Basics of a Well-Stocked and Healthy Pantry {& a Giveaway!}

May 14, 2014

Basics of a Pantry 1 | Espresso and Cream
One of the post requests I get most frequently is around the topic of what I keep in my pantry. Having a well-stocked pantry is something I’m still trying to figure out, but I do have a handful of basics you can find in my pantry at any given time that make putting a meal on the table a breeze. I’ve also included my favorite freezer items, since I think of my freezer as part of my extended pantry.

Instead of stocking your pantry with items from the regular grocery store (which can be $$) I prefer to buy my basics from Costco and the bulk bins at Whole Foods. Sure, it takes us a long time to go through the Costco-sized box of oats, but it’s worth storing just for the amazing cost savings of buying in bulk. Stocking your pantry may be a little more expensive on the front end, but you’ll gradually see your grocery bill decrease in the weeks and months following.

Pasta (I usually have a few different shapes/sizes, including whole wheat spaghetti, bow ties, and penne)
Whole Wheat Couscous (super quick to prepare, great for meals when you don’t have time to make rice or quinoa)
Brown Rice (either minute or regular, depending on your cooking style)
Old Fashioned Oats (breakfasts, meatloaf, cookies, etc.)
Oat Bran (you know how much I love oat bran!)
All-Purpose Flour
Whole Wheat Flour or Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
Brown Sugar

Black Beans
Canned Diced Tomatoes
Coconut Milk (great for curries and quick Indian meals using chickpeas)
Marinara Sauce
Chickpeas/Garbanzo Beans
Crushed Tomatoes
Broth (chicken or vegetable broth)
Diced green chiles
Tuna (I buy mine from Costco and always look for a low-mercury, pole-caught variety)

Chopped spinach
Fish filets (I buy them at Costco, usually Salmon or Halibut)
Ground beef
Butter (I buy butter at Costco and keep what I’m not using in the freezer)
Bread (again, I buy it at Costco and store extra in the freezer)

Chia Seeds
Ground Flax Seeds (store in the fridge or freezer for longer shelf life)
Peanut butter and almond butter (Costco has some great options without added sugars or oils)
Nuts of choice (almonds, walnuts and pecans are my faves)
Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Eggs (not really a “pantry” item, but they last a long time in the fridge and are a great source of inexpensive protein)

Danas Decals Labels | Espresso and Cream

Of course, keeping my pantry organized is always a challenge. Since I buy items in the bulk bins at Whole Foods and the items I buy at Costco usually come in large bags and boxes, I am constantly transferring a small portion of what I buy into storage containers that I keep in my pantry. However, it’s not always easy to remember what grain I put in each container and sometimes I’m left guessing and crossing my fingers as the grains cook.

When Dana Decals offered to send me a package of their sticky chalkboard decals to review, I jumped at the chance. Immediately I got to labeling my jars and containers and I have to admit, I love the way they look and the functionality, too. Aren’t they cute?

Dana Decals has generously offered a $25 gift card to one E&C reader. Check out their website for a full line-up of products, including wall decals perfect for decorating. There are three ways to enter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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  • Reply Amy May 14, 2014 at 1:50 pm

    My must have pantry staple is Trader Joe’s Gluten free oats & fusilli pasta!

  • Reply Emily Holle May 14, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    I try to keep dry milk on hand to make homemade “cream of ____ soup” or to thicken up other cream sauces.

  • Reply Caroline May 14, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    Canned beans, quinoa, brown rice, and frozen veggies!

  • Reply Angela May 14, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    great tips!

  • Reply Kristen May 14, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    Oats, nut butters, chia seeds, boxed unsweetened almond or coconut milk, and flax meal. If I come back from traveling or don’t have time to make it to the store, I always know I at least have the makings of a healthy breakfast.

  • Reply Kelly Linn Feller May 14, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    Love this post!!

  • Reply Kelsie Ruter May 14, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    We just moved into a new house and I think this is a great idea for organizing bulk items-who doesn’t love Costco?!?!

  • Reply agodfashionedlife May 14, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    Pasta and rice are my must have pantry staples. Thanks for posting this too, Madison!

  • Reply Kristina May 14, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    Quinoa, good eggs, raw cashews, peanuts/almonds for making homemade nut butters/milks, and vital wheat gluten for making homemade seitan are my must-haves.

  • Reply Urban Wife May 14, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    Rolled and steel-cut oats, quinoa, peanuts, assorted dried fruits, coconut milk, chickpeas, flours, sugars, diced tomatoes, pastas, marinara sauce, yeast, rice…pretty much 95% of the stuff you listed.

  • Reply Cindy May 14, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    I noticed you buy Costco butter in volume. I do too. I’ve heard that for the best baking results, it’s best to buy name brand ingredients like flour, sugar, and butter. Given all your cooking and recipe development experience, do you think it makes a difference?

  • Reply Julie Johnson May 14, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    Those are super cute! We are in the process of lining up a kitchen remodel. I was looking for new canisters, and saw some with a little chalkboard option. These stickies would be so much better-I can put them on any set I like rather than getting the style I saw the other day (which I wasn’t overly crazy about). Thanks for sharing! I’ll be sure to check out that website =)

  • Reply Joanna Lamb May 14, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    Love the decals! I use the same bulk strategy- espeically with grains.

  • Reply Maggie May 14, 2014 at 6:18 pm

    quinoa, canned salmon (wild alaskan) and eggs are my go to staples. They can be combined with so many things! I find myself eating on repeat with them in my meals some weeks…oh well, it keeps me feeling good!

