I don’t know if the new year is inspiring people to cook at home more often, but I’ve gotten more emails in the past month about the foods I keep my kitchen stocked with than ever before.
Well, you asked, and I answered! I thought a post highlighting the freezer, fridge and pantry staples you’ll always find in my kitchen, which I use to create easy, everyday meals with, would be the perfect topic to kick off my new “Back to Basics” blogging series. Every so often I’ll answer your basic cooking questions like how to perfectly cook rice, and how to saute chicken so it doesn’t turn into shoe leather.
Friends, it is possible!
If you have a Back to Basics post request, please leave it in the comments section below!
As I mentioned, today’s Back to Basics post covers the freezer, fridge, and pantry staples I always have on hand to make everything from soups, to casseroles, stir frys and more. Stock up on these essentials and you’ll be shocked at how easily you’re able to build a meal, and how little you’re able to buy at the grocery store each week. I swear my list is normally fewer than 15 items long, and most of them are fresh produce.
Remember, this isn’t a full inventory of what I have in my kitchen (you won’t find regular weekly purchases like milk and eggs, or snacks in this list,) rather it’s the staples you can easily add fresh ingredients to, to build healthy, wholesome meals.
(Also remember that a “well-stocked” kitchen doesn’t mean a “well-organized” kitchen. Full disclosure – I definitely cleaned up for you guys!)
Stock up on fruits and veggies to make smoothies and stir frys on the fly. Buy meat and fish on sale then thaw in the fridge for 24 hours before you want to use. Reheat bagels and breads for 20 seconds in the microwave, wrapped in a paper towel, then toast like normal.
- Vegetables: corn, edamame, peas
- Fruit/berries: raspberries, blueberries, strawberries
- Ground beef
- English muffins/bagels
- Hash browns
These long-lasting items are staples in my fridge. (I know some people don’t store potatoes in the fridge, but I do!)
- Cheddar cheese
- Parmesan cheese
- Dijon mustard
- Hot sauce
- BBQ sauce
- Worcestershire sauce
- Chili garlic sauce
- Buffalo sauce
Canned Goods / Shelf-Stable Items
These items are great for making soups, stews, pastas, crock pot meals, and casseroles.
- Chicken broth
- Marinara sauce
- Tomato sauce
- Petite diced tomatoes
- Black beans
- Baked beans
- Canned artichoke hearts
- Chipotles in adobo
- Coconut milk
- Peanut butter
- Brown basmati rice
- Jasmine rice
- Wild rice blend
- Pasta – spaghetti + cut pasta like rotini, orzo, gemelli, or rigatoni
- Panko bread crumbs
- Maple syrup
You should be able to make any basic cookie or cake recipe with the following items on hand.
- Baking soda
- Baking powder
- Semi-sweet chocolate chips
- Brown sugar
- Powdered sugar
- Cocoa powder
- Dried fruit/nuts
- Old fashioned oats
- Corn starch
These are the most common spices called for in most recipes I use. I’ve also included everything you need to make your own taco seasoning and seasoned salt!
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Garlic salt
- Cayenne pepper
- Chili powder
- Dried oregano
- Dried thyme
- Dried parsley
- Grill seasoning
- Red chili pepper flakes
Oils / Vinegar Staples
The following oils and vinegar will let you create and cook everything from salad dressings, to basic sautes and stir frys.
- Nonstick spray
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Almond or grapeseed oil
- Canola or vegetable oil
- Sesame oil
- Low-sodium soy sauce or gluten-free Tamari
- Rice vinegar
- Balsamic vinegar
- Red wine vinegar
- Apple cider vinegar
Garlic and shallots/onions seem to find their way into everything I cook. I always keep a big bowl of them on the counter.
Food Storage / Protection Staples*
Store food in the fridge and freezer, and more using these food storage staples.
- Glad Press ‘n’ Seal
- Parchment paper
- Ziplock freezer bags – gallon and quart-size
- Ziplock sandwich bags
- Wax paper
join the conversation
Steak Salad with Crispy Shallots, Dried Cherries, Candied Pecans and Goat Cheese | Iowa Girl Eats 01.27.2014
[…] that being said, I thought it’d be the perfect time to bring you the next post in my “Back to Basics“ series – How to Cook Steak on a Stove […]
Thank you for the lists! Very helpful. Curious though… do you like canned artichokes better than frozen? I buy the frozen artichokes from Trader Joe’s and find they are much less salty and tough like canned.
Hi Lindsey! I tried the frozen artichokes once but I just felt like they didn’t have any flavor. Maybe I got a weird batch? I should try again. I did love how easy it was to take out just as many as you needed!
* For sale Tupperware Freezer Mates 10 Pc Complete Freeze & Store SET NEW | kitchen organization set 01.09.2014
[…] modular storage containers saves space in your freezer and money at the checkout, because they help keep precious food such as vegetables, soups, sauces, […]
Coty and [email protected] 01.09.2014
Loved reading about your staples. Now I need to get organizing!
