Keeping a pantry full is important for any cook. However, you don’t want to go to the store and buy just anything. This list of the top 15 items to keep stock in your pantry is going to help you go to the store to get exactly what you need. Here are my top 15 items for stocking your pantry.
Top 15 Items to Keep Stocked in Your Pantry
This list will include some items that can be used in a variety of ways, thus, giving you an opportunity to feel accomplished because you made it yourself. Also, you know that it is healthy because you control the ingredients that went into it. Most importantly, you won’t be stuck without that particular item that you need!
Flour or Wheat Berries
All purpose or whole wheat flour is a must-have for any pantry. It gives you the chance to make something special to eat, like pancakes or muffins. Flour will last about 9-12 months in bucket, longer if you store it in a mylar bag with an oxygen absorber.
If you can afford it, I highly suggest going with the wheat berries and grain mill option. Once milled, wheat can begin to lose it’s nutrition factor, so storing the berries, and milling it as needed can keep the nutrients in the flour. My favorite grain mill is the Wondermill.
I like to keep our wheat berries in 5 gallon plastic buckets with gamma seal lids to help keep them fresher. Stored this way, they can last 20-30 YEARS. One pound of berries will grind into 3 cups of flour, so a 25 pound bag will make approximately loaves of homemade bread.
Sugar is important to have, because it helps to make just about any food more palatable. Granulated sugar can easily be bought in bulk if desired, and stored in buckets, or jars. Sugar will store for up to 20 years. If moisture gets in there, you can simply break up it, and dissolve in a bit of liquid before using.
Honey is another important sweetener to have on hand. This can be used not only for food, but medicinal purposes as well. A bit of honey is soothing on a sore throat, for example. Honey will store indefinitely. Real honey may crystallize over time, but you can just place the container in a tub of hot water to help liquify it again.
It’s best to find raw, local honey, if you can, but Azure carries an amazing wild honey that we love.
Baking Powder and Baking Soda
Almost all bakers are very familiar with baking power. This leavening agent helps give rise to biscuits, cakes, and more. How long baking powder will last is up for question. Some will say 6 months once opened, other say it will last indefinitely if stored in a cool, dry place.
To stay on the “safe side”, I usually buy in bulk, but in the smaller cans. To check if your baking powder has lost it’s strength, simply add a Tablespoon of baking power to a Tablespoon of white vinegar. If you don’t see any action, it’s time to replace your baking power.
Not only for delicious baked goods, having baking soda on hand is great for cleaning, too. Baking soda can be used as a beauty aid, homemade deodorant, and more. Get more ideas here.
Baking soda has a nearly indefinite shelf life, so it’s great to have a extra on hand at all times.
Whether you make your own, or purchase ready made pasta, this can be a life saver when the 5 o’clock dinner bell rings. Pasta is the perfect food storage food, as it is easy to store, doesn’t take a lot of space, and can easily last 1-2 years in it’s original packaging. When you store it in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers, some say that it can last up to 30 years.
Having a quick easy meal is so much easier when you have pasta sauce on hand. Simply cook your pasta to your liking, heat up a jar of sauce, and maybe top with a little cheese. Viola! Dinner is ready.
Spaghetti sauce can be used in so many other ways as well. We use it in a pinch for homemade pizza and as a dipping sauce for French bread. Jarred pasta sauce will last 3-4 years easily, when stored in a cool, dry place. Grab a few extra jars next time you go grocery shopping or when it’s on a great sale.
This is an essential ingredient for any kind of bread or roll making. I use it in nearly all homemade bread baking, except sourdough. Homemade hamburger buns, Artisan loaves, and French bread all require yeast.
I like to use the dry active yeast and that is what I usually have on hand. Yeast will store in a cool, dry place, or in the freezer for a longer shelf life. In it’s original packaging, some say that yeast will last indefinitely.
To check to see if your yeast is still good, add 1 teaspoon to 1 cup warm water. Stir in a teaspoon of sugar or honey, and allow it to sit for 5 minutes. If it gets bubbly and rises, the yeast is still good to use. If it doesn’t react after 5 minutes, the yeast probably needs to be replaced.
Beans (canned or dried)
Beans are a great source of carbohydrates and protein. Storing them canned is a great way to add a quick protein to your meal, and the convenience can’t be beat. Stir in a can of beans to your taco meat and you have a great way to enjoy taco night. Canned beans will usually store 3-5 years, in a cool, dry place.
