Pantry Basics for the Home Cook

Blackberry pie made with whole wheat flour

Cooking at home requires a well stocked pantry, along with all of the items in your refrigerator.  The home cook needs to be prepared with basic ingredients.  This list is what you should keep on hand and make sure you have plenty of. These are my basics.  This list isn’t all I keep in my pantry, just the basics.  I’ve also included my sources for these items.

  • brown rice (10 lb bag from Costco)
  • whole wheat flour (I buy 25lb bag from Bob’s Red Mill and store in large freezer container purchased from Cash & Carry)
  • whole wheat pasta (bulk section, Winco Foods or from Costco)
  • beans (pinto, garbanzo, and lentils bulk section, Winco Foods or Cash & Carry)
  • sugar – organic, not refined white (Costco)
  • oil (extra virgin olive and canola from Cash & Carry)
  • vinegar (balsamic, red, white, and rice from Cash & Carry)
  • peanut butter (smooth and crunchy – Adam’s brand from Winco Foods or organic from Costco)
  • salt/pepper (Kosher and regular salt, ground pepper and whole, for fresh grinding)
  • baking soda (Arm & Hammer – from Costco – 10lb bag)
  • baking powder (Rumford’s brand – from Winco)
  • lemons/limes
  • garlic
  • onions

I do the majority of my grocery shopping once a week, on the same morning.  I haven’t always been this efficient and organized with my shopping! My routine includes a trip to Winco, Trader Joe’s, and Fred MeyerWinco is our regional, no frills, bag your own groceries, no credit cards accepted, grocery store. The bulk of my grocery shopping is done at Winco.  About once a month I shop at Cash & Carry and Costco.  I rarely use coupons.  There usually aren’t coupons for simple, whole foods.

You’ll notice I only use brown rice, whole wheat flour, and whole wheat pasta.  This switch didn’t happen over night and I baby-stepped my family along by using whole wheat pastry flour from Bob’s Red Mill for baking cookies and cakes.  White rice, flour, etc. has very little dietary fiber or flavor.

In general, I purchase items in the bulk/bin section, that way I can take advantage of the better prices, regardless of the quantity I buy.  I keep my flour and sugar in our large freezer, in the basement.  Beans get frozen after I cook them.  Oils and vinegars are purchased in 1 gallon containers, which I also keep in my basement.  I have smaller containers for oils and vinegars in my kitchen, that I replenish as needed.

With this list you and your family will be prepared to cook at home, eating healthy meals.  You’ll also find that you can pack healthy lunches and snacks.  With simple meal planning and a regular grocery routine, you’ll find you have a well stocked kitchen, and you’ll be prepared to cook at home more often. This method will help you save money and time – no more last minute trips to the grocery store.  You may even go out to eat less often.  Your time can be spent cooking delicious meals to enjoy with your family and loved ones.

What’s your routine for keeping your pantry stocked?

Go Gingham related links:

National Match-Up Day: A step-by-step on how to clean and organize your food storage containers!
Grocery shopping from the bulk bins and food storage containers
Reusing glass jars and how to get them ready for re-use
Frugal grocery shopping – without coupons!
Fruit flies be gone – with lids from glass jars
Refrigerator basics for the home cook – what’s in my refrigerator
New to cooking at home? Fear not!

8 thoughts on “Pantry Basics for the Home Cook

  1. Check, and check! That’s a great list, and thanks for including your sources.

    One discovery I made recently about lemons and limes is that if they start to get hard/dry, I stick them in the freezer and thaw when needed for juice or zest. And if I only need zest, I squeeze them at the same time and freeze the juice in small containers (or ice cubes). Then I can buy more when they are on sale and have fresh juice/zest year-round. (They also give up more juice after being thawed in boiling water.) And the soft empty rinds go in the garbage disposal for freshness!

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    1. Great ideas, Liana. I do the same (stick in the freezer, that is) with herbs that I’ve purchased. Cilantro can go bad over night it seems so as soon as some leaves start to turn, I pop it into the freezer – the entire thing, stems and all. Added to a soup or chili, you can’t tell the difference.

      Thanks for the comments and suggestions!

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  2. When I bring my fresh cilantro home I cut the stems and put in a glass of water (like you would flowers) and keep on my window sill. As long as you keep the water fresh and cut the stems occassionally it should keep up to 10 days. Or you can freeze it of course, but that would involve remembering it’s in there!

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    1. Good job, Kirsten! “Flowers” for the kitchen by way of herbs is always a good idea. Does that count as frugal decorating? I think so. Thanks for the good idea!

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  3. I keep most of these things on hand – definitely pantry essentials. For now, its just my husband and I (so I don’t quite need 10lb bags) but I’ve definitely discovered the value of the Bulk section. Especially going to Bob’s Red Mill and buying bulk – its magical there.

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    1. Agreed Lindsay! That bulk section at BRM is the best. Try Dave’s Killer Bread, located across the street from BRM. Free samples and excellent prices on bread, too.

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  4. What do you store your rice in? I’m having a problem finding an air tight container that will hold my 10lb bag of rice! I really don’t want to put it in a pet food container. :o)

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    1. Heather, I put it in several containers – glass, if they’re available – and plastic containers. I keep it in my freezer until I need some and it freezes fine. Refrigerators are another option as well. When using glass containers that are from other foods (peanut butter, pickles, etc.) make sure your glass doesn’t touch in the freezer. For some reason this makes the glass crack. I don’t know the reason behind this BUT I do know I don’t wish to clean this up again!! You could also put the bag in the freezer or refrigerator if you have space. Just make sure the top is sealed. Let me know what you come up with…thanks for the comment.

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