Pantry Staples, Part 1

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A few people have asked what pantry staples I keep on hand in order to make my weekly menus work.  I keep my bulk containers well-stocked, probably more than the average home cook, but here are seven of my absolute must-haves.

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These three staples form the base for many of my entrees and side dishes.

1.  Brown Rice. Brown rice is incredibly versatile, and provides a base for easy Mexican or Asian dishes.

2. Quinoa. This “grain” (it is actually a seed) is a complete protein and packed full of vitamins and minerals.  I like it sweet for breakfast or savory for lunch and dinner.  In my experience, it is cheapest when bought from the bulk bins.

3.  Pasta. If all else fails, pasta + butter or olive oil + salt and pepper + diced tomatoes make for a quick and easy dinner.  Rather than purchase pasta from the bulk bin, I try to stock up whenever it is on sale.

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I don’t buy meat more than once or twice a week, so I keep this affordable and minimally-processed vegetarian protein on hand at all times.

4.  Dried Beans. At the least, I keep containers of garbanzo beans and either kidney or pinto beans.  Chickpeas make a good snack or appetizer when roasted, and go well in curries and soups.  Kidney or pinto beans are good mixed with rice or in chili and soups.   Though I’ve found some dried beans for a reasonable price in 2-pound packages, they are even cheaper from the bulk bin.  I cook a pound all at once and use them throughout the week.

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These two oils are always in a cabinet and within reach of the stove.

5.  Canola Oil. Canola oil has a neutral flavor and higher smoke point than olive oil, making it better for sautéing.  Because I’ve had a few containers of bulk aisle canola oil that were starting to go rancid, I usually buy it in a bottle instead of from the bulk aisle, where this is a higher turnover and the bottles sit on the shelves for shorter periods of time.

6.  Extra-Virgin Olive Oil. I’m talking about the legit stuff.  I keep some of the cheap oil around for cooking, but use the high quality olive oil for vinaigrettes, topping cooked pasta, or anything else where I’ll really taste the flavor of the oil.  Again, I buy it in a bottle instead of from the bulk aisle.

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I drink this at least once a day.  But usually more.

7.  Tea. Not only do I drink a pot {or two. or three…} a day, but I love to bake with it as well.  I always have multiple containers of chai tea on hand (loose leaf and bagged), as well as some minty green tea, some rooibos for evenings (it is naturally caffeine-free) and some sort of herbal tea for sick days.


  1. says

    thank you!!! this is such a great help for building a healthy stocked pantry!! I’m so excited to get my Savvy weeks of meals on, eventually!

  2. says

    This is a great list! And I am proud to say I have all of those stocked as well.
    I always try to keep oatmeal and canned beans as well. I love dried beans more, but in a pinch it is great to have a can of ready to eat no salt added around.

  3. Pierre says

    Wow, that is one practical list of pantry staples. We also have almost the same items in our pantry.

    I can’t wait to read the second part of this series.