There’s nothing more comforting than seeing a fully-stocked pantry during times of uncertainty. Now that the World Health Organization has officially declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, it’s worth making sure your kitchen has the essentials that will best sustain you and your family for the coming weeks.
Pantry goods are not only practical, but also help create equally wonderfully delicious meals, even if they are not necessarily farm-to-table groceries. They have a longer shelf life and require very little maintenance besides making sure their lids are sealed shut after use.
If you’re unsure of which ingredients to buy for your pantry collection, here is a thorough list of suggestions:
Pasta, Rice and other grains
You can never go wrong with these versatile items. Pasta last long, are easy to cook, and go well with a simple red vodka sauce or pesto. With rice, you can cook them in chicken broth or plain water. Add one or two piece of star anise for that extra aromatic smell. Risotto and couscous are great, too.
Preserved Vegetables (Pickled Veggies, Olives)
Pickled vegetables, be it cucumbers, beets, or carrots, make a delicious and healthy afternoon snack. Canned vegetables can help add texture for salads and soups. I love a good can of cream-style sweet corn, which is perfectly good to eat on its own after opening. And maybe I’m just a girl with Mediterranean tastebuds, but olives have the subtle, nutty flavor that is less pungent than pickled veggies, but still works as wonderful nibble food. These can be stored in your pantry or tucked in the back of your fridge. Sun-dried tomatoes preserved in olive oil is another personally suggested item.
Saltine and rice crackers work as a great alternative if bread becomes hard to find at the grocery store. These pair well with any soft spreads you have available, be it a cream cheese spread, hummus, or jams. Take it to the next level with some sun-dried tomatoes or pieces of fish.
I can’t stress this one enough. I wouldn’t consider this exactly a “pantry” item since this needs to be refrigerated at all times, but eggs can be cooked in so many different ways – be it an omelette, deviled eggs, hard/soft-boiled eggs, a frittata, soufflé, just to name a few. Unless you’re vegan, eggs have a place in any person’s diet and personal culinary preferences.
Tuna sandwiches, anyone? Anchovies are also great toppings or umami flavorers.
What soup base hasn’t required onions or shallots? Or garlic? I can’t think of one. Onions, shallots, and garlic have a relatively long shelf life that can help sustain all of your soup and sauce cravings. Best of all, they’re one of the most affordable everyday ingredients on the market. Even during these times, you can expect the price for these to remain low.
Oil, Butter, and Vinegar
You almost simply cannot cook without essential oils. A good bottle of olive oil and a couple sticks of butter (unsalted or salted, your choice) can go a long way. Use them for sauteeing vegetables or as building blocks for your next baking endeavor. They will forever and always be a must. I use balsamic and apple cider vinegar less regularly, but they make a great counterpart to oil when it comes to salad dressings.
I love keeping a few lemons in the refrigerator even though this is also another “unconventional” pantry item. A squeeze of lemon juice can really “lift” the flavor of a baked fish fillet and add just the right amount of balance to your salad dressing. Lemons are also a great source of Vitamin C to help boost your immune system performance should you be confined in your home for a while. Limes work as an alternative as well.
Nuts and Beans
Walnuts and almonds make great afternoon snacks and work as a nice “crunch” in your salad. As for beans, they add a wonderful body to your soup and also work as side dishes.
Ketchup, mustard, soy sauce, peanut/almond butter, mayonnaise, and any kind of hot sauce. For the sweet stuff: a good maple syrup and jar of honey should also join the condiment family.
Paprika, oregano, cinnamon, red pepper flakes are a sample staple of essential spices.
For the kids: pancake mixes and mac n’ cheese packages probably are a must. This category might also include cereal and oatmeal.
Chicken, Vegetable, or Beef Broth
Broths are the essential for making soups and sauces. Without them, you won’t taste the rich flavors and depth. These can be kept for a while in the fridge for whenever you need them to make your next meal.
Now, other pantry rule of thumbs:
Whether these consist of flour, baking powder, sugar, etc., be sure to keep these items tightly sealed. Flour bugs can appear. Although they are harmless, if you’re a germaphobe, it’d be helpful to prevent them from contaminating your baking goods by making sure your ziplock bags and containers are hole and air-proof.
Meat and Fish
Freeze these sources of protein until you need to thaw them for cooking.
Did we miss any other pantry essentials on this list? Let us know in the comment section below!
Vivian is New York City-based content writer focusing on lifestyle, travel, and culture. She thrives on a diet of Spotify, traveling, and homemade pasta.