addition to the dinnertable. With most pastas cooking in just 9 minutes, it’s a quick and versatile foundation to numerous dishes. Or, it can also be enjoyed with a spoonful of whatever sauce your heart desires. 

8. Crackers 

For a quick snack or a vehicle for your cheese spread or guacamole, crackers are a must-have. You can find crackers made from different ingredients like whole grain, corn and even seeds to cater to your dietary preferences. 

9. Broth

A carton of broth can be your gateway to your next soup, sauce or flavorful rice. From chicken to vegetable to beef broth, you can choose the type you like best. 

10. Tomato Sauce 

Whether you make it yourself or get it in a jar or can, tomatoes and tomato sauce are a versatile addition to meats, stir-frys and more. 

11. Dried Herbs

While we may not be able to go out on our patio or visit the farmer’s market to pick up fresh herbs daily, dried herbs are the next best thing. Be sure to have versatile and commonly-used flavors like oregano, rosemary, thyme and garlic in your cabinet for easy access. A dash or two can go a long way in transforming your dish. 

12. Worcestershire Sauce 

However you pronounce it, it’s a helpful fermented condiment that packs in a lot of flavor. This Black Sheep Gastronomy Worcestershire Sauce is aged in oak barrels and doesn’t need to be refrigerated. 

13. Toasted Sesame Oil

If you’re whipping up any Thai or Asian-inspired dish, this toasted sesame oil should be in your pantry. Its bold flavor makes it so you only have to use a little drizzle to get a vibrant flavor of roasted sesame. 

14. Preserves and Jams 

Made with whole fruit and natural ingredients, preserves can bring a pop of sweetness from breakfast to dessert. Find preserves made with natural honey from Harwood Gold or turn up the heat with other zesty fruity flavors of preserves and jams

15. Hot Sauce

Even if you’re not one who intentionally seeks out spicy foods, having a bottle of versatile hot sauces and rubs can provide you an easy way to turn up the heat when you want to. 

16. Cornstarch 

From thickening sauces to adding volume to cake mixes, cornstarch is a powder you’ll want to have at the ready whether you’re baking or cooking on the stovetop. 

17. Canned Beans 

Black, pinto, kidney, garbanzo. Whatever type you choose, canned beans can be a quick, easy and low-key protein addition to any meal of the day. You can also get dried beans for easy storage as well, although they’re require cooking prior to enjoying. 

18. Mustard 

Add some life to sandwiches, sauces and vinaigrettes with flavorful mustard. This whole grain mustard is easy to add to marinades, roasted veggies and much more. 

19. Vanilla Extract 

Especially when it comes to baking, you can add a few drops of vanilla extract to elevate the flavor and amp up the sweetness in your dish or baked good. 

20. Honey 

Whether you stir it into your coffee or tea, drizzle it on some toast or stir it into a flavorful vinaigrette, pure honey brings a bright pop of flavor. You can even get flavored honey with additions like Cinnamon, Lemon and Peppercorn. Or, choose the natural sweetness of rich honey with a non-flavored option.   

Be Equipped For Your Recipes 

Having a well-stocked pantry can help you to be equipped for when you start asking “what’s for dinner?” Use this list of pantry essentials as a helpful guide as you make your own collection of your essentials. With easy access to basic ingredients, you can enjoy stress-free cooking at home, without that last-minute run to the grocery store.




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