Stocking the Pantry

I’ve been meaning to do a post on stocking and organizing the pantry for ages and decided moving to a new apartment would be the perfect opportunity to finally do it!!  I find that in the process of packing, moving, and unpacking, it’s really easy to get out of the habit of cooking. Either the pots and pans are packed away or the cupboards are bare and ordering a pizza or having a bowl of cereal for dinner just seems so… easy. The same goes for travel (remember travel?) or any other time when routines get turned on their heads. When you haven’t cooked in awhile, it can seem like a lot of work.

One thing that usually helps get me back into my cooking routine is taking some time to organize and re-stock my pantry. I know what I have, I don’t have to rifle through crowded shelves of food, and when it’s time to make dinner, I just need to pick up a few things, not an entire shopping cart full. Having a stocked pantry will not only make food  shopping easier and help you save money on groceries and take out, but we all know that home-cooked meals are always the healthiest option. A win-win-win in my book!

the before shot....

So whether you could use some help filling your pantry shelves or are just in need of a little re-org (I think most of us probably are after a year of being at home all the time) I thought a list of pantry staples, and a few practical organization tips, might be helpful!

A quick note before we get started… I think it goes without saying that every person has different food preferences, cooking habits, and of course, a different size pantry! This guide is based on the kinds of things I like to cook, including my recipes and others’, but you should personalize it by adding the things you love and use all the time.

I’ve really tried to stick to the basics here, but I’ve included a list of additional ingredients for each category that are things I use from time to time. I have limited pantry space in my Brooklyn apartment, so these are things I tend to buy only when I need them. But if you’ve got the space, or you use those ingredients often, then definitely consider them ‘staples’! OH, and I didn’t include things like coffee, tea, breakfast cereal and snacks because I feel like those things are really dependent on personal preference.

oils and vinegars

  • extra virgin olive oil
  • grapeseed, safflower, or sunflower oil for high-heat cooking
  • toasted sesame oil
  • canola or vegetable oil, for baking
  • red wine vinegar
  • inexpensive balsamic vinegar
  • good quality syrupy balsamic vinegar or glaze
  • white wine or Champagne vinegar
  • apple cider vinegar
  • seasoned rice vinegar

other: coconut oil, peanut oil, sherry vinegar

canned and jarred ingredients 

  • chickpeas
  • black beans
  • cannellini beans
  • capers
  • Castelvetrano or other green olives
  • Kalamata olives
  • roasted red peppers
  • tomato paste
  • crushed tomatoes
  • whole tomatoes
  • diced tomatoes
  • marinara sauce
  • low-sodium chicken broth
  • low-sodium vegetable broth
  • full-fat coconut milk
  • anchovy fillets
  • canned water or olive-oil packed tuna


  • Dijon mustard
  • whole grain mustard
  • soy sauce or tamari
  • fish sauce
  • hot sauce
  • Thai red curry paste
  • miso paste (refrigerator)
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • honey
  • maple syrup
  • mayonnaise
  • barbecue sauce

other: mirin, jarred hot chilis or chili oil, hot honey, agave

dried pasta, grains and legumes

  • long-grain white rice
  • short-grain brown rice
  • farro
  • pearled barley
  • quinoa
  • red lentils
  • black or beluga lentils
  • cornmeal / polenta
  • Israeli or pearl couscous
  • Moroccan couscous
  • long pasta shapes (spaghetti, linguine, etc. )
  • short pasta shapes (rigatoni, orecchiette, etc. )
  • chickpea pasta
  • Panko breadcrumbs
  • old-fashioned rolled oats
  • steel-cut oats
  • crackers

other: green lentils, split peas, dried white beans, fine dried breadcrumbs, bulgur wheat, arborio rice, wheatberries

nuts, nut butters, seeds, and dried fruit

  • peanut butter
  • tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • raw pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds) and sesame seeds
  • raw nuts: almonds, pecans, walnuts, pine nuts, cashews, peanuts, pistachios
  • dried fruit: raisins, golden raisins, dates, dried cranberries, apricots
  • fruit jams and spreads for cheese

