There was such a great response to the Menu Planning tips a few weeks ago, that I wanted to follow it up with a post on the basics of my pantry staples. Having a well-stocked pantry/refrigerator/freezer can revolutionize how you menu plan and cook.

The Def.
The pantry staples I am referring to are foods I use constantly and usually play into my menu in some shape or form. These foods reside in my closet pantry, refrigerator and freezer. Many times, I don’t even have to put them on my grocery list because I have them already on hand. I keep a running list on my whiteboard of the staples I have run out of during the week. I simply add them to my grocery list next round and woila! my pantry/refrig/freezer is stocked again. (Just for clarity: I don’t buy ALL the foods you see on the list EVERY grocery trip…it’s a revolving list and I replace the foods as I run out of them. Some items last longer than others so while I am always replacing the eggs and milk, the cornmeal and balsamic vinegar last a bit longer.)

Why Bother??
If you are wondering about the merits of pantry staples, let me tell you why I like having these standard foods on hand at all times. Not only is it handy to be able to “shop” from my pantry first before even getting to the store, but the pantry staples are also invaluable for planning a last minute dinner when the original plan didn’t work out or taking dinner to a family on short notice or overturning meatloaf night in favor of chicken wraps instead or (and most importantly), satisfying a craving for chocolate chip cookies that have to be made right.this.very.minute. I mean, not like that whole cookie thing ever happens to me. I’m just saying if it does happen….I want to be prepared.

Another reason I like staying on top of my pantry staples is because I am a big improviser when it comes to recipes so having on-hand supplies makes for a dreamy situation when I am short a jalapeno but happen to have a can of green chiles in the pantry. Each person will probably keep different foods close at hand, based on your menu preference, but no matter how you make up your list, it’s a great way to stay on top of the chaos of the kitchen.

Here’s The Deal.
I’ve put together a table that lists all the pantry staples I use. In the left hand column I’ve listed the food item and the brand preference, if I have one. Note: I am not getting paid by the companies whose brand I support. In reality, I am a shop-around kind of girl – I’ll buy generic or what is on sale most of the time, but I have a few items that have made me brand-loyal. This is because either a) it is a healthier option I can’t find in generic or b) I’ve come to love the product and buy it when I can. I’ve included those details on the chart. If you use a different brand than I do, well, I guess (big sigh) we can still be friends. If no brand preference is listed, I buy whatever is on sale.

In the right hand column, for most of the items, I’ve detailed what recipes I use that make it convenient to have the food as a pantry staple and the quantity I like to keep on hand. Many of the ingredients are self-explanatory.

Oh, and by the way,
my happy hips and thighs thank you in advance for not calling attention to the fact that the category of “Baking Goods” happens to be significantly longer than all of the other sections.

Click HERE to view My Pantry Staples

…and Happy Pantry Stapling!

26 Responses to Kitchen Tip: Pantry Staples

  1. Missy K says:

    I should have commented long before now, because I have tried and loved so many of your recipes, but this pantry post pushed things over the top– so helpful and accessible– thank you!!!!!(Except now I really want a crispy southwest chicken wrap. And it is 9:02 am.)

  2. Rachel says:

    Thank you! This is so helpful. I've never been very good about pantry stocking and I think it drives my husband crazy. Next shopping trip (without my kids) I think I'm going to focus on building up my pantry. Your list will help.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Pantry staples are sooo hard. BTW, until you can completely convert your kids to pure maple syrup, there is now a brand of pancake syrup without fructose corn syrup! Just a thought if you are trying to avoid it.Kara

  4. Barbara says:

    Nice list Melanie! I'm pretty good on the pantry items. I don't always keep the fridge stocked well though. When I need to rush to the market for something that's usually what I need.Now about those wheat thins? Keeping those stocked would be impossible! We all adore them and would eat them all day long if I had them!

  5. slm says:

    i'm a bit ocd when it comes to lists and organization so THANK YOU!. i'm going on my 2nd 2wk menu plan and it's kept me (busy working mom of 3 w/my dh working ft and in school ft) SANE. i love your recipes and appreciate your organization! thanks for sharing. i may not keep up on all of the staples but when it comes to baking staples – i'm well stocked! lol…

  6. Ok, you totally made me laugh out loud at the hips/thigh and brand name comments…thanks for putting that together it'll come in handy!