Allison @ Life's a Bowl 01.09.2014
This is a great list! I really would like to switch all of our plastic containers to glass – do you recommend any specific ones? I wonder if there are any good deals/sets…?
I have a big pyrex set I got for our wedding!
Back to Basic- maybe a basic tomato sauce so I can stop using Prego :)
Forgot to comment on two things.
*Make sure that you date meat in the freezer and have it well wrapped. Most meats (except bacon and ham) can be stored in the freezer for 3-6 months. After that it isn’t necessarily a food safety issue, but sometime the quality may deterriate.
*Also, I tend to buy butter and shredded cheeses when they are on sale and freeze both of them.
sorry for the double post
Thank you. What a great list. I think that I may need to get myself in gear and see what I am missing. Or more importantly what needs to be replaced.
*Going to print it out, but thinking of hiding the spice list from my hubby. (I love Penzey’s and have a small hoarding issue with “needing” every spice out there.)
I really wish I was better about repackaging some things like opened packages of pasta. It looks like you just use canning jars. What do you recommend to label with so they stick, but can be reused?
Potatoes should NOT be stored in the frig long term because it turns the starches to sugar and when you cook them, they will be dark and sweet. A COOL place works much better. Unless, of course, you go through a 5 lb sack in a week! :)
Leslie W 01.09.2014
Ok I’ll bite – why on earth do you keep your potatoes in the fridge?
Iowa Girl Eats 01.09.2014
Just one of those things – my Mom kept hers in the fridge so I do too!
The Real Deal Marin 01.08.2014
Thanks for the post and promoting the notion that a well stocked panty combined with fresh ingredients can make meal manageable. Check out The Whole Pantry!
Love this! Thank you! I have found that stocking up on frozen veggies (and fruits-specifically berries) makes for a quick and simple way to incorporate veggies into packed lunches for my toddler and 8-month old when they are at daycare. It is a quick, easy, and healthy way to keep lunches nutritious – pack it the night before and it is defrosted by lunch the next day. Also, keeping these basic staples you listed makes for an easier time throwing together a quick dinner after work when everyone comes home hungry – A working momma’s dream! Thank you again!
thanks for sharing this! I know why I follow your blog and make so many of your recipes–i keep the same things in my fridge, freezer, and pantry!
I’m just curious too–what are your top 5 or most used kitchen appliances, and what pans do you use most for your cooking and baking? Or, what appliances and pans could you NOT live without? Ever since I got a cast iron skillet at a garage sale for .75, I’v started using it for almost everything I cook except soups! For baking a I have stoneware round baking stone (pampered chef) that I use for all cookies and homemade pizzas.
Thanks for this! I’m curious when you use the Press n’ Seal. I bought some by accident once and have never used it. Also, regarding bread in the freezer: do you put the bagel, etc., in the microwave straight from the freezer (before toasting)?
Iowa Girl Eats 01.09.2014
I use it for sealing containers that don’t have lids for. It’s also great for individually wrapping things like chicken breasts if you don’t want to use baggies. Also, I seal chicken breasts on my meat-only cutting board then pound them out flat. Works really good for that! I put bread straight in the microwave from frozen, wrapped in a paper towel!
Kelly Joseph 01.08.2014
Wow, it made me feel pretty good how closely my kitchen staples resemble yours – down to the brands (I buy so many HyVee products!) and the baking goods tucked away in ziploc bags. :) I’ve followed your blog for so long and I just had my first baby in July so I have even more interest in reading it, with the great posts about Lincoln. I bought the ingredients today to make your crunchy quinoa granola and can’t wait to try it out. Thanks for the Back to Basics series, it will be very helpful with a little one consuming so much of my time.
Do you consider eggs a staple? I don’t see it on the list.
Iowa Girl Eats 01.09.2014
Hey Sarah! I mentioned near the top that this list doesn’t include weekly staples like milk, eggs, etc. Just non-perishable/long-lasting staple items. That being said, I do buy eggs every 2 weeks or so!
[email protected] for Cake 01.08.2014
Love this post. Love is an understatement. I’m obsessed with all things organized and I just love it. You’ve inspired me to do a similar type post! Thanks!!
Jeri Wendzel 01.08.2014
Just curious…do you not keep regular vinegar on hand?
Iowa Girl Eats 01.09.2014
I don’t! Well, actually, I do – but I use it for cleaning!
Jeri Wendzel 01.09.2014
Oh! I do, too. But I have a few recipes that call for it also. I buy it by the gallon!
One thought…..You really should upgrade from Baker’s Chocolate and Hershey’s cocoa. There are much better options on the market. I think you would be happier with the results better chocolate will bring to your recipes.
Your posts always make me long for a Hy-Vee in town… :)