Stock These Pantry Essentials and Never Be Far from a Delicious Meal

  • By Jess Dang
  • March 1, 2013

March is here! And you know what that means? It’s time for another #CookMoreIn2013 tip from us. March’s tip is going to address a question we get from so many readers: “What should I stock in my pantry?” The right answers to this question will enable you to always have a meal on hand.

I compare putting together an optimal pantry with putting together an optimal wardrobe. Similar problems exist in these two parts of the home. These areas are often cluttered, filled with disparate items that often don’t go with one another, and made up of items that have been used (or worn) just once or never at all. I can’t help you with your wardrobe, but I certainly can help you, “Make it work,” in your pantry.

Use the graphic below as a guide to our list of pantry essentials. And because I think this is such an important topic, I’ve put together an entire multi-part video series where I invite you into my kitchen. I’ll walk you through my pantry section by section so you can see what’s inside and more importantly, why it’s there. Since there is so much information, we’ll release these videos every few days. Today, we’re introducing the series in this video and then showing you our grains, nuts, and pasta cupboard. There’s also more on those items below. Ready to come on in?

List of Pantry Essentials by Cook Smarts


What to buy: Keep a mix of quicker cooking grains (like quinoa and white rice) and whole grains (like barley, farro, and brown rice) so you have options for every night. While not a grain, dried lentils also cook really quickly when soaked the night before

What to make:

  • Toss them with roasted veggies + vinaigrette = delicious grain bowl
  • Cook them with some diced onions, carrots, and celery + stock = healthy soup
  • Mix up with beans = veggie pattie

Tip: Make in larger batches as all these items freeze well and take the same amount of time to prepare


What to buy: This is a personal decision but I always have almonds, walnuts, pecans, pine nuts, cashews, and peanuts on hand

What to make:

  • Puree with herbs + garlic cloves + citrus + olive oil = pesto
  • Toast them and add them to roasted vegetables or proteins
  • Grind them finely and dip egg-washed proteins (like fish) in them to create texture and taste

Tip: Some nuts can go bad  so don’t buy in large quantities unless you go through them quickly or have room in your fridge of freezer for them


What to buy: Go beyond your boxed dried Italian pasta and try couscous and Asian rice noodles

What to make:

  • Combine Italian pasta with ground meat + spices + a can of tomatoes = classic bolognese
  • Add rice noodles to a stock + fresh or frozen vegetables + protein = homey noodle soup
  • Combine pasta with a vinaigrette + canned olives or artichokes + feta + tomatoes = classic pasta salad

Check out our January and February tips in case you missed them


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