  7. Anonymous says:

    I check your blog daily, but I have to say I think you owe me a health club membership! I'm gaining too much weight with your yummy recipes. Yesterday I made the cream biscuits and today I made the oatmeal caramel chocolate bars. Both came out great and my family has new respect for my biscuit making abilities! Thanks for sharing all this delicious goodness. Teresa

  8. emiflute says:

    Thank you for posting this. I often wonder what other people keep on hand. This was sooo informative. I have some great ideas of how to update my pantry.

  9. grace says:

    how helpful! you invested quite a bit of time into this–thanks! i liked seeing what kinds of shtuff you keep on hand. and i feel ya with the baking materials–they far outnumber any other type of ingredients in my pantry too. :)

  10. Barbi says:

    What a great list! Thank you for sharing. You spiked my interest with the grinding your own flour entry…. is that pretty easy to do?

  11. A list! yes! Thank you. I'm looking through your list and I use those things all the time, and I'm out of those things all the time! It makes my head hurt… ;) I armed and ready to stock up.

  12. Melanie says:

    Teresa – glad you've liked the recipes…but sorry about the calories. Guess that goes along with the fun of making new recipes, right? I have a love/hate relationship with my treadmill, personally.

  13. Melanie says:

    Barbi – grinding flour is really, really easy to do, with one major caveat – it requires a flour mill/wheat grinder. I have a Nutrimill and absolutely love it but I have friends and family who have less expensive wheat grinders that work just as well. I grind all of our wheat flour and it is MUCH cheaper than buying it as flour at the store. Email me at mykitchencafe at gmail dot com if you have any other questions1

  14. i i eee says:

    OH I made the Oatmeal Chocolate Caramel bars, and well, I'm right there with Teresa. I've been looking for something like this–thank you so much for taking the time to list your pantry staples.

  15. Candace says:

    I'm enjoying these articles! What I would like to know is what you do for breakfast and lunch? Do you always make the same things? I think I would like to make a week menu for breakfast and lunch and just repeat it so I don't have to worry about it. My kids would appreciate it, I'm sure, but I can still mix things up at dinner!

  16. Melanie says:

    Candace – a menu for lunch and breakfast is a good idea. I definitely wing it for lunch – whatever is quick and healthy but breakfast is either pancakes with the Oatmeal Pancake Mix, Eggs and toast, cereal or waffles. I just make what I have the time for or what the kids want.

  17. emdalling says:

    It was funny to go through this list and see how many brands and staples in our home are the same. I stock up on those Hormel lunch meats when they are on sale. Nitrites free is one thing I have conquered! I am trying to go more natural one step at a time. I love your blog. It has some of our favorite recipes. Thank you.

  18. Alexandra says:

    I think I’d like to keep a list of staples. My kitchen is such a disorganized mess all the time :/

  19. Jennifer R. says:

    Thank you for sharing your talent. I have been looking for ways to manage my meal planning. I love this website of yours and have shared it with my friends. I live in the middle of no place, literally. If you count cows maybe 500 of us. For this once city girl shopping has been a challenge. I love the everyday, easy to find items for your meals. THANK YOU from those of us without specialty stores.

  20. Erin says:

    Its been a while since you made this, so you probably know this already, but Heinze now makes a HFCS free ketchup called “simply Heinze.” LOVE your blog, BTW!

  21. Amanda R says:

    I don’t know why it has taken me this long to find this. THANK YOU! I love having something to base my own pantry after, and if there’s anyone I trust about this, it’s you!

  22. Jennifer Preston says:

    I could have sworn you also shared an Excel template. Am I missing it somewhere? Love the pantry staples!

    • Mel says:

      Hi Jennifer – I don’t think I ever had an excel template of my pantry staples (admittedly, I posted that years ago so I may have forgotten but I know I didn’t take anything off that I can remember). Are you thinking of the word template I offer with my menu planning?

  23. Susan says:

    When I clicked on the
    “Click HERE to view My Pantry Staples”

    I got this message:
    “404!
    Sorry, This Page Does not exist.
    Go home or try a search?”

    Darn! I really wanted to see your list.

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