Filling up your pantry with the essentials can be a pretty stressful task for those of us who aren’t entirely comfortable in the kitchen. Even if you whip up a few pasta dishes a week, you might still be at a loss about which items you should keep on hand. Having kitchen essentials will help you cut down trips to the supermarket and give you versatility in your cooking.

Start with the basics: oils and liquids

Oils and vinegars are something you’ll be using in nearly all your meals so invest in some good extra-virgin olive oil, some regular oil like canola, and good vinegar. The vinegar can be chosen based on your tastes, but common options are apple cider vinegar, balsamic, or red wine vinegar.

While you’re stocking this area, grab some soy sauce or tamari. This is also an excellent time to grab some good Dijon mustard and a bottle of Sriracha for some spice in your cooking.

Herbs & seasonings

Think about the stuff you’ll be using most often here. There are several spices and herbs that many different recipes use.

Start with some salt and pepper. Pick up some kosher salt, which is milder than table salt. Pepper should be ground fresh to optimize flavors and help out when making dressings and salads.

Crushed red pepper, cumin, Italian seasoning, and cumin are your next big choices. Italian seasoning consists of several herbs like thyme, rosemary, and oregano, so you can use it to substitute for any of those in the recipe. Also, pick up some cinnamon and possibly turmeric for variety.

Grains & legumes

These staples in your pantry give you unlimited possibilities in terms of recipes. Add a protein and a few spices, and you’re on the road to a healthy and yummy dinner or lunch!

Pick up some chickpeas, black beans, rice, quinoa, and couscous. These are all dried and canned varieties so they can last for a while in your pantry. There’s a ton of versatility with these items. You can make cold salads with beans and couscous or mix in chickpeas with some feta and mint for a nice summer salad.

Also, pick up 2 or 3 different kinds of pasta while you’re here. While it’s not the healthiest, it’s an easy option for a night when you’re in a crunch to make something delicious. You can quickly simmer down some tomatoes with garlic over a medium flame and add penne to the pan for a delicious dish. Top it off with cubed fresh mozzarella and mix in some basil and you’ve got yourself a meal that everyone can enjoy.


Some everyday pantry staples that last well are vegetable stock, maple syrup, canned tomatoes, and some flour! You can build on these to incorporate fresh ingredients like milk and eggs (or substitutes) and make a variety of baked goods or pancakes in the morning!

Also, pick up some onions and garlic. These will last a little longer, and they’re called for in a majority of dishes.

Where do you go from here?

Pick out easy recipes to try out and pick up fresh ingredients as you go. You’ll get a feel for the type of dishes you like making and what you’ll need to keep stocked more often.