the spice rack

  • cayenne pepper
  • crushed red pepper flakes
  • dried bay leaves
  • dried oregano
  • ground cloves
  • ground cinnamon
  • ground cumin
  • ground ginger
  • ground nutmeg
  • ground turmeric
  • mild curry powder
  • sweet paprika
  • smoked Spanish paprika

other: ground cardamom, ras el hanout, ground coriander, sumac, hot paprika, garlic powder, mustard seeds, allspice, chili powder, chipotle chili powder, fennel seed, ground mustard, saffron, star anise, caraway seeds, coriander seeds, garam masala, cream of tartar

salt & pepper

  • kosher salt (preferably Diamond Crystal brand)
  • flaky sea salt like Maldon or Jacobsen
  • black pepper grinder

the baking cabinet

  • all-purpose flour
  • granulated sugar
  • light and dark brown sugar
  • confectioner’s sugar
  • vanilla extract
  • baking powder
  • baking soda
  • unsweetened cocoa powder
  • cornstarch
  • semisweet chocolate
  • bittersweet chocolate
  • non-stick spray

other: corn syrup, molasses, almond flour, other alternative flours, turbinado sugar, superfine sugar, almond extract, sprinkles!, cake flour, unsweetened baker’s chocolate, flaked unsweetened coconut, evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, bread flour, active dry yeast

Now, I’m not a professional organizer (please don’t look at my closet!) , but I do cook a lot and I wanted to share a couple little tips that help me keep my kitchen in good working order.

1 Organize ingredients by type. This one might sound obvious, but it’s a lot easier to find if you aren’t looking for a jar of cinnamon behind a bunch of bottles of vinegar! Place the ingredients you use more often in easy to reach places and face labels forward so you can see what you have.

2.  Use jars and canisters to save space and keep things neat. I transfer things like grains or rice to a glass jar if the bag or container is particularly bulky or damaged.  It helps save some space and I can see exactly what I’m looking for. I also do this for ingredients that tend to get all over the place, like flour or confectioner’s sugar and for things that are best stored in a container with a tight seal ( coffee, cereal or brown sugar.)

3. Every kitchen is different, but items like space racks, bins, and in-cabinet lazy Susans are inexpensive and can go a long way towards helping you keep your pantry neat if you have limited space.

4. Go through your pantry every few months tidy up and to take a quick inventory. I do this to keep things organized, avoid buying extras of ingredients I already have, and to make sure to use things before they go bad.

5. On that note, toss items that are over one year expired and donate (unopened) items you are never going to use. You know the ones I mean – the marinades and seasonings you got in a gift basket or bought on a whim that are just taking up space in your cabinets. If you haven’t used it and its been in there for over a year, you can probably live without it!

Did I miss any of your must-have pantry ingredients? Let me know in the comments below!!!

  1. I noticed that the Dijon mustard has been opened. Do you keep it in the pantry? …….mine is in the fridge

  2. Are you planning on going back to The Lost Kitchen this season? It looked like so much fun on the Magnolia Network show. I was able to get reservations several years ago. It was a wonderful experience.

  3. I think I have just about everything on your list in my pantry with the exception of miso paste. I bought it once for a recipe and then ended up throwing away the rest weeks later. Since it is not inexpensive I’ve never bought it again. Why do I want it – or how do I use it?

    1. Hi Carol! I use miso paste in glazes for roasted vegetables and chicken, and sometimes salmon, too. It adds a sort of savory richness/ umami and a little bit of salt but the flavor itself is mild so it’s really versatile!

  4. This is so helpful, Lidey! May I ask where you get your glass storage jars (for rice, barley, etc.) and canisters?

  5. This is so helpful, Lidey! May I ask where you get your glass storage jars (for rice, barley, etc.) and canisters?

    1. hi Linda! I’ve had my jars a long time and while I’m pretty sure they were from the Container Store, I can’t seem to find them! These jars on Amazon look really similar though, and they come in various sizes too which is nice.

  6. Love this list! I would add a jar of sun-dried tomatoes in oil, lemon pepper seasoning and dried shallots just because I use those things a lot!

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