Dry beans are usually cheaper by the pound, but do require presoaking, or cooking. I like to buy our beans in bulk, and store them in buckets for ease of use. Our favorites are black beans, pinto beans, and chickpeas. Dried beans will store for up to 20 years, but as they age, they may not get as soft when you are cooking them.
Oats are a grain, that start out as a plant, similar to wheat. When they are hulled, they are referred to oat groats. Groats will store for 25-30 years in a mylar bag and bucket. If you cut them up, such as in a food processor, they are referred to as “steel cut” oats. If you want rolled oats, simply steam and press the groats. Once rolled, they are cut a bit more to create “instant oats”.
A grain roller is a nice appliance in the pantry. You can roll more than just oats with it. It’s easy to make hot wheat cereals as well. However, if you don’t want to spend the money on a grain roller, simply buy your oats in bulk and store it a bucket with an airtight lid. They can last in storage like this up to 5 years. I like to purchase the rolled oats more often, as we prefer the chewier texture.
Besides oats, you may want to keep a few boxes of your favorite dry cereals for a quick breakfast. My boys like to eat cereal as a snack after working, or even as a lunch. While Raisin Bran and Frosted Flakes are not the “healthiest”, we usually keep a few boxes of those on hand.
Dry cereal will easily get moisture in it, and become stale, once the package is opened. It’s better to store the cereal in an airtight container.
Easy Canned Soups
Canned soups can easily add to any meal, or be a meal in itself. While I love making soups from scratch, like crockpot cheeseburger soup, chicken enchilada soup, or butternut squash soup, it’s nice to have a quick heat and eat meal.
Cream of chicken, and cream of mushroom soups are great to have on hand for adding into meals. Stir some into a shepherd’s pie instead of making it from scratch. Open a can of chicken noodle, or creamy tomato soup for dinner tonight. Most canned soups will have a shelf life of 3-4 years, as long as the can isn’t bulging or leaking.
Crackers are important in the pantry. They can go from a snack when spread with peanut butter, to a side when served with soup. Some saltine crackers are great for settling an upset tummy, and buttery crackers are perfect with sliced cheese for a light snack or even on a charcuterie board. Of course, you can always make your own crackers, too.
Crackers have a very quick shelf life when left in the original packaging. Once opened, air and moisture can easily seep in, making them stale. To help extend their storage life, you can vacuum seal the crackers in a mason jar. They will stay fresh for up to 2 years that way.
Fats and oils are a must in the pantry as well. From sauteing foods, to adding a bit of “oomph” to roasted veggies, and for simply using as a pasta sauce, such as this aglio e olio, having a variety of cooking fats and oils will help you create better tasting meals.
Storage of fats will greatly depend on what it is. Butter freezes beautifully, and can last in the freezer for up 3 years. Olive oil, once opened, should be used within 6-8 months, or it can go rancid. Coconut oil is said to have an indefinite shelf life, but is usually best used within 9-12 months of opening.
Broth or Stock
Essential to have on hand, broth has many uses. It can go from chili and soup to even just in a mug for sipping. If you are even in a situation where water is limited (during a storm, or a pipe breaking, or example) you can cook with broth as well. It flavors rice and pasta beautifully.
Broth typically comes in either chicken, beef, or vegetable flavors. You can purchase it in commercial cans, paper cartons, and even as dried broth. Of course, making your own broth is a great way to have this nutritional powerhouse on hand all the time.
While brown rice is more nutritious, the oils left in brown rice can make it harder to store for long term. Most brown rice should be used within 6-8 months of purchase for best shelf life.
If you are wanting to store rice in your long term pantry, I would suggest white rice. When stored in a mylar bag, with an oxygen absorber, white rice can have a 30 year shelf life. Paired with your favorite bean, it can be a complete meal.
Once used by Romans as a form of currency, salt is necessary for life. We can’t live without it. Salt flavors food, acts as a preserving agent, and more. Salt has an indefinite shelf life, especially when stored in a cool, dry place free from moisture.
There are many different kinds of salt, and they can all have different culinary uses. I prefer the larger grains myself, such as in this pink salt, or in this celtic salt. But, a finer grain is nice to have in a table shaker as well. Why not grab a few pounds of each kind and experiment to see which ones you like best?