I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’m on the run all week long. Yet (much like the laundry), meals always need to be planned — and cooked.
I embraced the concept of meal planning many years ago, so that I can: a) shop once for much of what I need all week, and b) not have to think about “what’s for dinner?” each night.
Yet there are invariably those evenings when things don’t go according to plan, and I have to cobble together a meal from what I have on-hand.
This is where a well-stocked kitchen is your saving grace.
If you have what I call “the staples” in your pantry, fridge and freezer, you can easily pull off a meal that’s filling, nutritious and satisfying too.
And I’ll tell you this — just knowing that my kitchen is always “at the ready,” goes a long way toward creating a less stressful and harried week for sure.
Let’s start with my “top ten” for the pantry (and some great recipes to get you started!):
Olive oil and vegetable oil
While there are many other oils you could have in your pantry, at the very least have these two. Olive oil is essential for sauteeing, as well as creating marinades and dressings. And vegetable oil is my go-to for deep frying (now make this salad and this fried chicken!).
Red wine vinegar
Again, there are countless varieties of vinegars to choose from. But if I had to have one, I find that a good red wine vinegar is the most versatile (now make this vinaigrette!).
Salt and pepper
Obvious, right? But I like to have a few of each — especially salts. Always on-hand for me are a basic table salt, kosher salt, and two types of sea salt (fine and flaky). Peppercorns in a grinder allow you to use them whole (for pickling) as well as ground (now make this salt and pepper tofu!).
Dried herbs and spices
The sky’s the limit here, but make sure you have an arsenal of dried herbs and spices in your pantry. They are essential for adding heat, flavor and zest to all of your dishes, and you can customize what you keep based on the type of cooking you typically do. Check yearly for freshness, and store away from light and heat (here are some spices you might have never tried!).
Canned tuna and beans
Quality canned goods are a lifesaver for the last minute cook. Often rich in protein and high in flavor, they can help you assemble a satisfying meal in no time. My pantry is NEVER without cans of chickpeas and oil-packed tuna (now make this sandwich and this side!).
I’d love to think that one day I will always have homemade beef, chicken and vegetable broth on-hand. Until that day I have boxes and cans of them in my pantry. For a quick soup, or even to add richness and flavor to basic long grain rice, prepared stocks are truly a pantry staple (now make this soup!).
What I just said about homemade stock? Same with marinara sauce. While I often make my own when I have the time, you can be sure that I’m never without a shelf-full of jarred sauces. I’m partial to those made with all natural ingredients and no added sugar or corn syrup (now make this entree!).
Brown and white rice
If you’ve got rice in your pantry you’ve got a “quick” risotto, a stir-fry or a base for any number of toppings. Keep both brown and white rice in your cupboards for the most options (now make this fried rice!).
Like salt and pepper, dried pasta is a no-brainer in the pantry-staples department. Stock up on a variety of shapes and sizes, and you’ll always have the makings of the ultimate comfort dinner – like this!
Onions and garlic
These “workhorses” have a long shelf life and add instant dimension to the simplest of dishes. I feel better the minute my kitchen is filled with the aromas of sauteed garlic and onions, and wouldn’t dream of having a pantry without them (now make this delicious side!).