  • Reply Chelsea May 14, 2014 at 9:54 pm

    The decals are adorable! I have many of the same things on hand too. I think the best tip is planning your meals ahead of time you are never tempted during the week to eat our or unhealthfully. 🙂

  • Reply Sonya J May 14, 2014 at 10:22 pm

    Great idea! This would totally help me out. I bought 1 litre sized mason jars and store my essentials in them: hemp seeds, chia seeds, whole almonds, sliced almonds, protein powder, soy milk power, and oats. Reusable chalkboard decals would make my jars so cute!

  • Reply Kristin May 15, 2014 at 12:13 am

    Quinoa, oats, honey, and peanut butter!

  • Reply Anne May 15, 2014 at 1:46 am

    Mine is very similar to yours- oats, quinoa, peanut butter, dried beans, and canned tomatoes are at the top of my list!

  • Reply Beth May 15, 2014 at 2:10 am

    Love these decals. My pantry looks an awful lot like yours, with the addition of raisins, dried cranberries, and canned pumpkin.

  • Reply Rebecca Pittman May 15, 2014 at 2:33 am

    Cute decals! We always have all kinds of dried beans, rice, pasta, canned tomatoes, tortillas & peanut butter!

  • Reply Lexi May 15, 2014 at 2:53 am

    Those decals are so cool, I love the chalkboard design!! I keep the majority of those same items in my pantry in addition to qia and coconut oil. I use coconut oil for so many things and finally started buying the huge container of it at Costco 🙂

  • Reply Cassandra Russom May 15, 2014 at 7:18 am

    Pantry staples for me are a challenge, since I have a plethora of food allergies and gastrointestinal issues. I don’t bother with bulk anymore, since I’m just feeing myself and the grocery store packages ARE bulk for me most of the time! Hah. Anyway, in my pantry you’ll always find: unsweetened applesauce, dry cereal (usually Cheerios and the generic versions of Grape Nuts and Cinnamon Life), rice milk, jasmine rice, various legumes, sweet potatoes, onions, low sodium canned black beans, maybe some rice chips or Terra chips if I’ve splurged, a large container of rolled oats, and dark brown sugar, and (very recently) a loaf of bread. My freezer only has frozen salmon, raspberries, nutritional yeast flakes, Enjoy Life chocolate chips, and some dried cherries and cranberries my grampa just gave me. Yay! Other dry items I always have on hand are honey and a well stocked tea cupboard filled with various herb teas, especially peppermint and chamomile which are essential for calming my rebellious digestive tract.

    That’s my pantry, and most of my diet. There are fruits and veggies in my fridge, of course, and other more perishable items that add variety and nutrients, but I did not realize until now how central my solidly predictable pantry is to my diet. Your other post about repetition in diet resonated with me strongly, as I tend to gravitate towards a few similar meals and eat mainly those things. I find that my body (and my guts!) do best when I keep it simple and, well, rather monotonous. I keep my surprises for the rare occasions when I go out to eat, and even then I limit my fare to mostly within the bounds of what’s “normal” for me to avoid upsetting things too much. I’ve paid the price for that too often.

  • Reply Abby May 15, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    Pasta, tortillas, salad dressing, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, diced chillies, pasta sauce, cereal, granola, hot chocolate mix, and most of what you listed.

  • Reply Kelsey May 15, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    Definitely pasta, quinoa, flour, sugar, brown sugar, and a significant amount of pre-made sauces from Trader Joes (curry, marinara, vodka sauce, etc.)

  • Reply Bridget Black May 15, 2014 at 1:50 pm

    almonds (sliced and whole), popcorn for my whirley pop, dried onion, canned water chestnuts, peanut butter, canned green beans!

    thanks for the awesome giveaway!

  • Reply Brindi May 15, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    Oh geez, I’m actually compiling a list to post on my blog a little later this month that includes various pastas, brown rice, quinoa, ground turkey, eggs, diced tomatoes, broth, pretzels, and oats to name a few!

  • Reply Maddy May 15, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    Rice, pasta, olives, diced tomatoes, soy sauce, and peanut butter!!

  • Reply Heather S May 15, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    Pasta, broth, canned tomatoes, and rice!

  • Reply Michelle May 15, 2014 at 7:04 pm

    Pasta, rice, oats, frozen peas and berries, olive oil, nuts, peanut butter…

  • Reply samantha trobaugh May 15, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    Canned tomatoes

  • Reply Kristen B May 16, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    oats, quinoa, black beans, garbanzos, and vega!

  • Reply andreabrogle May 16, 2014 at 6:32 pm

    These labels are so cute! So many of the same ones…popcorn, dried fruit, peanut butter, frozen berries. I finally made a printable shopping list of all our staples so that on grocery days all I have to do is highlight what we need. So much easier:)

  • Reply Kristel May 17, 2014 at 6:59 pm

    I also love to keep chickpeas in my pantry for salads and hummus. Thanks for sharing your list!

  • Reply Jaclyn Reynolds May 17, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    Pasta, sauce and beans

  • Reply Anita Mitchell May 19, 2014 at 1:06 am

    flour,sugar,pasta,beans,all kinds of beans and rice too.

  • Reply Angela Higdon May 19, 2014 at 1:09 am

    Pasta Sauce, Frozen berries, flour, sugar, and more!

  • Reply margaretporter May 19, 2014 at 1:24 am

    flour, sugar, pasta and sauce, tomato sauce, rice, beans

  • Reply Melissa Douglass May 19, 2014 at 5:39 am

    Definitely pasta and pasta sauce and canned veggies!

  • Reply Laura Britton May 20, 2014 at 7:10 pm

    This was super helpful for me! I buy a lot at Costco, but you suggested some really great things to buy there and also be able to freeze it that I hadn’t thought of before (butter! who knew?). Thanks for sharing your pantry tips!

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