My Favorite Pantry Staples
As much as I love making my meals from scratch, sometimes I just need a quick nighttime meal that I can throw together in about 20-30 minutes. For that reason, I’ve compiled a list of items that I keep stocked in my pantry to make those hectic nights a little easier.
Soaking, draining, and cooking dry beans is fantastic - and usually more affordable than choosing the prepared variety. To be honest, I rarely have the foresight to do that, which means you can find me reaching for a can of beans 99% of the time.
When looking at canned beans, there are a couple of things to consider. First, there should not be any additional ingredients beyond beans, water, and salt. Second, look for a can that has a BPA-free lining. Third, if you can find NON-GMO and organic beans, that’s even better. I find the 365 brand from Whole Foods to be affordable (usually $1/can) and meets all of those criteria. Westbrae Organic is another great brand and can often be found at grocery stores nationwide. Toss some beans in with rice, salsa, and some sliced avocado and you’ve got an easy meal in a pinch.
I rarely eat pasta these days, but there’s no doubt that it’s awesome to have on hand for those nights when you don’t feel like cooking or find there are few ingredients in your cupboard. Add a sauce of some kind (or just some fresh tomatoes!) along with some chopped veggies and voila, you have yourself a fancy dinner. If you’re rocking the gluten-free lifestyle or aspiring to cut back on your gluten intake, I highly recommend the Tinkyada brown rice pasta. It holds up really well, doesn’t get mushy, and tastes great (you might not even know it’s gluten-free!). It comes in a variety of shapes (spirals, elbows, etc.) and has minimal ingredients - only brown rice flour and water.
You know you can make it quickly and easily at home, but it’s good to have some of the ready-made variety on hand for those surprise happy hour guests! Hummus can be used as a salad dressing, a topping for veggie burgers, a dip for crackers and veggies, or even mixed in with some rice and beans or pasta. I love Fresh ‘n Nova (made right here in Pasadena - their Black Olive is my favorite!) and HOPE, which has funky flavors like Thai Coconut Curry.
I don’t eat meat or dairy so it’s important to have some proteins at the ready for quick meals. I usually keep either tempeh or tofu in the house along with cans of beans (see above), lentils, hummus, nuts, and nut butters. My favorite brand of tempeh is Litelife because they are organic and have minimal ingredients. I don’t cook with tofu very often - but when I do, I prefer the Wildwood brand because it’s organic, sprouted, and a short ingredient list. If you can find a local source of tofu, go with it!
The spice of life - or dinner, as the case may be! I love making my own BBQ sauce, mustards, and dressings, but some things I can’t make on my own. I always have a bottle of organic tamari, maple syrup, local honey, and a mix of spices to blend and incorporate.
If you’re looking to build a practical collection of pantry spices, be sure to have: good quality sea salt, black peppercorns, garlic powder, onion powder, turmeric, paprika, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, and oregano to start. There are others you’ll want along the way and maybe you have favorites that I don’t have in my kitchen (we have a ton that we’ve accumulated). Buy the best quality you can and remember that spices and condiments don’t last forever, so don’t hang onto them for much longer than one year.
Pro Tip: buy spices in bulk to save MAJOR bucks! Whole Foods, Sprouts, Hannaford, and many other grocers have bulk spices available in jars or bins. Fill up a baggie with however much you need, tag it, and throw it in the cart!
This is a good one! We use fresh as often as possible but if you’re whipping up a soup or a quick dinner, frozen veggies can be a lifesaver. You can freeze your own (while they are still fresh!) and save them for later (greens, celery, carrots, onion, squash, broccoli, corn, etc.) or you can buy bagged frozen veggies. As with all veggies, I recommend organic whenever possible and if you need to save a little extra money, consult the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen list while you are shopping.
What are some of your favorite pantry staples?