A Quick Guide to Setting Up Your Pantry

A Quick Guide to Setting Up Your Pantry - Una guía rápida de cómo configurar su despensa - Cook for Your Life

If you’re just starting out on your cooking adventure, it can be daunting shopping for pantry basics. There are so many herbs, spices, and other grocery items, it can be hard to know what will be useful. This is our list of the basics that crop up recipe after recipe. It may seem like a lot, but you can start stocking your pantry slowly, not all at once. And once you have a stocked pantry, you’ll love being able to pull together meals on the fly without any extra trips to the store.

Fats & Oils

These are the oils that you’ll use the most for any recipe. Be sure to store olive oil in a cool dark place and try to use it within a year of purchasing.

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Canola or grapeseed oil
  • Unsalted butter (use sparingly)

Dried Herbs & Spices

Most of these herbs and spices are featured in most of our savory recipes. With these basic flavorings, you can enjoy a variety of flavor profiles to keep your meals exciting and delicious. We’re also adding basic baking items used in simple muffins, cakes, and pancakes. If you’re eating dried herbs and spices for their medicinal properties, be sure to buy smaller quantities and replacing them often to get higher amounts of anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties.

  • Herbs: bay leaves, rosemary, oregano
  • Spices: cumin, cinnamon cayenne, ginger, turmeric, mild curry powder whole nutmeg whole black peppercorns, fine sea salt, and/or kosher salt
  • Baking: baking soda and baking powder

Nut & Nut Products, Seeds, Dried Fruits

Nuts are great as snacks, and for adding healthy oils and protein to salads and breakfast grains. Keep all nuts, seeds, and nut products in the fridge where they will keep indefinitely.

  • Sliced almonds and whole walnuts
  • Tahini (sesame seed paste), sugar-free peanut butter, coconut milk
  • Unsulfured raisins and cranberries

Grains & Flours

This is a short list. As you get cooking it will lengthen. If you find you like risotto, you may want to add white Arborio rice to your list. Store whole-grain flours in the fridge.

  • Rolled or steel-cut oats
  • Long grain brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Whole wheat pastry flour
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • White rice (for when you need something easy on the stomach)
  • Couscous
  • Polenta


There are SO many varieties of these to choose from. Stick to these to start out with and you’ll be golden. None of the dried legumes here need soaking. Soy products like miso, tofu, and tempeh are important to a vegetarian diet, otherwise, they can be bought as needed.

  • Canned: Cannellini beans, black beans chickpeas
  • Dried: Red split lentils, green French lentils, split peas, black-eyed peas
  • Soy products: miso, tofu, tempeh

Frozen & Canned Foods

We’ve already mentioned canned legumes, and canned tomatoes are always a better alternative for hothouse grown fresh in a pasta sauce. I find frozen fruits and veg a great standby. Frozen on the farm, they often have a better nutritional value than the same fruits and veg bought out of season, plus they will keep in the freezer for months. Frozen green peas and lima beans add protein and a dash of color to pasta and soups, while spinach saves time. Fruits can brighten up a winter meal in compotes, crumbles, or delicious gelato.

  • Veggies: small garden peas, baby lima beans or edamame beans, leaf spinach
  • Fruits: blueberries, raspberries, mango chunks or pulp, peaches
  • Canned: whole peeled tomatoes, diced tomatoes.

Fresh Basics

Some fresh items to keep replenished in your pantry at all times. You will always find a use for them. You can always blend parsley into a pesto with a little olive oil and freeze it:

  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Celery
  • Garlic
  • Italian parsley
  • Eggs
  • Ginger
  • Lemons

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