This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.
Must-have ingredients to always have on hand in your kitchen pantry and refrigerator
Keeping a well-stocked kitchen pantry (and refrigerator) is a great way to save time and money when it comes to cooking meals for your family.
When you keep a collection of basic ingredients on hand – at any given time, and no matter how crazy your schedule gets – you can prepare a quick and delicious meal with only a quick shop for a fresh ingredient or two from the supermarket. Or, in some cases, you can skip the supermarket entirely – and make a meal from the foods you have on hand!
When you keep a well-stocked pantry, you can also buy your favorite kitchen basics when you see them on sale at the supermarket. You’ll be using these ingredients in lots of your family’s favorite recipes, so you don’t have to worry about them going to waste.
Become A Better Cook!
A well-stocked pantry gives you amazing flexibility in the kitchen. It’s such a great feeling to open up the cabinet and know that you already have what you need to make a great recipe.
Have a variety of seasonings, sauces and other ingredients on hand also gives you the opportunity to tweak flavors and really make a recipe your own.
Our Favorite Kitchen Basics
Below is a list of basic, versatile ingredients that we always have on hand in our own kitchen. Many of the items on the list below also have a long shelf-life – so when recipe inspiration strikes, you’ll already have them and can get cooking right away.
Below, we’ve also linked to some “back pocket” recipes that you can make at a moment’s notice with a handful of fresh ingredients and your well-stocked pantry staples.
We keep a basic supply of dried goods on hand in clear, stackable bins for easy organization – and so we can see at a glance what we have on hand, and what we need to buy. Although these items have a long shelf-life, store them away from heat and light to maintain freshness.
- Flour: all-Purpose, almond, gluten-free
- Sugar: granulated (white), brown sugar, confectioners (powdered)
- Breadcrumbs: plain or seasoned
- Pasta: elbows, spaghetti, other favorite shapes
- Rice: white, short-grain brown, basmati
- Baking Basics: baking soda, baking powder, cornstarch
- Chocolate: semi-sweet chocolate chips, unsweetened cocoa powder
- Ritz Crackers
- Oatmeal: whole oats, quick oats
- Dried Beans/Legumes: black, white, lentils
Spices, Herbs & Seasonings
As food bloggers, we’ve amassed quite the variety of dried spices and herbs over time – but below is a list of the spices, herbs, and other seasonings we use all the time in both savory and sweet recipes:
- Salt: coarse kosher salt, table salt, sea salt
- Pepper: We prefer to buy whole peppercorns and grind it ourselves, ground white pepper
- Garlic Powder/Granulated Garlic
- Mustard Powder (we highly recommend Colman’s)
- Bay Leaf
- Whole Nutmeg (freshly ground with a microplane)
- Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
- Vanilla Extract
Oils, Vinegar & Sauces
The oils, vinegar, and sauces on our list can be used in so many different ways. You can whip up a fantastic homemade salad dressing, deglaze a pan, or fry up dinner in no time when you have these items on hand:
- Oil: good-quality extra virgin olive oil, lighter and milder oils such as canola, vegetable or grapeseed oil, plus toasted sesame oil.
- Vinegar: red wine, white wine, balsamic, white, apple cider vinegar, rice
- Dijon Mustard
- Soy Sauce
- Worcestershire Sauce
- Fish Sauce (buy a good quality brand such as Red Boat)
- Hot Sauce (Cholula or Sriracha)
- Chili Paste
- Kitchen Bouquet/Gravy Master browning and seasoning sauce
This collection of canned (or carton) goods is always good to have on hand for quick and delicious soups, sauces and more at a minute’s notice:
- Stocks and Broths: chicken, beef, vegetable
- Chicken Base (we like Better Than Bouillon brand – buy the low-sodium variety so you can season the recipe yourself)
- Diced Tomatoes, kichen-ready Ground Tomatoes
- Tomato Paste
- Coconut Milk
- Pickles (dill, sweet)
- Olives (black, Kalamata)
- Canned Chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
- Optional: Jarred artichokes, roasted red peppers, pesto, and sun-dried tomatoes
We always keep a supply of basic, fresh produce items on hand which are used to add flavor to so many different recipes. Some of these foods on the list are kept in the refrigerator, while others are kept in a cool, dark spot in our basement
- Onions: Vidalia, Spanish, Red
- Peppers: bell, jalapeno
- Tomatoes: grape/cherry, salad
- Potatoes: Russet, red, yellow, sweet
- Flat Leaf Italian Parsley (even better if you can grow this live in a pot on your windowsill)
- White, Cremini/Baby Bella Mushrooms
- Nuts: Walnuts, Almonds
You’ll need to watch the freshness dates on these refrigerated items, but this is what we always have on hand in our fridge:
- Unsalted Butter
- Cheese: Parmesan, Romano, cheddar, mozzarella (it’s even OK to leave your mozzarella in the freezer)
- Vegetable Shortening
- Peanut Butter (we buy natural peanut butter so it’s kept in the refrigerator once opened)
- Meats: chicken (boneless breast and thighs), ground beef, pork tenderloin
- Chopped Spinach
- Fruit: strawberries, peaches, blueberries
Ready to Cook?
Here are some of our favorite quick and easy recipes made with pantry staples: