Toi N. Degree: Keeping a well-stocked pantry

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 5, 2020

These last few weeks have really been interesting. I never thought I would see a day when grocery store shelves were bare and the basics not readily available. This has truly been an eye-opening experience and a reminder that we need to always have the basics on hand. If you are having to use the things you have at home and are having a hard time coming up with dinner ideas, I’m here to help.

Inventory — First things first and the biggest part of all … inventory. You need to know everything you have before you choose recipes. Start with your fridge because that’s where things are most likely going to go bad first. When you determine items that need to be used, go through your dinner ideas; make a list to see if there are some meals that would use those ingredients.

A well-stocked kitchen pantry will ensure that you are prepared with your prime and basic ingredients for your favorite recipes. Here is a list of pantry staples to keep your kitchen cabinets stocked and ready.

Common pantry staples:

  • Boxes of pasta
  • Tomato sauce
  • Canned soups
  • Rice
  • Cereal and oatmeal
  • Chicken broth
  • Mixed nuts
  • Dried fruit
  • Canned mushrooms
  • Canned chicken
  • Canned or dried beans
  • Canned corn
  • Potatoes
  • Peanut Butter

Baking pantry items:

  • Baking soda
  • Baking powder
  • Corn starch
  • White sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Shortening
  • Chocolate chips
  • Flour

Basic herbs, spices and oils:

  • Cinnamon
  • Sea salt
  • Celery seed
  • Dill
  • Paprika
  • Oregano
  • Basil
  • Garlic powder
  • Dried onion
  • Pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Canola oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Vegetable oil

Freezer essentials:

  • Frozen spinach
  • Frozen green beans
  • Frozen peas
  • Frozen broccoli

Fresh items that can be stored frozen:

  • Meat
  • Cheese
  • Butter
  • Onions
  • Ginger
  • Jalapeños
  • Garlic

Meal planning — If you are looking for new meals, there are certainly many resources to find recipes. is a site that will allow you to find meals using specific ingredients. You can actually search for the ingredients you have, and it will find recipes that include them. Genius!

Include variety — One of the biggest issues people have when it comes to meal planning is that they want a variety of meals each week. This often takes a lot of time, which is something we’re trying to avoid. Consider things like themed dinner nights, such as Meatless Mondays or Taco Tuesdays. Just remember to allow for some flexibility. If you set a theme or category for each night, that has to be secondary to using up the ingredients you have on hand.

Double and freeze — One of the best ways we know of to save time and money is to double and freeze. If you have easy meals you can pull out of the freezer each week, it saves you time and allows you to add variety without buying any extra ingredients. Each week, plan at least one meal that you can double and freeze for a later week in the month.

These are just a few of the ways to make sure you are able to have hearty meals on the table during our time of shelter in place. Something that might help during this time is to post meals for the week so that you won’t keep getting that dreaded question, “Mom; what’s for dinner?” And, last but not least eggs — have eggs in your fridge so one of these nights could be breakfast for dinner night. Not to mention that eggs are so versatile and easy to whip into a casserole or a frittata.

Stay in, eat well, and take care!

Links to planning sheets, recipes, and more:

For the most current information on our programs, like and follow us on Facebook at Rowan County Cooperative Extension and you can also, visit our website at

Toi N. Degree is family and consumer education agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension.  Contact her at 704-216-8970 or .

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