How to Stock Your Pantry

Stocking your pantry from scratch can be a daunting task. Here is a list sorted by food category to get you started. I have also included some refrigerator and freezer essentials as they are also part of a well stocked pantry. Of course this is just a guide, so please tailor this list to your needs. If you are allergic to nuts, skip those! Or if you make a lot of Asian dishes, add more specialized sauces and spices. Just stick to what you will like to eat and cook!

With a little organization like a weekly meal plan, and a good shopping list, this should be enough to make a delicious and nutritious meal at home and also enough inspiration to throw together an impromptu meal without breaking a sweat in case you have unexpected guests

Oils, Vinegars & Condiments

  • Extra-virgin olive oil for cooking and salad dressings
  • Canola or any vegetable oil for cooking and baking
  • Flavorful nut and seed oils for salad dressings and stir-fry seasonings: toasted sesame oil, walnut oil
  • Butter, preferably unsalted. Store in the freezer if you use infrequently.
  • Reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • Vinegars: balsamic, red-wine, white-wine, rice (or rice-wine), apple cider
  • Asian condiments and flavorings: reduced-sodium soy sauce, fish sauce, hoisin sauce, mirin, oyster sauce, chile-garlic sauce, curry paste, sri racha sauce
  • Kalamata olives, green olives
  • Dijon mustard, honey mustard, yellow mustard or any you prefer
  • Capers
  • Ketchup
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Worcestershire sauce


  • Kosher salt, coarse sea salt, fine salt
  • Black peppercorns
  • Onions
  • Fresh garlic – can grate and store in freezer in 1 teaspoon or 1 tablespoon portions
  • Fresh ginger– can grate and store in freezer in 1 teaspoon or 1 tablespoon portions
  • Anchovies or anchovy paste for flavoring pasta sauces and salad dressings
  • Dried herbs: bay leaves, dill, crumbled dried sage, dried thyme leaves, oregano, tarragon, Italian seasoning blend
  • Spices: allspice (whole berries or ground), caraway seeds, chili powder, cinnamon sticks, ground cinnamon, coriander seeds, ground coriander, cumin seeds, ground cumin, curry powder, ground ginger, dry mustard, nutmeg, paprika, cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper, turmeric, garam masala, Arabic spices, zaatar
  • Lemons, limes, oranges. The zest is as valuable as the juice. Organic fruit is recommended when you use a lot of zest.
  • Granulated sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Honey, agave syrup
  • Pure maple syrup
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder, natural and/or Dutch-processed
  • Bittersweet chocolate, semisweet chocolate chips

Canned Goods & Bottled Items

  • Canned tomatoes, tomato paste
  • Reduced-sodium chicken broth, beef broth and/or vegetable broth
  • Clam juice
  • “Lite” coconut milk for Asian curries and soups
  • Canned beans: cannellini beans, great northern beans, chickpeas, black beans, red kidney beans
  • Canned lentils
  • Chunk light tuna and salmon

Grains & Legumes

  • Whole-wheat flour and whole-wheat pastry flour (Store opened packages in the refrigerator or freezer.)
  • All-purpose flour
  • Assorted whole-wheat pastas
  • Brown rice and instant brown rice
  • Pearl barley, quick-cooking barley
  • Rolled oats
  • Whole-wheat couscous
  • Bulgur, quinoa
  • Dried lentils, masoor dal, moong dal
  • Yellow cornmeal
  • Plain dry breadcrumbs

Nuts, Seeds & Fruits

  • Walnuts
  • Pecans
  • Almonds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Dry-roasted unsalted peanuts
  • Pine nuts
  • Sesame seeds
  • Natural peanut butter
  • Tahini
  • Assorted dried fruits, such as apricots, prunes, cherries, cranberries, dates, figs, raisins (Store opened packages of nuts and seeds in the refrigerator or freezer.)

Refrigerator Basics

  • Low-fat milk or soymilk
  • Low-fat or nonfat plain yogurt and/or vanilla yogurt
  • Reduced-fat sour cream
  • Good-quality Parmesan cheese and/or Romano cheese
  • Sharp Cheddar cheese
  • Eggs (large). Keep them on hand for fast omelets and frittatas.
  • Orange juice
  • Dry white wine. If you wish, substitute nonalcoholic wine.
  • Water-packed tofu

Freezer Basics

  • Fruit-juice concentrates (orange, apple, pineapple)
  • Frozen vegetables: edamame soy beans, peas, spinach, broccoli, bell pepper and onion mix, corn, chopped onions, small whole onions, uncooked hash browns
  • Frozen berries
  • Italian turkey sausage and sliced prosciutto to flavor fast pasta sauces
  • Frozen ground beef or turkey, chicken breast, chicken thighs
  • Low-fat vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt for impromptu dessert

This may seem like a lot of items but you will be surprised at how easily it gives you the tools to make delicious meals every day.

Here’s another pantry stocklist with ingredients as well as kitchen essentials such as the basic pots and pans and kitchen tools to buy

The Pantry Diva pantry checklist was based on this list from Eating Well.


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