in the kitchen

Refrigerator Basics for the Home Cook

Refrigerator basics for the home cookCooking at home requires a well stocked pantry and that includes what to keep in the refrigerator.  A home cook needs to be prepared.  Below is a list of the basics I keep stocked in my refrigerator.  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 refrigerator, just the basics.  You need to have proper ingredients ready and on hand for cooking at home.  Always read the food labels and know what is in your food. Often times, dairy products have lots of not necessary additives or preservatives that I don’t want to serve my family.  Certain brands are definitely better than others.  I’ve listed brands I like below.

Refrigerator Basics for the Home Cook

butter (not salted) – I keep a couple packages of butter in my freezer, too, just in case I need to bake a cake or a neighbor needs a cube of butter.  Butter freezes well.  With butter, I buy whatever brand is rBST free and is on sale.  Then, I stock up and freeze it.

milk (skim) – We drink skim milk and I cook/bake with it.  If a recipe calls for whole milk or half & half, I just use skim milk.  Recipes taste fine with the skim milk instead of the fully loaded fat dairy products.  You may want to experiment and switch slowly (use some skim milk and some whole or half & half).  You won’t even notice the difference.  The exception to this rule is my Christmas Day Strata recipe.  I use whole milk for that special occasion.

buttermilk (low-fat) – Does buttermilk ever go bad?  I suppose it must but I just used some for a recipe and the sell by date was 3 months ago!  Always do a smell test first just to be sure.  I shake my buttermilk container before using it in a recipe.  It can separate.  Making pancakes, a cake, or fried chicken?  You’ll need buttermilk.

sour cream (low-fat) – With sour cream, we generally make a dip that is delicious with veggies, on chili, on a quesadilla or beans and rice.  In salad dressings or a little spoonful on your serving of lentils, it can really add some needed creaminess.  I don’t like the texture or taste of non-fat.  Daisy brand is my favorite.  I use sour cream in our favorite beet salad recipe.

eggs – Having chickens (we have 3 backyard chickens, our “girls”) means I don’t have to buy eggs very often.  When I do purchase eggs, I buy organic, free range.  Fresh eggs are a real treat if you have access to buying them.

Dijon mustard – Just about every salad dressing we make has Dijon mustard in it.  It adds an excellent flavor and helps bind the vinegar and oil together.  I also like to make sauces with lemon juice, Dijon mustard, and just a bit butter.  Over steamed  broccoli or as a “faux-hollandaise-sauce” over eggs, it’s delicious.  I buy Grey Poupon brand at Costco since we use plenty of this.

yogurt (non-fat) – I buy non-fat plain yogurt.  Again, reading the ingredients, you’ll find that most yogurts and yogurt drinks have lots of sugar.  We have fruit smoothies 3 mornings a week and I use yogurt with the smoothies.  Also, when baking cookies, I always make a double batch but I don’t double the butter.  To add liquid/moisture to the cookies, I add yogurt instead.  With most recipes, you can’t tell and the cookies still taste great.  I like Nancy’s brand, which is organic.  I have a recipe to make yogurt but haven’t done it yet.  Soon.

mayonnaise (low-fat) – I buy Best Foods brand (Hellmann’s brand for those of you on the east coast, same company) low-fat version.  This product does contain a preservative, Calcium Disodium EDTA.  After several attempts to find an alternative mayonnaise we all liked, our family decided we just don’t eat that much of it and we’d stick with this brand.  Best Foods at least took out the high fructose corn syrup, which is another ingredient I don’t like.  We use it on sandwiches, potato salad, pasta salads, and tuna/salmon salad.

One last note, I don’t always buy organic but I try to make sure I purchase only rBST free dairy products.

 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!
Pantry basics for the home cook – what’s in my pantry
New to cooking at home? Fear not!

3 thoughts on “Refrigerator Basics for the Home Cook

  1. Buttermilk can go bad after a while, but you can always freeze it! I typically buy a larger container than I need, and then I freeze the extra. Just pour a cup of butter milk in a sandwich size ziploc bag and toss it in the freezer. Many recipes call for 1 cup of buttermilk, so just take one out when needed. If you have less than 1 cup of buttermilk leftover, you can always add some regular milk, stir, and let sit for about 15 minutes. After then, the buttermilk culture has spread throughout and it’s basically 1 cup of buttermilk. Also, when buying buttermilk, check the ingredients label. The good kind simply have cultured milk and salt as the only ingredients; others list off a variety of items (like diglycerides, carrageenan, etc.)


    1. Excellent suggestion, Stuart! I completely agree with about the ingredients. The same goes for sour cream – well, just about with any dairy product you need to check the list. Thanks for leaving a comment.


  2. I buy the Greek-style yogurt that is tangy and creamy, and I find it a perfectly good substitute for sour cream. Also, I don’t use a lot of buttermilk, so I never buy it, but when it comes up I can always “sour” the milk: from 1 cup of milk remove 1 T of milk, and replace with vinegar. Stir and let sit. The milk will then be buttermilk.


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