Here is a by-no-means-comprehensive list of what I keep in my pantry...or cupboards...or out on my counters for that matter. It is a general list of things that I like to keep on hand. Keeping some things on hand at all times makes creating kitchen masterpieces easier. (After all, it is culinary art when you aren't following a recipe...and sometimes even when you are!) Obviously, I'm not telling you that you should keep all of these things and these things only on hand, this is just meant to be a guide if you are just starting out, or if you like how I do things and want to set up your own kitchen in a similar way. Use this as a reference, but be sure to throw in your own flair to suit your family's specific tastes!
Out and About:
-I like to keep bananas on my table, garlic bulbs on my counter next to my olive oil dispensers (one oil bottle for drizzling and a Misto for spraying surfaces for non-stick purposes), and bread (honey-wheat usually), tortillas (both corn and whole-wheat flour), and various nuts/candies (I keep them in jars left-over from my wedding...chopped peanuts in one, chopped pecans in another...I even have one of mixed nuts I recently roasted for snacking. We can't escape candy at home either...we get a lot on holidays and then have it to munch on for awhile.)
-Beans: I tend to keep a can or two of garbanzo beans for making hummus. I also like to grab black beans, chili beans, kidney beans, black-eyed-peas, refried beans, green beans, and pinto beans as they come on sale. Beans are typically pretty cheap, make great fillers for foods, add lots of fiber to meals, and taste great!
-Veggies: I sometimes keep diced potatoes or sauerkraut. I've had carrots this way before, but frozen is often cheaper and tastes better to me. I will grab beets once in awhile. In recent years I've been keeping stewed or diced tomatoes more and more often as I integrate them into things I cook.
-Soups and Pasta: As I've started making my own soups, I've bought canned soups less and less. However, these are great for on the go lunches when the leftover soups have been depleted. I also have a weakness for the occasional can of ravioli or spaghetti-o's. I try hard not to buy them, but when they are on sale...sometimes the power of high fructose corn syrup compels me despite my best efforts.
Boxes and Baggies:
-Pastas, Cereals, Grains, and Rice: I like to have some whole-wheat pasta around because I'm a big fan of pasta, but that isn't always feasible. I am better about splurging a bit to keep myself in quinoa because it goes further meal-wise and is slightly more versatile. (Plus it's really good for you!) We always have two big bags of rice: One of regular white rice (I tried converting my husband to brown rice, but he wouldn't have it) and one of sushi rice (lasts a while and Matt loves making sushi when we can afford the other ingredients). I always keep whole oats for breakfast oatmeal, baking, and the infamous protein poppers. Speaking of breakfast, the hubby likes to keep shredded mini wheats and I'm a fan of the off-brand versions of Special K cereals. Due to recent budget cuts, we broke down and bought a case of Ramen noodles in various flavors. (However, I do NOT advocate this...)
-Teas: I'm a tea lover and have several boxes of tea bags as well as loose-leaf teas (when I can afford them). I usually have a green tea or lemongrass tea, a peppermint tea, a spiced tea, a citrus sort of tea, a berry-flavored herbal tea, and sometimes camomile tea. I also always keep a local honey on hand to go with the teas that need a little extra sweetness.
-Bottles: We keep a big bottle of olive oil for cooking, a bottle of canola oil for deep frying/fondue (neither of which we get to do often), a tub of shortening for baking, several different types of alcohol (vodka, rum, bourbon, scotch, brandy, and various liquors), rice wine vinegar (for sushi rice), red wine vinegar, white vinegar, balsamic vinegar, a few different on-sale marinades we wanted to try, and the occasional special salad dressing we have yet to break into.
-I have a box of Heart-Healthy Bisquick that I use pretty exclusively for sausage balls anymore. I once used this product for pancakes, but I've done that less and less in recent years.
-I like to keep onion soup mix on hand...not so much for onion soup as for stews and other crockpot recipes. I also keep a healthy supply of chicken and beef bouillon cubes.
-I have a little collection of extracts, the most important of which is vanilla (the best kind is from Mexico). I also like to keep cherry, coconut, root beer, strawberry, butter, and mint on hand for baking and the ever-awesome snow-ice cream. I've found myself the possessor of others such as maple, apricot, banana, and orange from time to time.
-Basics: Flour (50% whole-wheat and 50% unbleached white), granulated sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar, baking powder, baking soda (TONS! This is good for everything!), salt, black pepper, dark cocoa powder, and the occasional free-with-something-else-I-bought cake mix.
-I buy baking cups that go on sale after holidays because I like making cupcakes (both standard size and mini-size). I also have a plethora of decorating things that I somehow accumulated such as food dyes, sprinkles, and other decorating funzies.
-I also find cookie cutters and other baking gadgets cheaply at estate sales.
-My pride and my downfall are my spices. In the words of the great Shepard Book, "A man can live from here til doomsday if he has enough spices." So. True. I have lots of different kinds. I'll do my best to list them all below. The number of *'s that accompany each shows how often I use said spice. No * = hardly ever...not NEVER. (If I never used it...I would toss it out.)
Cream of Tartar*
Jalapeno Seasoned Salt****
Wedding Spice Blend******* (My husband and I created this for our unity ceremony. It certainly beats lighting candles! It was a blend of 6 spices: Chili Powder, Cumin, Ground Cloves, Dried Onions, Garlic Powder, and Jalapeno Seasoned Salt)